Tabby McTat: release date, voice cast, plot, trailer and all about the Christmas animation narrated by Jodie Whittaker

Tabby McTat is on BBC1 for Christmas 2023 and is narrated by Jodie Whittaker.
Tabby McTat is on BBC1 for Christmas 2023 and is narrated by Jodie Whittaker. (Image credit: BBC/Magic Light)

Tabby McTat is the latest magical animation offering from Magic Light Pictures which will be arriving on BBC1 on Christmas Day afternoon 2023.

Yes, the festive season wouldn’t be the same without an on-screen animation from the pen of legendary children’s author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler and this year’s offering, Tabby McTat, based on another of their best-selling children's books, will be looked forward to by kids and parents alike.

After the success of animations such as last year's The Smeds and the Smoos, plus previous adaptations such as Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Superworm, Stick Man, The Snail and the Whale and Room on the Broom, this marks the 11th animated special of Julia and Axel's work produced by Magic Light Pictures for the BBC. 

The story follows busker Fred and his cat Tabby McTat who enjoy a contented life singing on the streets of London until an unfortunate accident sends Tabby on a wild adventure.

This time the voice cast includes former Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker as narrator, alongside the voices of Rob Brydon, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú, Cariad Lloyd, Joanna Scanlan and Susan Wokoma as some of the colorful characters (see below for more).

Tabby McTat author Julia Donaldson says: "I used to love busking with my husband Malcolm when we were living in Bristol, and also in Paris. We also both love cats - in fact - we've just acquired two new kittens named Tabitha and McTat. So, this story is really close to my heart and combines two of my passions: singing, and cats!"

It's going to be a sure-fire Christmas TV hit so here's everything you need to know about BBC One animation Tabby McTat... 

It's an eventful Christmas for Tabby McTat.

It's an eventful Christmas for Tabby McTat. (Image credit: BBC/Magic L:ight)

Tabby McTat release date

Tabby McTat will be shown on BBC1 on Christmas Day, aka December 25, at 2.35pm. This 2023 animation will also be available on BBC iPlayer

Tabby McTat will be a wonderful adventure for Christmas.

Tabby McTat will be a wonderful adventure for Christmas 2023 based on the famous Julia Donaldson book (above). (Image credit: BBC)

Is there a Tabby McTat trailer?

Yes a Tabby McTat trailer is here which you can also watch below. Tabby McTat is also part of the BBC Idents for its 2023 Christmas season.

Tabby McTat plot

Tabby McTat follows friendly busker Fred (voiced by Rob Brydon) and his cute cat Tabby McTat (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú). They love their lives singing on the streets of London to delighted passers-by. Then one day while chasing a thief, Fred falls over and breaks his leg and is whisked away in an ambulance. What will become of the busker’s cat left alone on the streets of the capital city? 

Tabby is left stranded – until a gorgeously glossy cat named Sock (Susan Wokoma) invites him into her home, where he’s welcomed by owners Prunella (Cariad Lloyd) and Pat (Joanna Scanlan). Tabby soon makes a new life for himself with Sock, even creating three cute kittens, but he still pines for Fred and sets out to find him. Will they be reunited?

Tabby McTat on BBC1 for Christmas 2023 is narrated by Jodie Whittaker.

Oh noooo! Someone steals Fred's busking money!  (Image credit: Magic Light / BBC)

Tabby McTat with Sock and their kittens.

Tabby McTat with Sock and their kittens. (Image credit: BBC/Magic Light)

Tabby McTat voice cast

Tabby McTat is narrated by former Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker. Rob Brydon voices Fred the busker, while Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú (Gangs of London) is Tabby. 

"I watch these adaptations every Christmas, so I’m pinching myself that I get to narrate one,’" says Jodie, 41. "There are some big themes, as it deals with transitions from childhood to adulthood, loss and loneliness. But there’s so much warmth and celebration of family and community in it. It’s a tearjerker!"

"I’ve been reading this story at bedtime for a while, too, so I’ve had quite a lot of practice!’ smiles Jodie, who has two young children. "As the narrator, you get the joy of all the rhythm and the rhyme. It’s really beautiful."

Also listen out for Cariad Lloyd (Peep Show) as Prunella, Joanna Scanlan (The Light In The Hall) as Pat and Susan Wokoma (Enola Holmes) as Sock.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú voices Fred the busker.

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú voices Fred the busker in Tabby McTat. (Image credit: BBC/Magic Light)

The Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) is doing repair work on some cabling in a darkened room, using her sonic screwdriver. She is wearing goggles, pushed back on top of her head.

Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker will is narrate Tabby McTat. (Image credit: BBC)

Sopé Dìrísù as Elliot taking cover in Gangs of London season 2

Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísú as Elliot in Gangs of London. (Image credit: Nick Briggs/Sky /AMC)

Joanna Scanlan.

Joanna Scanlan in Welsh thriller The Light In The Hall. (Image credit: BBC/S4C)

More from Jodie Whittaker on narrating Tabby McTat

Jodie Whittaker says: “Tabby McTat is such a beautiful story about embracing change and the transitions in life as well - from childhood to adulthood and people going on journeys. There is so much warmth and celebration of family and community, but then there's also, the moments of fear and loss that is often a gain.

“We had cats when we were growing up. My cat gave birth under my bed, and it was magical. But then as a child you realise your parents don't let you keep them all. ‘What? I thought we were going to have five kittens forever,’ but I was lucky, and I did get to keep one of them. Its name was phenomenal — Wicket W. Warrick — named after an Ewok, and it had an older brother called Teebo, another Ewok! And my cat was beautiful, very beautiful with long brown hair and looked like an Ewok and with a personality very similar to mine - needy and a bit feral!”

Behind the scenes and more about Tabby McTat

The Tabby McTat animation is by Magic Light Pictures while animation services are provided by Red Star Studio. Tabby McTat is directed by Sarah Scrimgeour (Superworm) and Jac Hamman (Superworm); written by Max Lang and Suzanne Lang; and produced by Barney Goodland and Michael Rose of Magic Light Pictures. 

The film was acquired by Charlotte Moore, BBC Chief Content Officer and Nawfal Faizullah, BBC Drama Commissioning Editor.

Lindsay Salt, Director of BBC Drama, says: “Magic Light’s hugely entertaining adaptations of Julia and Axel’s works have been delighting families and viewers of all ages for over a decade now. I know that Tabby is a character loved by many, so I could not be happier that he’ll be brought to life this Christmas on BBC One and iPlayer.”

Producer Barney Goodland reveals: “Julia and Axel's book is a beautiful, heart-warming story that we're delighted to be adapting for BBC viewers this Christmas. The friendship between Fred and Tabby is a truly special one and the film explores how their relationship changes unexpectedly as their lives move forward, and ultimately, how they learn to embrace that change.”

The Smeds and the Smoos comes to BBC1 for Christmas 2022.

The Smeds and the Smoos was the Magic Light offering on BBC One on Christmas Day 2022. (Image credit: BBC/Magic Light)

Julia Donaldson with her CBE for services to Literature after an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on May 2, 2019.

Julia Donaldson with her CBE for services to Literature after an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace on May 2, 2019. (Image credit: Getty)
Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.