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BBC Christmas hit The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse was overseen by award-winning animator who grew up in Stamford

If you caught a glimpse of the TV over Christmas, the chances are you will have come across the work of Peter Baynton.

After two years of working as co-director on The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse with the story's creator Charlie Mackesy, the BBC chose the half-hour animated film as the centrepiece of its Christmas schedules.

As well as a prime Christmas Eve slot on BBC One, Peter’s work was featured heavily, having directed three segments from the film to feature before all BBC One television shows over the festive period.

Peter Baynton has won acclaim and awards in a 17-year career in animation. Photo: Benedict Wood
Peter Baynton has won acclaim and awards in a 17-year career in animation. Photo: Benedict Wood

“For me it was literally a dream-come-true project,” he reflected.

“For many years I was a freelance animator working on projects and directed short films and music videos, but the dream was to end up directing big things.

“When I first started animation back in 2006 I’d made a couple of short films and absolutely loved the process and the role of director.

“But I could never see how you could move on from directing something seven minutes long to something on the telly or for the cinema.”

Peter co-directed BBC1 Christmas smash The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. Image courtesy of NoneMore Productions Ltd
Peter co-directed BBC1 Christmas smash The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse. Image courtesy of NoneMore Productions Ltd

Peter moved to Stamford at the age of four and then lived in Uffington from 11 until he left for university.

Now based in London, he still makes regular trips home to Wothorpe to visit parents Jonathan and Sabrina, most recently, and, fittingly, at Christmas.

And he is not the only Baynton ploughing a successful furrow in film.

Growing up as a musician to Peter’s artist, twin-brother Robin is now a film music editor, also with awards to his name.

As a music engineer, Robin had recorded albums for stellar names, including Coldplay and Mumford and Sons, earning a Grammy for his work with the latter.

For Peter, a love of art was inspired at Stamford School by teachers Simon Hudson and Simon Sharp, albeit in still life and portraiture, rather than the influence of cartoons or comic books.

Looking to channel his artistic talents into a ‘sensible pursuit’, Peter opted for a degree in architecture.

“At school, if you’re into art, it was about becoming an artist, a graphic designer or architect,” he said.

“The word animator never came up!”

However, a few months of working in the field was enough to convince him a future designing buildings was not for him.

“I had got my degree but thought ‘I’m not sure about this’,” he said.

“There was an itch I needed to scratch - to do something more playful.”

He happened upon animation by chance, tucked among a list of London art college courses.

Having enjoyed the four-day course, Peter went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in the subject at Central St Martin’s.

Success then came almost straight off the bat.

Over The Hill, which he wrote, animated and directed, earned international acclaim.

Among a lengthy list of accolades, several were earned by this 2007 debut about three grannies breaking out of a nursing home.

They included the highly-prized McLaren Award for Best New British Animation at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“That was staggering, exciting and surprising,” Peter, 40, recalled.

“At that point I thought ‘this making films for a living could be a thing’.”

A ‘bigger, longer’ follow-up Save Our Bacon attracted voiceovers from esteemed actors Simon Callow and Warren Clarke.

Funding cuts for independent films and the UK film council’s demise forced him to change tack to music videos.

It landed him another big international award in 2013, this time from France - the Annecy Crystal.

“That was a really big deal for me,” he recalled.

“I ended up making five music videos over the next few years.”

After a stint as storyboard artist on Bafta-winning CBeebies show Sarah and Duck, a route back into films emerged - as 2D animation director for hit feature film Paddington 2.

The famous bear would open more doors.

“I worked with Robin Shaw who went on to direct The Tiger Who Came To Tea and he asked me to be animation director on that,” Peter explained.

“It was wonderful. He is an amazing director and a real inspiration.”

While the Channel 4 animation was picking up an Emmy in 2020, Peter had begun work on his biggest job yet on The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse.

As co-director, Peter oversaw a team of 120 artists and a process which is never less than painstaking.

For 32 minutes of television there were around 45,000 frames, each demanding intricate work from a range of hands to get from storyboard to screen.

The achievements and plaudits in animation are hard-won.

“It’s a very slow process,” Peter said.

“Animation is so laborious I tend to do one project at a time.

“It’s hard to juggle two things at once because it’s so intensive.”

When one summit is conquered, an even bigger challenge presents itself.

Sixteen years on from his breakthrough short, Peter now finds himself directing a 80-minute feature film for Universal Studios.

It’s a musical comedy adventure earmarked for release for Christmas next year.

At home, he has a ready-made quality control department - daughters Hannah, six, and Skye,


“My new film I’m working on is much more child-centred so I show them bits and pieces of storyboards to see if they enjoy it.”

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