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The BBC's Emily Buchanan
"It's often been called the greatest story ever told"
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Friday, 31 March, 2000, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Miracle Maker comes to big screen
Miracle Maker
Miracle Maker cost $10m and took four years to make
A joint Welsh and Russian-made animated film on the life of Jesus starring Ralph Fiennes goes on general cinema release on Friday.

The Miracle Maker is a full-length feature film using pioneering method of animation design.

It was commissioned by the Welsh fourth channel S4C. The film was jointly funded by S4C, British Screen and the BBC.

The film took four years and $10m to make using award-winning crews in Wales and Moscow.

Voices from a star cast are featured in the story including Rebecca Callard (as a sick young girl Tamar), William Hurt (her Pharisee father, Jairus), Julie Christie (her mother ) and Ralph Fiennes as the voice of Jesus.

The 90-minute film was an epic undertaking since the animation was created by filming 24 frames for each second of finished film.

The Miracle Maker is said to take the techniques of animation design to new heights with a mix of model, drawn and computer animation.

Computer special effects

In a unique collaboration, the drawn (2-D) animation was done at Cartwn Cymru in Wales and the model (3-D) animation was done at Christmas Films in Moscow.

The world of First Century Palestine - the stone houses and grand temples, the fishing boats, the clothes and customs, even the plants - were extensively researched and are authentically recreated in the models and animation.

Computer special effects were used to combine sequences and add water, fire, clouds and rain.

"The effect we have aimed for is 'moving paintings' which is appropriate for telling the Bible stories giving the feeling that you're entering a different world," said Director, Derek Hayes.

Composer Anne Dudley, who won an Oscar for her score on The Full Monty, provided the music which is played by BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Miracle Maker
An American company has bought the film

Murray Watts' script starts with Jesus already around 30 years old and tells his story through the eyes of a child.

He has taken an incident from the Bible which is only a few paragraphs in Luke's Gospel - the story of Jairus' daughter.

She is the first person seen and the audience follows her throughout the film, which uses her interaction with Jesus to tell his story.

"Everyone who sees this film will have had their own impressions and mental pictures of the Bible's characters, probably since childhood," said Eliza Babakhina, Christmas Films, Executive Producer.

"So not only did we have to produce an absorbing film to the highest standards, but one that would also satisfy as many different people's conceptions of the Bible as possible."

The film has also become the first British feature in nearly 20 years to be bought up by a US Network.

American network ABC plans to air the movie on Easter Sunday 2000.

In association with BBC Education, curriculum-based material from the film is being developed to help teachers in Junior and Secondary schools in the UK.

Printed books and material will be available for purchase. Videos are being released in the UK in Autumn 2000.

Solomon and Gaenor star Ioan Gruffudd will provide the voice of Jesus in the Welsh language version.

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