Academy Award and Bafta Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley, whose versatility has seen him play everyone from Gandhi to a gangster in Sexy Beast,
is now turning his talents to narrating children's literature.
Sir Ben will
narrate the tale The Magician of Samarkand for CBBC's Jackanory which is set to
burst onto screens later this year.
A thrilling and magical adventure of a battle between good and evil, The Magician
of Samarkand is set in the exotic location of the Orient.
Anahita is the
beautiful daughter of the town's shoe maker who spurns the advances of the evil
magician Zohak Ali. Stung by her rejection Zohak Ali casts a spell on Anahita
and she is driven from the city.
Determined to fight back, will Anahita be brave
enough to overcome the dark powers of the Magician of Samarkand?
Written by Alan Temperly, the Magician of Samarkand is produced and directed by Nick Willing, best known for his work directing feature films Photographing Fairies in 1997 and the Emmy Award-winning Alice in Wonderland in 2000.
Sir Ben Kingsley said: "I am so happy to be part of Jackanory and Nick Willing's
extraordinary vision. I hope millions of viewers will enjoy this tale."
The story will
be shown as three 15-minute programmes on CBBC and as a one-off 45-minute special on
The tale will be a lavish mixture of beautiful animation and hand-painted
illustrations and will use actors and animated characters.
BBC Children's Controller Richard Deverell said: "We are utterly thrilled that
Sir Ben Kinsgley will be narrating one of the first stories - it is a real coup
for us. He is an amazing actor.
"We are very excited about the return of
Jackanory which will be fantastic event TV shows that everyone can enjoy.
"Jackanory is a huge legacy series for the BBC and is held in much affection in
the hearts of the nation.
"The challenge has been to reinvent it to satisfy the
demanding expectations of the 21st century child viewer."
Also set to make his debut as a Jackanory narrator is John Sessions who will read
Muddle Earth, a hilarious and tongue-in-cheek homage to the Lord of the Rings.
Life is about to change beyond recognition for an ordinary schoolboy on ordinary
earth - Joe Jefferson - and his dog, Henry.
Viewers will enter a world of ogres
and goblins, batbirds and pink stinky hogs, flying cupboards and exploding gas
John Sessions has many film and television roles to his credit, just some of
which include The Merchant of Venice, Gangs of New York, Henry V and Rag Tale.
His television work includes Stella Street, Inspector Lynley, Judge John Deed,
Gormenghast, Porterhouse Blues, Boon and Girls on Top.
Muddle Earth is written by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart.
CBBC will bring the
story to life with narrator John Sessions, CGI animation and live action giving
it a totally different look and feel from The Magician of Samarkand.
The visuals for both stories are being produced by a new CBBC animation team that
has been brought in especially to develop one of CBBC's most ambitious projects
Notes to Editors
Jackanory will return to CBBC late 2006 as specials. There will be two specials
broadcast in 2006.
CBeebies will run a series of Jackanory Juniors daily.
Executive producer for Jackanory is Cas Lester; executive producer for Jackanory
Junior is Kay Benbow.
Muddle Earth and Magician of Samarkand are published by MacMillan Children's