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It Will be one of the highlights of ITV's Christmas schedule, but the story behind the delightful animated adventure Father Christmas And The Missing Reindeer is tinged with sadness.

David Jason provides Santa's voice in the beautifully crafted pounds 1 million cartoon, but the inspiration for the film was a tragic suicide.

Creator Geoffrey Sundquist, 44, was spurred to write the tale after the death of his actor brother four years ago. Gerry Sundquist, an ex-boyfriend of screen beauty Nastassja Kinski, was a former heroin addict and threw himself under a train. He was just 38.

Geoffrey, who idolised Gerry and had supported him through some of his darkest hours, was devastated. "Immediately after the funeral, I drove my family to Italy," says advertising executive Geoffrey.

"We were crying for 1,000 miles. I did not want that to be the end. In Italy, I went for a long walk and sat on a mountain by myself for a couple of hours.

"Into my head came all the Christmases we had had as children in Manchester and how, like lots of children I suppose, Gerry would sneak downstairs on Christmas Eve and peek into the presents and swap them all around.

"Christmas was always very special to us, so I wrote the story in memory of that.

"There was something missing in my life, so I came upon the idea of Father Christmas finding his reindeer missing on Christmas Eve, and having to find them to get the presents delivered. I enjoyed the writing - it was a way in which I was able to release some tension and grief. I don't know why, but I finished it on Gerry's birthday."

The story tells how Father Christmas, helped by a young boy, a magic sleigh, book and bugle, hunt down the missing reindeer in time to deliver all the presents.

The cartoon was made by animation studio Cosgrove Hall and ITV bosses expect it to become as big as the Raymond Briggs' classic, The Snowman.

Geoffrey has completed another set of children's stories that he wrote in memory of his parents, who both died last year.

The Giggles, a junior version of H E Bates's Larkin family, is already being looked at by Disney animation.
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Wallace, Richard
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 27, 1997
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