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Quails on the Xmas menu

In the beginning, was the Bird ... The nativity, in its King James version, is not known for its avian participants. But a new retelling of the story for primary children looks at events surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ through the eyes of three talking quails.

It's a Boy, a half-hour cartoon, is to be distributed free to every primary school this term, to ensure children are aware of the story behind Christmas by the time the season arrives.

The pound;180,000 costs are being met by the Breakout Trust, a Christian charity. Steve Legg, its director, conceived the project after a child asked him why Jesus was named after an expletive.

He said: "We wanted to convey the relevance of the Christian faith, in a non-Bible-bashing, fresh way. So we're doing it through the eyes of birds."

The three quails, two voiced by 1970s comedians Cannon and Ball, witness the Annunciation. They are then kidnapped by evil King Herod (Stephen Berkoff), to be fattened up for his table. Eventually, they escape, and find the newborn Jesus. Comedian Joe Pasquale also appears in the cast, while the title song is provided by heaven's favourite pop singer, Cliff Richard.

Mr Legg said: "I don't think children will mistake the birds for part of the nativity. I think they will realise talking birds aren't real."

The cartoon will premiere in London on November 27. It will be accompanied by a teachers'

resource, which elaborates on themes raised.

Mr Legg has already begun work on a follow-up cartoon, telling the Easter story. Eventually, he hopes to recount Jesus' entire life through 11 quail-based episodes.

Marilyn Mason, of the Humanist Society, said: "Nobody could object to children learning the Christmas story. If, on the other hand, the birth of the saviour Jesus to the Virgin Mary is being told as a true story, that's another thing."

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