‘Angela’s Christmas Wish’: How Filmmakers Channeled the Late Frank McCourt for the Animated Netflix Sequel

Angela’s Christmas Wish hit Netflix just in time for the holidays. The animated film is inspired by the world and characters created by the late American-Irish author, Frank McCourt. Here’s how filmmakers channeled the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist for this sequel to Angela’s Christmas.

'Angela's Christmas Wish'
‘Angela’s Christmas Wish’ | Netflix

Netflix’s 2017 film,  ‘Angela’s Christmas’ was based on Frank McCourt’s beloved children’s novel

In 2017, Netflix released Angela’s Christmas, an animated feature based on McCourt’s 2007 story, Angela and the Baby Jesus. The author is most known for his book, Angela’s Ashes, a remarkable memoir that earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1997. 

With Angela and the Baby Jesus, McCourt tells the childhood story of his mother, Angela. She grew up in Ireland with minimal means. But as a child, she felt the pain of others, and once stole a Baby Jesus from her church to keep him safe and warm. 

RELATED: ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ and More Christmas Movies Coming To Disney+ in December 2020

According to his wife, Ellen McCourt, the author always dreamt of seeing this story on screen. “It was my husband Frank’s dream to see this delicate little Christmas story transformed into a classic Christmas tale,” she told Brown Bag Films when Angela’s Christmas premiered.“He would be thrilled with Angela’s Christmas as is the entire extended McCourt family!”

Ellen McCourt served as executive producer of Angela’s Christmas. And the author’s 89-year-old brother, Malachy McCourt, narrated the film.

‘Angela’s Christmas’ Wish is a sequel to the 2017 Netflix movie

Angela’s Christmas Wish, which hit Netflix on Dec. 1, 2020, picks up with Angela (Lucy O’Connell) after the first film’s events. In the new movie, Angela’s father is away in Australia. With the holidays approaching, Angela concocts a plan to bring him home, as her Christmas wish is to see the family together again. 

The film features an all-star cast, including Caitriona Balfe, Jared Harris, and Moe Dunford. Academy Award-nominated actor Ruth Negga reprises her role as Angela’s mother, Ma.

RELATED: ‘Christmas Chronicles 2’ Stars Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn Had Big Ideas for Santa and Mrs. Claus in the Sequel

How filmmakers channeled the late Frank McCourt 

In a recent interview with Animation Scoop, Angela’s Christmas and Angela’s Christmas Wish director Damien O’Connor talked about revisiting McCourt’s world for the sequel. He noted that while the first film came directly from the author’s mind, the second one was trickier to get right. 

“One of the biggest challenges, obviously, was Frank McCourt,” explained O’Connor. “Frank is obviously deceased, so we didn’t have his foundations there. It’s big shoes to fill. You’re stepping into a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and going, ‘I can follow you from that story.’” 

Luckily, O’Connor was able to gain insight from McCourt’s brother, who also grew up hearing his mother’s childhood stories. “We were very lucky because we had Malachy McCourt, who’s Frank’s brother,” the director noted. 

“He knows the world by heart,” he added. “He’s lived it, he’s in the book Angela’s Ashes quite frequently. He’s great. I could meet him in New York, [call] him, talk to him and say, ‘Am I accurate? Is this fair to your life at the time?’”

O’Connor also revealed that McCourt’s wife, Ellen, serves as an executive producer on the film.

“She was very involved in the first film so it was really great to have her there to guide us,” he said. “It’s such an invaluable resource.”

Angela’s Christmas Wish is currently streaming on Netflix.