It’s been two weeks since the television adaptation of the acclaimed Neil Gaiman-written Sandman comics arrived on Netflix to rave reviews and high viewership, topping the charts as one of the streaming service’s most-watched new series. Today Netflix treated fans by dropping a two-part surprise Sandman bonus episode titled “A Dream of a Thousand Cats/Calliope.”

Taken from Dream Country, the loose arc of stories that spans issues 17-20 of The Sandman comic, the episode is an adaptation of two specific stories featuring “a Siamese cat dreaming of a new world and a writer in desperate need of inspiration cross[ing] paths with Morpheus.”

“A Dream of a Thousand Cats” is the first animated Sandman story with Dutch animator Hisko Hulsing serving as director and production designer for the episode.

“We endeavored to make the animated version of ‘A Dream of a Thousand Cats’ as mesmerizing and hypnotic as we could by utilizing the magic of real oil paintings on canvas,” Hulsing explains. “We combined the paintings with classically drawn 2D animation, based on realistic 3D animation of telepathic cats in order to create a trippy world that feels both grounded and dreamy at the same time. Untold Studio’s in London created the breathtaking 3D animation of the cats. The wonderful 2D animation, oil paintings and stylizing were all done at Submarine Studio’s in Amsterdam.”

In addition to Tom Sturridge reprising his role as Dream, aka Morpheus, voicing an animated, feline version of himself, the episode also features a star-studded voiceover cast, many of whom also appeared in the Audible adaptation of The Sandman:

Sandra Oh as The Prophet
Rosie Day as The Tabby Kitten
David Gyasi as The Grey Cat
Joe Lycett as The Black Cat
Neil Gaiman as Crow/Skull Bird
James McAvoy as Golden-Haired Man
David Tennant as Don and Georgia Tennant as Laura Lynn
Michael Sheen as Paul and Anna Lundberg as Marion
Nonso Anozie as Wyvern
Diane Morgan as Gryphon
Tom Wu as Hippogriff

Sandman bonus episode

Having previously worked with Sandra Oh on Grey’s Anatomy, executive producer Allan Heinberg explained how he presented the role to Oh:

“She was really interested in the show and was asking a lot of great questions,” Heinberg recalls. “And so I said, ‘Is there any part of you interested in voicing this incredible cat?’ And she was too intrigued to say no.”

Like Sandman creator Neil Gaiman provides his own vocal vocals.

“He’s got one of the best voices,” Heinberg says. “Once we got into the booth, there was nothing reticent about him. He really wanted to be more crowlike and would flap his arms and fearlessly work for it.”

Meanwhile the cast of “Calliope” includes:

Melissanthi Mahut as Calliope
Arthur Darvill as Richard Madoc
Nina Wadia as Fate Mother
Souad Faress as Fate Crone
Dinita Gohil as Fate Maiden
Kevin Harvey as Larry
Amita Suman as Nora
Derek Jacobi as Erasmus Fry

Actor Melissanthi Mahut, who auditioned for the titular role/Greek muse, was a revelation for Heinberg:

“With Melissanthi, we got her self-tape, her audition. And that was it. It was nobody else,” he explains. “The fact that she’s of Greek ancestry made it even more perfect. I was not familiar with her work at the time, but I was absolutely blown away by her.”

Heinberg was equally impressed with Arthur Darvill, with whom Gaiman had worked on Doctor Who and the Audible Sandman series:

“Once Arthur was available and game, we didn’t look anywhere else. He was the Ric Madoc of our dreams, and, in performance, even more so. I think he shows you this man’s soul and somehow makes him not a monster.”

Watch the first season of The Sandman including the bonus episode now on Netflix!