Date Posted: 29/12/19
Based on the Raymond Briggs picture book which was first published in 1978 The Snowman is an animated short that was first aired on Channel 4 on December 26 1982. Over the years it has become synonymous with Christmas and is usually shown over the festive season traditionally on Christmas Eve.
Yes I am aware that it is now after Christmas, the festivities are over and everything that has a Christmas label is being sold at the fraction of the cost it would have been a week ago because shops want to clear their shelves in preparation for Easter. Yes, Easter which is months away in your Earth calendar, but let’s not talk about the commercialisation of various holidays.
Over the years Christmas has been one of those festivals that can come and go without my notice, and other times I try to get into the spirit of the occasion. Good will to all men and so on. Since Abbie was created on Christmas Day a couple of years ago she gets very excited about the upcoming festivities, going so far as to decorate various rooms in the ship with tinsel, Christmas lights and even a tree which she put on the bridge. Apparently adding tinsel to the tree made it look tacky, so I wasn’t allowed to do it, don’t see why not it as it was a tree on my ship but let’s not get distracted. Anyway, whilst Abbie is familiar with the song “Walking in the Air” she had never seen the film which made that song so popular. I had seen the film before but we settled down to watch it together...
The film starts with an introduction by the late David Bowie, in which he walks up into his attic and talks about an adventure he had as a boy, getting a scarf out from a cabinet and wrapping around his neck.
Everything then becomes hand drawn animation, with almost no voice acting, with the acceptation of a further brief voice over from Bowie before the film begins with a young boy named James waking up to find a heavy snow has fallen overnight. He gets dressed and races downstairs, where he begins to build a snowman in the garden. He finds an old hat, and scarf with some pieces of coal and a tangerine creating buttons, a face with a nose, and finally a smile. As night draws in he is called in by his parents where he watches his snowman through the window.
Eventually it is time for bed, and as he lies in bed he continues to stare at his snowman from the window, and even creeps downstairs at midnight to look at it.
Before his astonished eyes his snowman glows and turns to face him. James can’t believe what he is seeing but ventures outside, and invites the snowman to come in and shows him around the house. They explore the house, sneak into his parents’ room, and James shows him various toys in his own bedroom. They take a ride on a motorcycle where the heat from the engine warms the snowman’s legs so he cools back down in the freezer. After looking at picture of the frozen North on a packet of peas he had on his forehead the snowman walks out into the garden. James runs after him, where the snowman catches his hand, and runs down the garden before talking to the sky as the iconic song begins to play...
The Snowman is honestly unlike anything else that I have ever seen. The story is told exclusively through animation, pictures and music. The hand drawn style is effortlessly charming with the music fitting what is happening on screen like a glove. Plus the song “Walking in the Air” has become so ingrained in consciousness that Abbie was familiar with the song but not where it had first come from.
The ending is also rather bitter sweet, because James has his adventure with the snowman, but snowmen cannot last forever. This isn’t like Olaf in Frozen who gets his own micro-season. The sun rises and the snowman melts leaving behind nothing but the hat, scarf with a few bits of coal.
It is also a misconception that Aled Jones sang the song, and whilst he is well known for singing most versions of it, in this film the song was actually sung by Peter Auty, a choirboy in the St Paul’s Cathedral choir. The Aled Jones cover was recorded and released 3 years after this film was first shown on television.
The film is an animated short which means that not a single moment of it is wasted and instantly became a classic. I can understand why. It had everything that a children’s short should have, with beautiful animation, music and virtually no voice acting. It is not about the actors, it is about the visuals, and the music score.
I have seen it many times over the years and will undoubtedly see it many more times. It is a fantastic example of wonderful animation, music and a song that will stay with you long after the credits begin to role. Abbie didn’t like it because there is no dialogue, she wasn’t keen on the animation, plus she did not like the ending. But for me The Snowman is a charming masterpiece that easily earns a Thumbs Up.
8.5/10 – A marvellous short that demonstrates what beautiful animation, coupled with music can really do. I am sure you have seen this film over Christmas and if you haven’t, then honestly what is wrong with you.
It might be a little late now, but Merry Christmas humans, and see you in 2020.