remember that Winter, because it brought
the heaviest snow that I'd ever seen..."
One Christmas, a young boy called James builds
a snowman in his back
garden and is amazed to discover that his creation
comes to life...
What can one say about this classic film?
- It's based upon the picturebook
by Raymond Briggs, and animated by TVC London,
under the stewardship
of John Coates. And frankly, it's faultess.
The production team bring the
tale to life with impecable skill. The retelling
features a spoken introduction,
new scenes, a song, and a wholly new encounter
but it remains brilliantly
faithful to its source. Briggs' soft-crayoned
panels come to life, frame
by mesmerizing frame. And they do so wordlessly.
You see, like the
book, the story is told without words or dialogue.
Every event and
emotion is thus relayed through action and music.
What's more, it's all
handmade here, folks, in an era devoid of
digital effects and computer
enhancements, and it's precisely why
the film continues to beguile and
delight, a quarter of a century after it
The story is oh-so simple. James' snowy friend
gets a tour of the house
and garden. He sees how the boy lives, has
some fun with the everyday
objects in the boy's strange world. In return,
the Snowman takes James
aloft with him on a fantastic night flight
through the snow, over the hills
to the sea and beyond to... well... there's
no desire here to spoil all the
surprises in store for those who haven't seen this
film. But it must be
asked, is there anyone out there who hasn't yet
After its premiere in 1982, this BAFTA-winning
film became a tv regular
on Channel 4, during the festive season. Much
like the Queen's Speech
it has since become part of the very fabric of
Christmas, here in the UK,
much like the Rankin Bass films which are
broadcast in America.
Oh, yes. And we have that song and
score."Walking in the Air" was
written independently of the film by composer
but when the producers discussed the possibility
of a tune for their
toon, well, it fit the bill perfectly. Indeed,
Blake's whole score fits the
bill, as he embellishes each onscreen action
with a musical flourish,
a hanging note, or a dancing follow-on to
the next scene. Little wonder
it's been ably adapted into a popular stageshow.
As for "Walking in the Air",
the song was an instant chart hit - albeit
through curious circumstances.
And that tune, and the dizzying aerial sequence
which it accompanies
are simply unforgettable.
Similarly, there is the ending to consider.
Painfully sad for some,
yet so uplifting for others. If you really
haven't seen this, you should
steel yourself for a tear or two - be they
of joy or sadness. The film
is a rollercoastrer of excellence, lifting
the viewer up high before
dropping us like a stone into the icey cold. Raymond
Briggs and TVC
have teamed up again, in the intervening years,
and their further
collaborations have all been equally well
made and presented and
and they've been applauded abnd celebrated
around the world.
And yet... the combination of story and technique
here just can't
be surpassed. What happened at TVC two decades
utterly unique... like that first winter snowflake...
wonderous thing that we can never quite replicate...
Over the years, there have been three different
introductions attatched to
this classic film.
Raymond Briggs voiced the original, which features
live-action footage of
of a fellow trapsing over a ruddy Winter field
towards a wild copse.
But the American broadcasters wanted a famous face
on board, so in 1983,
David Bowie popped up in a new beginning. He was
filmed in a musty attic,
perusing his childhood mementoes, donning the scarf
that features in the
film, and recalling the time he enountered
In 2002, however, in celebration of the film's
twentieth anniversary, TVC
went back to the studio to create and animate
a third introduction.This one
features Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas
getting cosy in his living
room and settling down in front of the tv,
just in time for a screening of
the film. The little intro was animated using
the same techniques as the
original, and plays nicely off the film's
status as a fixture in the
Christmas tv schedules....
But you know, The Hound still prefers that
original. It has an intangible
quality. It's understated, and the words are
spoken by the author himself.
It's as if the story - well - it's like it
takes place in the author's own backyard, so to speak.
James' house is in
the South Downs, where Mr Briggs lives in real
life, and James and
the Snowman fly south to Brighton which is indeed
just a snowy flight
away from the author's house...
given a name in the original book. Instead, he was "named"
by animator Joanna
Harrison. She was dating a chap called James at the
time of production, so
she added his name to the label of the present
the little boy receives from
Father Christmas. And the name stuck.
Oh, and Joanna went
on to marry her James too...
In a change
from the book, the Snowman and James take a wild ride
on a motorbike (they
sit in a car, in the original). Animator Hilary Audus
was a bit of a biker herself,
at the time, so she added her own numberplate
to the machine!...
Oh, you know. That song. It's too often attrributed to Aled
But he originally
recorded it for a ToysRus commercial, which was repeated
at the time the film premiered, and it later garnered a
release as a single. The
track was a hit, and Aled and the Snowman
became forever entwined.
Meanwhile, the choirboy who sang on the original
soundtrack was left
off the film's credits. So step forward Peter Auty. He
sung that song first. And
he finally receieved his proper credit on the end
of the film when it
was spruced up for its twentieth anniversary, in 2002.
Now there's one for your
with The Snowman
Are you ready for a midnight flight?
The Snowman's magical flight takes us up and
away with him and
James, circling the lad's house before they
head south. They pass over
another small town, with several more snowmen and
snowwomen in the
gardens, who are encouraged to join our friends
aloft. Together, they
cross the South Downs to Brighton, on
the south coast. We see them
fly over the golden palace that is Brighton Pavillion,
Brighton Pier, jutting out into the waters
of the Channel.
It's here that the other snowfolk depart and our
duo bank east. They
pass a steaming cruise liner into the North
Sea, whereupon they
turn north for the Winter coastline of Norway,
hugging the coast all
the way to their destination.
On the way, they're spotted by a young girl
who really should be
sleeping like her sibling, in the bed beside
her. Then they bank out to
sea and encounter a whale. And next... well.. they
appear to encounter
a colony of misguided penguins, on an iceberg.
southern chaps are merely lost, so we can
ignore their intrusion
upon our journey!
Father Christmas resides somewhere further
north still, in a place
where we can see the Northern Lights. Certainly, he's
north than - say - the northern locations of Tromso
because his home stands on land, midst a forest
of tall fir trees.
Though the Arctic islands of Svalbard remain a possibility,
don't have trees - or rather, anything taller than
a few inches!
After their knees-up with the other snowmen
and women, and
a bit of present-giving, our duo fly south
once more, and it looks
like they take a route that passes over Sweden.
As they pass over
a coastal town we can clearly see a building
identified as the
"Kung Karl Hotell". Now, the Hotel Kungkarl
is a very real hotel
found in Stockholm...
Oh, but the clocktower they pass tells us
it's 6:10, and we've moved
on already. Brighton Pier approaching once more.
James' house is
mere moments away now, but it's intriguing to see
that green traction
engine, sitting in a field so close to home.
Does it have any biographical
reference? And there's a labrador too - poor fellow,
shut out in
the cold like that... Still, we're home again.
Our wonderful Winter
flight has come full circle...
1983 BAFTA - Best Childrens Drama
1984 Tampere Short Film Festival - Grand
+ nominated for Best Short Film at the
1983 Academy Awards
Briggs & Mr Coates
John Coates and Raymond Briggs have collaborated
those Snowman days:
the Wind Blows
Toonhound's fan-site dedicated to all
Snowman on DVD
In the UK the film is available singularly,
with extras, or as part
of a TVC double-bill...
Snowman special edition
2 / film + extras / Universal / Nov 2007
2 double bill / Universal / Nov 2007
based on the book by Raymond briggs
sup. director: Jimmy
exec producer: Iain
and conducted by: Howard
in the Air"
by Peter Auty
by Howard Blake
Jackson, Hilary Audus,
Mainwood, Dianne Jackson,
Ball, Dave Livesey,
Radage, Hilary Audus,
Butten, John Offord,
Fryer, Tony Guy
flying sequences: Stephen
Weston and Robin White
Gabriel, Paul Shardlow,
Barron, Joanna Fryer
design sup: Jill
snr renderers: Rebecca
Barclay, Jan Skelsey,
key renderers: Mike
Adams, Isobel Radage,
Coventry, Claire Walding,
Heywood, David Baillie,
McMillan, Anne Goodall,
Severne, Francis Mosley,
Atkins, Jenny Rodwell,
Emptage, Theresa Wiseman,
Carol Hughes, Glen
our thanks to the many other artists
contributed to this film
prod co-ord: Roland
Colwell, Vanessa Clegg,
Kotch, Elaine Koo,
Murch, Hester Coblentz
snr cameraman: Peter
W Watford, Chris Ashbrook
music engineer: John
20th Anniversary intro
directed and animated by Roger Mainwood
with the voice of Mel Smith as Father Christmas