Coates: 1927-2012 (21.09.12)
No, no, no. This wasn't the way it was supposed to work
John Coates was going to be standing proudly with his TVC
in the run up to Christmas, accepting the plaudits of
the nation for
having brought us The
Snowman thirty years ago. And here, in the
film's big anniversary year, he was going to introduce us
triumphant companion. "The Snowman and the Snowdog"
going to surprise and delight us, and move us to tears
that first extraordinary film...
Instead, we find ourselves weeping for the loss of yet
animation legend, because the mastermind behind TVC,
who brought us so many classic productions, passed
this week. John Coates was 84, but still going strong, shepherding
that aforementioned film through to its completion, and
moving a much-anticipated adaptation of Raymond Briggs'
"Ethel & Ernest" towards
the cameras. His loss is unbearably
untimely, but at that the same time, it's both poignant
pertinent that he was once again immersed in the animated
worlds of that much-revered artist and author.
Something about John Coates and Raymond Briggs just
to click. "The Snowman", "Father Christmas",
"The Bear", "When
the Wind Blows" - these films are note-perfect
capturing the unique mood and texture of the original storybook
panels. They have bucketloads of heart and passion,
dark at times, heartbreaking and soaring at others.
And of course,
"The Snowman"s worldwide success practically defined
genre for UK animation, that of the precision-crafted,
Ah, yes, "The Snowman". It's been ever-present
here in the UK
at Christmas, since its premiere, way back in 1982.
Such is it's
ubiquity, it's been satirised and sent up everywhichway,
helped to shift fizzy drinks and catalogue items and
how much licensed material over the years. But when
off all that baggage, when you sit yourself down to watch
film again properly, in a darkened room, in the still
time as the eve draws in for Christmas - well - it still
this viewer, for sure... Those trembling frames hypnotise...
like looking through some magical zoetrope as James and
the Snowman take flight...
John Coates brought that same, quality-assured stamp
to so many
productions, didn't he? The Peter
Rabbit films, in which Beatrix
Potter's watercolour friends hop, sniff and skitter
off the page.
And John Burningham's
Granpa, a film about loss that's
as moving and affecting as "The Snowman".
Oh, see there? We've gone full circle too. Should TVC
to that same magical font, after all this time, would the
be their undoing? - The first whispers The Hound has
they've done the inconceivable again. And as a dog-lover
of two fantastic, tearaway Springer Spaniels, this viewer
dreads to think what's in store for him when the Snowman's
new companion takes flight. The Snowman... the Snowdog...
and now John Coates... it's going to be quite
tearful, isn't it?
& Ernest blog