by Raymond Briggs
|Directed by||Dianne Jackson|
|Music by||Howard Blake|
|Running time||27 minutes|
|Production company(s)||TVC London|
|Original network||Channel 4|
|Original release||26 December 1982|
The Snowman is a children's picture book without words by English author Raymond Briggs, first published in 1978 by Hamish Hamilton in the United Kingdom, and published by Random House in the United States in November of the same year. In the UK, it was the runner-up for the Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British writer.[a]
In the US, it was named to the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award list in 1979. The book was adapted into a twenty-six-minute animated television special in 1982, which debuted on Channel 4 in the UK on 26 December. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. The animated special became prominent in British popular culture and its showings have since become an annual festive event.
Animated television special
The Snowman was adapted as a twenty-six-minute animated television special, by Dianne Jackson for the fledgling British public service Channel 4. It was first telecast on 26 December 1982, and was an immediate success. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and won a BAFTA TV Award, out of two nominations.
The story is told through pictures, action and music, scored by Howard Blake. It is wordless like the book, except for the song "Walking in the Air". In addition to the orchestral score, performed in the film by the Sinfonia of London, Blake composed the music and lyrics of the song, performed by Peter Auty, a St Paul's Cathedral choirboy.
The special ranks #71 on the 100 Greatest British Television Programmes, a list drawn up by the British Film Institute in 2000, based on a vote by industry professionals. It was voted #4 in UKTV Gold's Greatest TV Christmas Moments. It came third in Channel 4's poll of 100 Greatest Christmas Moments in 2004.
"I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day... and it was on that day I made The Snowman."
One winter's day, a boy builds a snowman who comes to life at the stroke of midnight. He and the boy play with appliances, toys and other bric-a-brac in the house, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake the boy's parents.
The two find a sheeted-down motorcycle in the house's garden and go for a ride on it, disturbing some animals; its engine heat affects the insides of the Snowman's thighs, and he cools off in the freezer. Later they take flight over the boy's village, then the Royal Pavilion and Brighton Pier, and then out over the ocean and north along the coast of Norway. They continue through an arctic landscape and into the aurora borealis. They land in a snow-covered forest and join a party of snowmen. They meet Father Christmas with his reindeer; he gives him a scarf with a snowman pattern.
The morning after the return journey, the sun has come out and the boy wakes up to find the snowman has melted. The boy reaches into his pocket and finds the snowman scarf given to him by Father Christmas.
After the initial showing on Channel 4, and in its initial showings on television in the United States, an alternative introduction was sometimes used. Instead of Raymond Briggs describing how much it had snowed the winter he made The Snowman, while walking through the field that morphed into the animation of the same landscape, David Bowie was shown reciting a different speech after walking into the attic of 'his' childhood home and discovering a scarf in a drawer and then telling the same story.
This scarf closely resembles the one given to the boy towards the end of the film. The Universal DVD The Snowman & Father Christmas (902 030 – 11), released in the United Kingdom in 2000, uses the Bowie opening. (The Bowie introduction is actually missing on some Sony DVDs, despite being featured on the packaging.)
To celebrate the film's twentieth anniversary, Channel 4 created an alternate opening directed by Roger Mainwood, with Raymond Briggs' interpretation of Father Christmas recounting how he met the boy as well as mentioning how the heavy snow from that winter had him grounded. Father Christmas is voiced by comedian Mel Smith. This version is also cropped to 16:9 widescreen.
Channel 4 used this opening from 2002 until Mel Smith's death in 2013, when the Bowie introduction returned, returning the film to its original aspect ratio. The thirtieth anniversary DVD lacks any opening but includes all three openings as a bonus feature.
The song "Walking in the Air" is sung in the film by chorister Peter Auty, who was not credited in the original version. He was given a credit on the 20th anniversary version. The song was covered three years later by Welsh chorister Aled Jones in a single which reached #5 in the charts in the United Kingdom. Jones is sometimes incorrectly credited with having sung the song in the film.
Though the boy in the book is unnamed, in the film he is named "James". This is clear on the tag for the present he receives from Father Christmas. The name was added by Joanna Harrison, one of the animators, as it was her boyfriend's (later her husband) name. Additionally, Father Christmas mentions the boy's name in the twentieth anniversary opening.
In the film, the boy's home seems to be in the South Downs of England, near to Brighton; he and Snowman fly over what appears to be Brighton; the Royal Pavilion and Palace Pier are clearly depicted. Later in the film, the tag on his present confirms this. (Raymond Briggs has lived in Sussex since 1961.)
The film was produced using traditional animation techniques, consisting of pastels, crayons and other colouring tools drawn on pieces of celluloid, which were traced over hand drawn frames. For continuity purposes, the background artwork was painted using the same tools.
2012 sequel: The Snowman and the Snowdog
A new twenty-three-minute special titled The Snowman and the Snowdog aired on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 2012 at 8pm GMT, to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the original short and of Channel 4. Produced at the London-based animation company Lupus Films, with many of the original team returning, the sequel was made in the same traditional techniques as the first film, and features the Snowman, a new little boy and a snow dog, flying over landmarks and going to another party.
The idea of a sequel had been resisted by Raymond Briggs for several years, but he gave his permission for the film in 2012.
Briggs' illustration of the snowman
|LC Class||PZ7.B7646 Sn 1978|
The original book has a slightly different plot. While the first half of the story remains the same, the boy and the snowman do not visit Father Christmas. In fact, all of the Christmas elements of the film were not present in the story. Notably, the boy's family does not have a Christmas tree in the house. After the snowman comes to life, they proceed to explore the boy's house.
After they see the family car and play with the lights, the boy prepares a feast that the two eat by candlelight. Here the snowman takes the boy outside again, and they begin to fly. Once the boy and the snowman take flight, they only fly as far as the pier seen in the film. They stop there and wait for the sunrise.
They hurry back, as the sun is rising, and the boy hurries inside again, as in the film. The finale does not show James finding the scarf in his pocket, as they never made the trip to Father Christmas, but he finds the snowman melted in the same fashion. Random House published an edition for the United States within the calendar year.
The Snowman has also been made into a stage show. It was first produced by Contact Theatre, Manchester in 1986. The Contact Theatre production was adapted and produced by Anthony Clark. It had a full script and used Howard Blake's music and lyrics. In 1993, Birmingham Repertory Company produced a version, with music and lyrics by Howard Blake, scenario by Blake, with Bill Alexander and choreography by Robert North.
Since 1997, Sadler's Wells has presented it every year as the Christmas Show at the Peacock Theatre. As in the book and the film, there are no words, apart from the lyrics of the song "Walking in the Air". The story is told through images and movement.
Special effects include the Snowman and boy flying high over the stage (with assistance of wires and harnesses) and ‘snow’ falling in part of the auditorium. The production has had several revisions – the most extensive happening in 2000, when major changes were made to the second act, introducing new characters: The Ice Princess and Jack Frost.
- Granpa, Dianne Jackson's second animated film for Channel 4, with music by Howard Blake.
- Father Christmas – Briggs' earlier two works Father Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Holiday were combined into a film which was released in 1991. It features an altered version of the snowmen's party at the North Pole from this film. The young boy and the snowman from this film are seen in the background during this segment.
- The Bear - another book by Raymond Briggs which was also adapted into a 26-minute animated version.
- Today there are usually eight books on the Greenaway shortlist. According to CCSU, some runners up for the Greenaway Medal through 2002 were Commended (from 1959) or Highly Commended (from 1974). There were thirty one "Highly Commended" runners up in twenty nine years from 1974 to 2002, including Briggs alone in 1978.
- "Kate Greenaway Medal". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University (CCSU). Retrieved 2012-07-18.
- A red parallel twin about 500 cc, with kickstart and separate exhaust pipes, reg code HJK 596
- "Customer Discussions: Review Comment Thread". Amazon.com. Amazon.com. November 2006. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
- Interviews with Peter Auty, Aled Jones, Raymond Briggs and John Coates on the making of documentary titled "Snow Business" included on the 2004 20th Anniversary DVD
- For example: Barclay, Ali (4 December 2000). "The Snowman (1982)". BBC – Films. BBC. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
- Interview with Hilary Andus and Joanna Harrison on the making of documentary titled "Snow Business" included on the 2004 20th Anniversary DVD
- John Walsh (21 December 2012). "Raymond Briggs: Seasonal torment for The Snowman creator". The Independent. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
- http://www.lupusfilms.com/ Lupus Films
- Singh, Anita. "The Snowman and the Snowdog: a first look". Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "The Snowman and The Snowdog animator revisits classic". BBC News. 24 December 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- Barber, Martin (24 December 2012). "The Snowman and The Snowdog animator revisits classic". BBC News Online. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "Snowman producer John Coates dies". BBC News Online. 18 September 2012. Retrieved 25 December 2012.
- "The snowman" (first U.S. edition). Library of Congress Catalog. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
- "The Snowman @ The Lowry" (no date). News and Reviews. City Life.
- Official Snowman Website
- The Snowman on IMDb
- The Snowman at BFI screenonline
- Recordings of "The Snowman" and "Walking In The Air"
- Toonhound: Book (1978), Animated short (1982)
- The Snowman in libraries (WorldCat catalog) —immediately, first US edition
- The Snowman, performed by the Boston Civic Symphony at YouTube