The Snowman (1982)

One of the most beautiful animated short films ever made, The Snowman is a silent adaptation of the picture book illustrated by Raymond Briggs. Telling the story of James, a young boy who lives with his parents in the Brighton countryside. After a heavy night of snow, James makes a Snowman and wraps it in a scarf, a hat giving him a face and some buttons. He sneaks downstairs at midnight and sees the Snowman come to life and an adventure begins with James showing the Snowman around the house before the two take flight and soar to the Northern Lights.

Winner of a BAFTA TV award and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short, The Snowman has become a staple for British TV come Christmas time, commonly shown on Christmas Day alongside other Raymond Briggs adaptations. The Snowman was directed by Dianne Jackson who also worked on the animation as well which is lovely to see. Knowing that the film has been directed by someone who has the passion and knowledge for animation and knows what works and what doesn’t really enhances the love and care that has gone into this film. Despite its short running time of 27 minutes, Jackson successfully conveys the journey and developing friendship between James and the Snowman. After 27 minutes, we have been presented with two fully developed characters and really feel the heart-break that comes at the end.

The animation in the film looks like they have brought the beautiful illustrations from the book to life. Without any words, the audience can immediately capture the wonder and excitement that James is looking for. The character designs are simple yet extremely detailed and the mix of colours is captivating, especially when the Snowman and James visit the Northern Lights. The Snowman is proof that you don’t need the biggest budget and most advanced animation available to create something that is beautiful and timeless. The handdrawn style that The Snowman adapts never feels dated or old and perfectly captures the magic that story contains.

The score composed by Peter Blake and performed by the Sinfonia of London is the perfect partner with the film. Usually the music provides the backdrop but in the case of The Snowman, the music works alongside the animation. The Snowman is often categorised as a Symphonic Poem which is when the music dictates the story and vice versa. This kinship between music and film is what makes The Snowman feel like an experience or an event whenever its on. Alongside Blake’s beautiful score, there is also his iconic song “Walking in the Air” which is performed by choir boy, Peter Auty, in the film and then popularised by Aled Jones. The only “spoken” words in the film, the song is from James’ perspective as he embarks on his adventure through the skies with the Snowman.

The Snowman remains one of my favourite shorts and has been since childhood and it’s easy to see why. A beautiful story about love, friendship and grief, it’s a film that packs a punch and lingers after the credits roll. It’s a must watch every year at Christmas in my household and is a firm Christmas favourite that holds strong competition against feature length classics.

What do you think of The Snowman? Let me know in the comments below!

The Snowman is available on 4oD so make sure you have it scheduled to watch on or around Christmas day!


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