Sunday, 25 December 2016

KID KLASSICS: 'SNOW' USE - I JUST GOTTA TALK ABOUT THE SNOWMAN (& HIS DOG)...



didn't see The SNOWMAN when it was first broadcast on
CHANNEL 4 on Boxing Day in 1982.  It wasn't until I caught the
latter half of it the following year (or even the one after that), that I
bought the video of the classic cartoon-short about a Snowman who
comes to life (as they all do, apparently), and which was based on
the 1978 picture-book by RAYMOND BRIGGS.

I'd always assumed that DAVID BOWIE's introduction (first
used in the 1983 broadcast) was the only one, so I was surprised to
discover later that it wasn't.  The cartoon has now had three intros:
 the Raymond Briggs original, the Bowie one, one by Briggs' version
of Santa (voiced by the late MEL SMITH), and (on DVD) none
at all (but with all three intros as separate options).

Many folk think ALED JONES was the singer of HOWARD
BLAKE's haunting composition WALKING In The AIR, as it
was his cover which reached number five in the U.K. charts in 1985.
However, it's actually chorister PETER AUTY's soprano tones on
the animated feature, although his name was missing from the
credits and not added 'til the the 20th anniversary version.


The Snowman and the young lad who built him (JAMES) made
cameo appearances in the 1991 animated version of Briggs' FATHER
CHRISTMAS, thereby suggesting that James's adventure with his snow
pal wasn't a one-off.  This is borne out in the 2012 sequel, The SNOW-
MAN And The SNOWDOG, where a new boy finds an old box under
the floorboards of James's old home, containing a hat, scarf, withered
tangerine - and a photograph of James and the Snowman together,
obviously taken on an occasion subsequent to the first one.

The sequel is also delightful, although not too different from
its predecessor.  However, there are a few things I have reservations
about, so I'll address them here.  Coming thirty years after the original,
viewers are within their rights in assuming that perhaps something close
to 'real time' has elapsed in the intervening years, as the isolated house
in the country is now part of a new estate.  Although surely a housing
development would've simply bulldozed the house, rather than
gone to the bother of building around (and next to) it.

Also, what happened to James, the original boy?  Would he really
have abandoned the Snowman's accoutrements and photo of the two
of them together?  I'd have preferred to see him as the new boy's father,
passing on a magical secret to his son rather than his fate simply being ig-
nored.  (We at least know he survived into adulthood and bore an uncan-
ny resemblance to David Bowie.)  I suppose, though, that one can always
interpret events as James's son and widow moving back to his boyhood
home after having left some years before.  Perhaps the adult James only
expired after the plans to move back were finalised, or perhaps (on
a happier note) he's simply away on business at the time.


One thing I did like was the fact that, when the Snowman is
given a fresh tangerine for a new nose, his shrunken, dried out one
is utilised for the Snowdog.  "Waste not, want not!" as the old saying
goes.  Also, a young girl is seen playing with what is clearly an item of
Snowman 'merchandise', while the boy himself has a poster of Briggs'
earlier creation from 1977, FUNGUS The BOGEYMAN, on his
bedroom wall.  (And see if you can spot the 1966 TV BAT-
MOBILE toy's brief and surprising appearance.)

As for the sequel's song, LIGHT The NIGHT by ANDY
BURROWS (which is nowhere in the same league as the original),
the makers (LUPUS) should've used either an instrumental version 
of Walking In The Air, or a new arrangement with a male-voice choir
to distinguish it from Auty's.  (After all, it is the Snowman's 'signature'
theme, in the same way that JAMES BOND and SUPERMAN have
one also.)  Burrow's song is disappointingly underwhelming (though,
for all I know, may be technically and musically perfect), and fails
to resonate to anywhere near the same degree as Blake's
original 1982 classic composition.

For those interested, a box-set of The Snowman & The
Snowman and The Snowdog is available from most HMV
stores and other outlets.  Or you can catch up with them on TV over
Christmas if you're too much of a skinflint.  Well worth watching!  One
thing I'd really like to know is this, though:  what gives the Snowman
his individual personality?  Is it the garden he's built in, or the person
who builds him?  Or is it perhaps the accessories he wears?  If James
is still alive and he were to build a Snowman, would it be a different
one (personality-wise) to the one he built as a kid, or the same
one?  Anybody got any thoughts on the matter?


"MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!"

16 comments:

Christopher Sobieniak said...

The cartoon has now had three intros: the Raymond Briggs original, the Bowie one, one by Briggs' version of Santa (voiced by the late MEL SMITH), and (on DVD) none at all (but with all three intros as separate options)

The way DVD's are, I'm surprised they didn't make it a multi-branching sequence where, depending on which opening you prefer, you can start the film with either one and it would just play out like that. Most of us Americans are only ever familiar with the Briggs intro as that was the one seen on TV and home video here for years. The thought of David Bowie creeping up into an attic for a quick glance at his scarf just doesn't quite do it for us.

The Snowman and the young lad who built him (JAMES) made cameo appearances in the 1991 animated version of Briggs' FATHER CHRISTMAS, thereby suggesting that James's adventure with his snow pal wasn't a one-off.

Which was nice given how rather sad the ending to "The Snowman" was. Also amusing to suggest a "Briggsverse" where characters like even Jim and Hilda Bloggs exist in the same continuity (their story obviously ends the timeline)!

I suppose, 'though, that one can always interpret events as James's son and widow moving back to his boyhood home after having left some years before. Perhaps the adult James only expired after the plans to move back were finalised, or perhaps (on a happier note) he's simply away on business at the time.

And yet Raymond Briggs felt the real issue of "The Snowman" that everyone glossed over was the theme of death anyway. Who knows, James could've died through any sort of disaster after having his first and only son, but who knows.
http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/raymond-briggs-the-snowman-is-not-really-about-christmas-its-about-death-8399520.html

Kid said...

Haven't heard from you in a while, CS, so hope everything's okay with you and that you had/have (delete as applicable) a great Christmas. Interestingly, David Bowie is the grown-up James who keeps his present from Santa (the scarf) up in the attic, but it's not clear if it's the attic of his childhood home or a new one. At least we knew James grew up, although I couldn't see him leaving a photo of himself and the Snowman, plus other bits-and-bobs, under a floorboard in his old room. Wouldn't that be where he'd also have kept the scarf Santa gave him? Thanks for the link, which I'll check out soon.

Update: Have now read the article, CN - he really is a 'miserable git'.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

At least we knew James grew up, although I couldn't see him leaving a photo of himself and the Snowman, plus other bits-and-bobs, under a floorboard in his old room. Wouldn't that be where he'd also have kept the scarf Santa gave him?

It does come off like a bit of a continuity plot hole there. Given the circumstances, perhaps it might make better sense if James had moved away from his old home as he grew up, which would make sense given the way the boy and his mom had just moved in at the start of the special. Why the house continued to be there long after the estate sprang up is anyone's guess, perhaps the former owner/s fought tooth and nail to preserve what they had and they were able to accommodate/work around the lot as they did (perhaps there's some historical significance that we simply don't know). I suppose it's a small cheat to keep the house around as they did, but without it, it would be tougher to tie it into the original the way it is.

For the reason why the photograph, it wouldn't surprise me if James did forget after a number of years where he placed those particular items, or maybe he wanted to leave behind a time capsule of sorts, at least as a memory of what had happened he may wanted to leave to whoever happens to be in that room later on.

I hate to admit I didn't watch the sequel until tonight! I had every opportunity to watch it fully these past few years and simply slept on it! From what I see, the special really serves to show a new generation that occurs with a new boy discovering his snow pals.

Thanks for the link, which I'll check out soon.

And since you did...

Update: Have now read the article, CN - he really is a 'miserable git'.

You can't please anyone, of course we're talking about a man who once wrote a book about the lives of his parents from start to finish! Speaking of which, I read the BBC will be airing "Ethel & Ernest" in a few days! In case you haven't had a chance to catch it in a cinema, here's a good chance if you're not doing anything Wednesday night!
http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2016-12-24/what-time-is-ethel--ernest-on-tv

Kid said...

Regarding the sequel, as I said in the post, it's just a shame they didn't use a new arrangement of Walking In The Air - the new song is instantly forgettable. Yeah, I suppose it's possible that James wanted to leave the remnants of the Snowman in his old house in case the magic could ever be repeated, but I know I'd have wanted to take them with me. Ethel & Earnest doesn't sound appealing to me in the slightest, but I may give it a chance if there's nothing more interesting on. Thanks for the link.

Colin Jones said...

I'm not sure if I've actually seen The Snowman or if I just think I've seen it because it's so well-known. But, of course, I remember the Aled Jones version of Walking In The Air - he seems to be a bit confused though as I heard him on the radio a few weeks ago and he said that he reached No.2 in the charts and was prevented from reaching No.1 by the Pet Shop Boys. But he never got as high as No.2, I know that - and anyway, the Christmas #1 in 1985 was Shakin' Stevens not the Pet Shop Boys...poor Aled has had too much eggnog methinks.

Kid said...

It only got to number five in the charts in 1985, CJ, but hope is sometimes father to the wish, so we'll overlook his faulty memory. I feel sorry for Peter Auty who sang the song on the cartoon - he never got a mention in the credits 'til 20 years later.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Regarding the sequel, as I said in the post, it's just a shame they didn't use a new arrangement of Walking In The Air - the new song is instantly forgettable.

It's a very pop-inspired piece, not quite on the level of the symphonic majesty of the original "Walking in the Air" and the rest of The Snowman's soundtrack from '82. It is quite forgettable indeed, I skipped over the tune on YouTube while watching this!

Yeah, I suppose it's possible that James wanted to leave the remnants of the Snowman in his old house in case the magic could ever be repeated, but I know I'd have wanted to take them with me.

It certainly would've made sense had he had a child he could give them to one day and the kid follows the same path as he did. I suppose keeping the mystery there made it easier not to have to show more than they need to (especially with a story as wordless as this is).

Watching the special on YouTube, I noticed one person called it out for being very American for its ending, and while I don't want to spoil it for anyone else here, I do think it's rather interesting to point out, unlike James' scarf, ultimately Father Christmas has bestowed the greatest gift of all. That kinda did it for me, but I suppose I'm a sucker for that!

Ethel & Earnest doesn't sound appealing to me in the slightest, but I may give it a chance if there's nothing more interesting on. Thanks for the link.

When it's not The Snowman, Raymond Briggs has a talent for very simple, dramatic stories of everyday life. It's not all joys and happiness as it's not all doom and gloom.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

It only got to number five in the charts in 1985, CJ, but hope is sometimes father to the wish, so we'll overlook his faulty memory. I feel sorry for Peter Auty who sang the song on the cartoon - he never got a mention in the credits 'til 20 years later.

It is always weird when stuff like that happens. I suppose there's any number of reasons why Auty wasn't credited back then (when it comes to US productions, often it's a matter of union or legal reasons why some don't make the cut).

Kid said...

It's odd that someone would call the ending 'very American' - I don't see it that way at all. It's very 'Pinocchio' in concept, and Carlo Collodi was Italian. Howard Blake was the credited composer of the music on The Snowman, and as other individual musicians weren't credited (that I recall), that probably explains why Auty wasn't listed - the film-makers probably felt Blake's name was sufficient. Of course, the song took on a life of its own and was doubtless a huge part of the film's success, hence Auty's contribution eventually being recognised.

Davi said...

Hi Kid

Regarding your comment above that "...surely a housing development would've simply bulldozed the house, rather than gone to the bother of building around (and next to) it..." Well, that's exactly what happened to a former home of mine. A small house once surrounded by fields, it now stands looking very incongruous at the edge of a big new housing estate.

David Simpson

Kid said...

I think the clue is in your closing sentence - 'at the edge...'. However, apart from having seen solitary houses demolished to facilitate new estates (usually because the land has been bought by the developers), James's house seems to be right in the middle of a passel of new houses, which is not usually how it happens. (Unless there's a large spread of land around the house.) However, we are talking about a cartoon house after all, and its existence was necessary for the plot, so...I guess that explains it.

Warren JB said...

"One thing I'd really like to know is this, 'though: what gives the Snowman
his individual personality? Is it the garden he's built in, or the person
who builds him? Or is it perhaps the accessories he wears?"

Took the words right out of my mouth, especially if James rebuilt him year after year. What an existential mind-boggler out of a festive family cartoon. Almost as bad as the issue of societies where penguins are taken in as lodgers and zoos are used as prisons for criminal animals.

Anyways, I have to admit I prefer Briggs' Father Christmas. I think I can relate more to 'another bloomin' Christmas!' (with a nod and a wink, of course) than 'my wonderful, magical, new best friend just melted into a puddle and died'. Especially after that Independent article.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

It's odd that someone would call the ending 'very American' - I don't see it that way at all. It's very 'Pinocchio' in concept, and Carlo Collodi was Italian.

I would think so as well, perhaps the guy who commented didn't think of Pinocchio at all. I will say the gift of life is packs an emotional punch to me over a melting snowman since we expected that to happen anyway! Ooops, I spoiled it!

I think the clue is in your closing sentence - 'at the edge...'. However, apart from having seen solitary houses demolished to facilitate new estates (usually because the land has been bought by the developers), James's house seems to be right in the middle of a passel of new houses, which is not usually how it happens. (Unless there's a large spread of land around the house.)

I did sorta wonder how much land did James' family had, if it included the area around the house for instance? Perhaps as a trade-off, whoever owned the house previous got to sell off a portion of the land in exchange for keeping the house and backyard. They way the house is placed on the corner of the block suggests a bit of planning obviously went to work around the original plot. Such considerations aren't out of the question, at least here in the US where people used to own acres of land at a time prior to the development of subdivisions or estates.

However, we are talking about a cartoon house after all, and its existence was necessary for the plot, so...I guess that explains it.
Yep, cartoon!

Kid said...

I think I prefer the cartoon of The Snowman to Father Christmas, WJB, because it has more of an emotional impact. The sequel is really just a retread 'though, without even the benefit of a memorable tune. They really need to edit in a version of The Snowman theme for future screenings.

******

The house may be on the corner of the block, CS, but it's surrounded by other blocks from what I can see. Usually (at least in Britain), the only way the house would survive is if the new estate was built nearby, but it's unlikely it'd be built around it to such a degree. Unless it was a listed building or there was a good-sized bit of land around it, which would mean the house and gardens would be well-detached from the others.

Cartoons have their own rules 'though.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Anyways, I have to admit I prefer Briggs' Father Christmas. I think I can relate more to 'another bloomin' Christmas!' (with a nod and a wink, of course) than 'my wonderful, magical, new best friend just melted into a puddle and died'. Especially after that Independent article.

We certainly could relate more to Father Christmas' annual routine and an interest in traveling once in a while versus the dark but ultimate acceptance of mortality that seems to paint Briggs' worldview in these stories.

Cartoons have their own rules 'though.

Just repeat to yourelf, "It's just a show, I should really just relax!"

Kid said...

Ah, but if they don't make us think (even about houses), then they're not doing their job, CS. Regarding The Snowman, although he melts at the end, we know he can be revived every time it snows, so it's not as bleak as it seems. For me, the idea that snowmen can come to life has a magical quality that appeals to the child in me - and it has a great song. (The very one that my dog Zara breathed its last to back in 1998.)

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