Thursday, 25 December 2014


Copyright relevant owner

I 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 SNOWMAN 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, though 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 ignored. (We at least know he survived into adulthood and bore an uncanny 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 BATMOBILE 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 Boxing Day on TV if you're a bit 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?



Anonymous said...

I haven't actually seen The Snowman but of course I know Walking In The Air and yes, I knew Aled Jones didn't sing it in the original cartoon. You make a good point,Kid, about the flaws of the sequel - if I had a photo of me and a talking, flying snowman I'd look after it but I thought the boy in the original was the only one who knew about the snowman so who took the photo of them ? Hope you're enjoying Christmas Day - I'm a natural early riser so I was up at six drinking sherry (it's Christmas so it's allowed) and watching my DVD of Guardians Of The Galaxy which is excellent if you haven't seen it - I first saw it a few days ago but it deserved another spin. Tomorrow morning I'll be watching X-Men:Days Of Future Past which I haven't yet seen. If The Snowman is on Boxing Day I think I'll have a look as I've never seen it.

Dave S said...

Merry Christmas Kid, and to everyone who posts here.
Hope you are all having happy and relaxing time!

Kid said...

Presumably, he used the camera's timer (if it had one), CJ. I didn't go to bed 'til after six, but was up again a couple or so hours later to revise this post. Yup, seen Guardians of the Galaxy and thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you catch the nod to Kirby's Eternals? Should definitely watch the Snowman, CJ! A Merry Christmas to you and yours.


And the very same to you, DD, and thanks for dropping by. Have a great 2015 when it comes.

Anonymous said...

Kid, I did see that character from The Eternals !! You're right he could have used a timer - they didn't really think it out though, as you say there's no explanation about the original boy and I don't think there's supposed to be any connection with the new boy. You didn't go to bed till six, good grief, I went to bed at Midnight and I thought THAT was late. I was using iplayer to watch such things as a Bing Crosby/Frank Sinatra festive special from 1957 (on BBC 4) and the very first TV broadcast from 1954 of Carols from King's College, Cambridge (also BBC 4) - my parents were married in January 1954 so it was rather strange watching this "live" broadcast and thinking they were out there somewhere having their first Christmas as a married couple.

Kid said...

No, I don't think there's supposed to be any connection between the boys either, but I like to imagine one as it alleviates the difficulties somewhat. As for that broadcast, CJ, your parents may even have watched it, and there you are sharing in their experience 60 years later. Blows your mind, eh?

John Pitt said...

HAPPY XMAS DAY, Kid! ( and you too, Dunsade Dave! )
I liked the film, but agree with you about the song. Out of the 2 WITA's, I think Peter Auty's has the edge - a bit chilling when heard through headphones ( no pun intended!)

Anonymous said...

Sadly that could never have happened, Kid - my father once told me they didn't get a TV until I was born in 1966. I never asked my mother to confirm this but my father wasn't the type to watch a carol concert anyway. I'm waiting now for the 1988 Blackadder Xmas special at 8.15 - I'd prefer to watch it on iplayer later but some of these older shows are not available on iplayer due to rights issues I assume. And of course there's the Dr. Who Christmas special on tonight.

Kid said...

Agreed, JP, the original is the best, but Jones's versions is nice too.


Ah, but perchance they saw it in a friend's house because your mother really wanted to see it and your father indulged her? Even the past can sometimes be what you want it to be if you just let it. CJ. By the way, the complete Blackadder box-set is available in Sainsbury's for £15.

Chris Sobieniak said...

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).

I think the first time I saw "The Snowman" here in the US, it was either on PBS or in school from a 16mm projector. For most of us non-UK viewers, the Briggs intro would be the one we are familiar with. And I always thought it was a perfect segue to the animation the way it was planned. The Bowie intro came off rather too quickly the way it was set up, but I suppose they only had thirty seconds to do it and then we're off. It just didn't do it for me somehow.

The third with Father Christmas was a nice nod to it's 20th Anniversary and a nice reminder of this other character if you might be curious enough to find that book too (and the TV special, though here in the US, Mel Smith's voice was replaced with someone else). Good chance to get Mel Smith while they could.

I noticed back in 2006, they did a KitKat commercial with Father Christmas, but I couldn't tell if that was Mel Smith or not they got for the voice. Nice if they did given it was probably the last time he got to voice that character.

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.

I suppose the one bright spot of that release. I recall CBC in Canada aired this last year instead of the David Bowie version they use to show.

For those of us in the United States, Both "The Snowman" and "The Snowman and the Snowdog" (though sadly no "Father Christmas") can be watched on Hulu at present. (I don't follow up on DVD/BluRay releases domesically)

It looks like the version of "The Snowman" they have up looks similar to the 2002 edition but has the Raymond Briggs intro at the start (and oddly doesn't match the way it's cropped). It also runs at 23.976fps, which was the way I use to see it anyway over here (NTSC and all), so the length is a little over 27 minutes. The music always sounded better slowed down than it does watching it in PAL, but again, that's simply how the film was shown due to the differences in frame rates.

Kid said...

You've done your homework there, Chris, so thanks for the links. There's something about the Brigg's intro that makes me think I should prefer it, but I'm more used to the Bowie one because it was the first I saw. Over in Scotland, there's an Irn Bru (a soft drink 'made from girders') TV advert that has similar animation of a snowman and a boy flying through the air, with the Blake theme tune and reworked lyrics. If I can find a link I'll add it - it's quite funny. Hope you had a great Christmas.

Kid said...

Can't get the hulu links in this country yet, but watched the Kit-Kat ad - certainly sounds like Mel Smith. Here's the link to the Irn Bru ad, Chris.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Yeah, I remember that ad to Kid! That was really clever!

"Now I'm falling through the aiiiiiir, I don't where I'm going to laaaannnnnd! He nipped y Irn-Bru and let's go of my haaaaaannnnnd!"

Kid said...

Can you get Irn Bru over where you are, Chris? I don't like it, I have to be honest, but once posed for a poster, holding a bottle, which was used in an art display.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Can you get Irn Bru over where you are, Chris?

Apparently they do, but I haven't seen them in stores so I guess I would have to order them online if I do, but I don't need to, I'm sure it's not all that great.

I don't like it, I have to be honest, but once posed for a poster, holding a bottle, which was used in an art display.

That must've been fun. I'm reminded of animation historian Jerry Beck finding himself all over certain websites simply for having posed for a picture of himself wearing a professor's gown and cap. Typical clip-art stuff.

Kid said...

It wasn't much fun to be honest, Chris. I was helping someone I know do an art project. It was an exhibition on drinking in Scottish culture, and I was meant to be someone having a drink of Irn Bru the morning after drinking a bottle of Buckfast tonic wine (something I've never tasted). I sat on a seat near a bus station with an empty Buckfast bottle at my feet, while pretending to open the Irn Bru. (Apparently this is something alcoholics do.) I helped her in other ways too, but I had to buy her 'a gift' to get the poster once the exhibition was finished, as she said it had cost her money (probably had a grant), even 'though she had no further use for it. Like a fool, I did, but she should really have given it to me as a 'thank you' for all my help. Wasn't the only time she 'took a loan of me' (as we say in Scotland), but I suppose it's my own fault for allowing myself to be used. (Never again.)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...