Thursday, 25 December 2014
'SNOW' USE - I JUST GOTTA TALK ABOUT THE SNOWMAN (& HIS DOG)...
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?
Posted by Kid at Thursday, December 25, 2014