I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snows 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.
— Raymond Briggs, author
In 1978, English illustrator and artist Raymond Briggs
drew a wordless Graphic Novel
about a Snowman who comes to life
at Christmas titled simply The Snowman
. In 1982 it was animated in a 26 minute film for the then-fledgling Channel Four
, and became an instant Christmas classic and the favourite Christmas Special
for many Britons. It is now shown on Channel Four every Christmas.
The plot is simple: a young boy awakens on Christmas Eve (or possibly New Year's Eve, the dialog free nature makes it hard to tell) to find a thick blanket of snow on the ground around his countryside home. He decides to build a Snowman which comes to life that night
when he wakes up in the night (his parents remain slumbering).
After several escapades, including a memorable motorcycle/car ride around the local fields the Snowman reveals another special ability when he flies the boy to the a snow covered northern forest, with the song "Walking in the Air" playing in the background. There, Father Christmas
and a large group of other living Snowmen and Snow-women
are having a party. Father Christmas gives the boy the gift of a blue scarf with snowmen on it. Then the Snowman flies the boy home. They part ways when the boy goes back to bed and the Snowman remains standing in the garden.
Come the morning, the boy rushes downstairs to bright sunlight, and hurries to greet his friend in the garden. However, when he gets to the garden, all that remains is a pile of melted snow and a collection of coal and old clothes. The boy wonders if he dreamt it all
but then finds the scarf from Father Christmas in his dressing gown pocket
, and breaks down in tears... As does the audience
Most famous for the song "Walking in the Air
", which many a choir (and even Heavy Mithril
) has sung at some point.
In 1991, a companion film based on Father Christmas
was made based on Brigg's other Christmas piece, both James and the Snowman make a cameo.
30 years later, a sequel The Snowman and the Snowdog
aired 24 December 2012 on Channel Four.
Not to be confused with living snowmen in general
- Adaptation Expansion: Many scenes were added to the film that weren't in the Graphic Novel.
- A Boy and His X: A boy and his snowman in this case.
- Bittersweet Ending: The sequel's ending: the snowdog, made in memory of the boy's deceased dog, becomes flesh and blood again, but by the morning the snowman has melted, and he never comes back, just like in the original.
- Christmas Special: Britain's most popular, where it is far more famous than the similarly themed Frosty the Snowman.
- Cool Bike: The one the snowman and the boy take for a midnight ride.
- Dances and Balls: Father Christmas hosts a large party for international snowmen.
- Death by Newbery Medal: Nominated for an academy award.
- Digital Destruction: In 2002 it was "restored"... by being cropped from 4:3 to 16:9. The vandalized version was broadcast every year up to and including 2012. In 2013 they reverted to the old version.
- Downer Ending: Possibly the only straight example of a Christmas Special that has one.
- Fish out of Water: The snowman is introduced to various facets of human life by the boy; mostly played for smiles.
- Foreshadowing: When the boy rushes downstairs the morning after flying around with the snowman, the look on the parents' faces say that they know the snowman has already melted, and that the boy will be devastated when he finds out.
- If you look closely, there is a moment when the snowman is flying the boy home, where he looks off to the East (where he can see the sun rising), and looks back forwards with a grim expression... as though he knows what is coming...
- Mime and Music-Only Cartoon: Except for "Walking in the Air".
- Narrator: Via a brief live-action prologue. It's Raymond Briggs in the original broadcast, David Bowie in subsequent rereleases. (The latter was what Americans saw when HBO ran it annually in The Eighties, but all VHS and DVD versions use the original intro.) The 20th anniversary release featured an animated intro with Father Christmas (voice by Mel Smith) recounting how he met the boy.
- No Name Given: The boy in the novel. In the film, his gift from Father Christmas identifies him as "James".
- No More for Me: In the movie, one man has this reaction to seeing James and the snowman flying.
- Or Was It a Dream??: No, it was not.
- Also applies to the ending of The Snowman and the Snowdog. After the Snowdog's transformation into a real dog, the boy took it in... only to see it missing when he wakes up. He ran downstairs in a panic, and - to his relief - found it at the back door wanting to go outside.
- Polar Bears and Penguins: The "Walking in the Air" sequence showed a pair of penguins living near the North Pole.
- Played with again during The Snowman and the Snowdog with the downhill sled race against a skiing penguin.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Snowdog. He's adorable!
- Santa Claus: Though the sequel identifies him by the more 'British' name of Father Christmas.
- Scenery Porn: The flying sequence.
- Silence Is Golden
- Sudden Downer Ending: Ultimately subverted in the cartoon based (rather loosely) on another work by the same author, which takes place in the same universe. He rebuilt the snowman the next year.
- However, the Snowman melts again. But the good news is, the Snowdog is made real by a magic collar given by Santa.
- Tragic Keepsake: The scarf from Father Christmas.