What would you say is the most anticipated televisual event this Christmas? Doctor Who perhaps, or Downton Abbey? You might be surprised. It’s beginning to look as though the highlight of this year’s Christmas TV might just be a short hand-drawn cartoon about a boy, a snowman, and a snow dog – in other words, the sequel to Christmas favourite The Snowman, which is thirty years old this year.
Ok, so we all know the classic story – little boy (who grew up, for some reason, into David Bowie) builds magnificent snowman, snowman comes to life, snowman whisks little boy away on a wonderful adventure (during which he meets Father Christmas), snowman takes little boy home again before tragically melting into a slushy puddle, leaving only a hat and scarf behind him. Meanwhile, every human being on the planet has wept enough salt water to raise sea-level by at least two feet.
For most, the final scene of The Snowman is up there with the biggies; the death of Bambi’s mother, the death of Littlefoot’s mother in Land Before Time, and Jessie’s song from Toy Story 2. Yet, it’s a Christmas classic, and I’m sure we’d all agree, it just wouldn’t be the same if the Snowman flew happily into the wintry sunset at the end. But, the story seems very final – even original author and illustrator Raymond Briggs has come clean about the plot in a recent interview with the Radio Times. It really IS all about death:
‘The idea was clean, nice and silent. I don’t have happy endings. I create what seems natural and inevitable…The snowman melts, my parents died, animals die, flowers die. Everything does. There’s nothing particularly gloomy about it. It’s a fact of life.’
Trust us Brits to make a kid’s cartoon about the inevitability of the human condition, and then practically deify the thing. The Snowman has been shown on Channel 4 every year since 1982. Despite being all about death, it has refused to die, and now it has returned in the form of a new hand-drawn 24 minute sequel, The Snowman and the Snowdog. The sequel has been heartily endorsed by Briggs, who has a grudge against CGI, claiming it makes things look ‘too perfect’.
‘I’m a notorious grumbler, but I found nothing to grumble about,” he said.
The new film has been almost completely hand-drawn, with CGI used only at the end to ‘finesse the pictures’, according to Camilla Deakin, co-producer on The Snowman and the Snowdog.
Whether or not the sequel can step into the snowy footprints of the original remains to be seen, but whatever happens we’re betting there’ll be at least a few nostalgic tears before bedtime this Christmas Eve.
The Snowman and the Snowdog airs on the 24th of December at 8pm on Channel 4.