Raymond Briggs‘ The Snowman turns forty, this festive season . . . The short animation has been a staple of Christmases old and young since it first aired. We’re here to celebrate it and to discuss why it’s so magical . . .
Before The Snowman was a cartoon it was a book. This is of course the case with many stories. No doubt there are many who have grown up with the cartoon, but never read the book. A feature of the book is that there’s no words. And of course, this is represented in the animation. That’s what gives the story it’s power. The actions really do speak louder than words! There’s an atmosphere that’s created through the subtext, which comes about through the silence. The book came out in 1978 and then four years there was the animation, which has become so famous.
The Cartoon . . .
The Snowman debuted on British TV (Channel 4) on 26th December (Boxing Day) 1982. It was also released on home video that year. It’s on the official SciFiPulse Greatest Christmas Movie List. Whilst the animation style looks dated now, in comparison to present-day capabilities, that helps to preserve its charm of it. The style is now a record of what could be done, then. It looked remarkable, forty years ago. We can see how far we’ve come since then, too.
There are many things that helped make The Snowman work. The surface-level simplicity of the story is one of them . . . It’s very easy to watch and is appealing to family audiences for this reason. For example, the adults who have watched it will have identified with the little boy’s parents. Furthermore, there will now be children who have enjoyed it for years who are grown up and watch it with their children. And it’s this which has helped to create a legacy for it.
Truly great stories create a legacy. The Snowman has had a sequel and has also been reimagined on stage. However, the legacy of the original story is unsurpassed. The story certainly seems one that’s simplistic. But perhaps it’s deceptive in that simplicity. When you watch the film again, there are deeper layers. It’s possible to read The Snowman as a fable of life, and death. The magical being is “born”, has a life, then indeed has a “death” at the end.
The action centres around the middle part of the story — life. Perhaps this significant message is we should live our best life, and that there is magic to be found all around us. Flying may not be possible for us, yet we can all soar upwards, metaphorically and aim to enjoy life to the max. We can experience the joys and the wonders of being alive. This is captured by the music, which is of course a massive part of why The Snowman has remained so popular. Quite how devastated we are at the end, after so much joy seems comparable to losing a loved one. The multi-layered level of storytelling really only works because we fill the silences that are there. The story is truly timeless!