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A New Traditional “Snowman” for Channel 4

On Christmas Eve at 8pm, Britian’s Channel 4 will premiere a sequel to the classic animated special, The Snowman. That original animated special – based on Raymond Briggs’ classic story, directed by Jimmy Murakami and Dianne Jackson – has been beloved by audiences everywhere since it’s first broadcast in 1982; no more so than in the UK where it has become a holiday tradition.

Now, exactly thirty years later, The Snowman and The Snowdog will be aired as part of an anniversary telecast celebrating the original. Hilary Audus, a storyboard artist on the original show, and a key animator on several other Briggs animation adaptations, wrote and directed. The late John Coates (the original producer) apparently gave his blessing to the production before his passing.

Whether or not the new show has charm of the original, the production was decidedly old school – and this excellent behind-the-scenes promo (below) shows how sincere the crew was in maintaining the traditional standards.

  • billycakes

    any talk of a u.s. showing?
    (either of them would be nice!)

    • Chris Sobieniak

      It would be nice if we get to see it at all.

  • GW

    I’m a little cynical on this. I loved The Bear and that was tweaked a bit to be a little more like the original Snowman, so it could be good. Wish that they’d choose another story, but I’m still interested in seeing it.

  • Robert Forman

    I agree. No Diane Jackson. No Howard Blake. No Peter Auty. Hard to see how it could do anything but pale in comparison. Still, I’ll be interested in seeing how it turned out.

    • beamish13

      No Jimmy Murakami, either! Did he decline to be involved? What about Briggs? It’s his story and designs!

      • Mac

        Raymond Briggs gave his consent for this sequel. In the Radio Times he’s quoted as saying, “It would have been cashing in to do it before [the 30 year anniversary]. Now it won’t do any harm, and it’s not vulgar and American. I’ve never touched a computer, or anything like that. CGI makes everything too perfect, but they’re sticking to the old ways. I’m a notorious grumbler, but I found nothing to grumble about”

  • That promo was indeed fantastic. Regardless of how the story comes out, I think it’s amazing how the animation process is still being made as traditional as possible with very minimal digital work (the “back painting” in After Effects.)

    I would love to see more US-based studios adopt that system.

  • Greg Jones Jr

    They can try as they might, there’s no way they’re gonna be able to negate how depressing the ending to the original was. It’ll be like how Futurama kept trying to joke their way out of the infamous Jurassic Bark episode.

  • Mac

    The original book is a fond memory with my daughter.When she was young we read the book and acted out the story.After seeing a few more moments of the new one(check The Guardian’s website,though there are extended ads to ignore)this is not a “simple story” like the first. But it seems like something animators would want ot wrap themselves around.It moves!And that may be cause for alarm for some,but I suspect my dog-loving eight year old granddaughter(who plays with an iphone like it was a pencil) will love it.

  • Galen

    I’ve never understood why the ending was so cruelly depressing. Sure, our friends do actually die, but to end a beautiful, whimsical children’s film with this lesson has always struck me like a dagger in the heart.

    My fix: The ending would be just as it is in the film. But then, after that moment of sadness…it starts to snow again. The boy looks up at the sky. Maybe — MAYBE — he smiles just a tiny bit. End.

    • Kuma Chan

      Yeah I’d have had the Mum come along with the scarf box, or the kid put it away like “OK we’ll play again next year” [When it’ll obviously be repeated on TV]

  • Phaeton99

    Although I earnestly do not believe The Snowman needs a sequel, I do hope they might succeed in capturing that same whimsical magic in style and story.

  • Poochie?

    I hope this has a real depressing end too. Whimsical melancholy is the english way.

  • John Coates did more than “give his blessing” from what I’ve heard; he was very much involved in the production of this new film until his death.

  • I have seen it at a press preview, I was not looking forward to it to be honest, with 30 years worth of nostalgia behind a production there is a lot of pressure to deliver. Although there are tiny moments that the more cynical can pinpoint as bad on the whole the film is an absolute treat. I would go so far as to say I enjoyed it MORE than the first. I nearly cried, but not at the end.

  • Tom

    Well, at the very least we can all agree that thank god it’s not in CG but traditional animation.

  • Funkybat

    I just wish they would show “The Snowman” stateside again. It seems like the only animated holiday specials that ever air, either on broadcast or cable, are;

    “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
    “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
    “Frosty the Snowman”
    “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

    That’s IT. Even most of those are a toss-up whether they’ll air at all any given year. There used to be like two dozen different animated specials each year, and half of them were Rankin-Bass. I suppose it boils down to DVD or streaming for those of us who want to see any of those old specials (and there are a bunch not available at all via legit releases, only YouTube if that.)

    • Jeff

      They also show that god-awful “Frosty Returns”, the in-name-only sequel from the 1990s. Rankin-Bass actually made a sequel to the original “Frosty the Snowman”, but that one is never shown anymore.

  • Mac

    I really hope the posters complaining about the ending to the original Snowman and their ideas to ‘fix’ it are being sarcastic. If not, it perhaps that explains why this special is rarely aired in the US. Luckily there are 1 billion Hallmark Channel Christmas movies about couples that have to pretend to be in love – and then actually do fall in love – for you to enjoy! :)

  • kim

    I got chills watching the trailer and crazy excited watching people working with colored pencils.

    I hope I am not disappointed…

  • Was my face red.

    You remember the original partly because of that ending. It breaks your heart, perhaps for the first time. And it’s more haunting to feel something a little real than to passively witness the same old same old “He’s not dead really – hooray!”

  • Giovanni Jones

    Maybe they should do a version of “The Little Match Girl” in which she becomes an American Idol/X Factor finalist. At least if she doesn’t come in first place, it wouldn’t be such a “downer.”

  • At the very least this will look beautiful! Very curious to see how it all comes together.

  • Felix Sputnik

    I watched it on Christmas eve,
    It’s very well animated, well rendered and the CG elements are fantastically integrated, so well in fact that you can’t spot them.
    It’s just that it’s a story that’s not worth telling.
    Now go and watch : “There’s room on the broom”
    Now, that melted my butter…

  • Robert Forman

    Ok, just saw the full Snowman and the Snowdog on YouTube. My original statement stands. No Diane Jackson, no Howard Blake, no Peter Auty. The film pales in comparison.

    Drawing is excellent but the original rough colored pencil look is gone. Loses some of the charm of the original and also the feeling of the book becoming animated in my opinion. Raymond Briggs said of the original Snowman that he had his doubts about adding Father Christmas (the original story does not include Santa) because he thought it would make the story “twee”. He indicated that it seemed to have worked out. I would attribute that success to Ms Jackson. Almost the entire story and most especially the North Pole stuff in the Snowman and the Snowdog seems very “twee”. The music, song and singing are serviceable without being memorable. The backgrounds and effects animation are excellent. How the story would end was pretty obvious, no? But, I’m sorry, I couldn’t help thinking “Well, if the dog can come to life, it looks like the kid needs a dad, so…..”

  • e

    I was disappointed by this. There was some nice enough animation, but that was it.
    I felt the direction was flabby and weak, with poor pacing and not enough time allowed for the true emotional beats of the story. Parts of it felt really rushed at key moments and the whole thing needed a big edit and tighter work in the animatic stage.
    The team failed to replicate Raymond’s rough pencil aesthetic through the computer – the original Snowman animation had a wonderful soft fuzzy edge look to it (no doubt through the use of cel) that this sequel completely failed to replicate. The compositing work on it was too harsh and I’m surprised more was not done to try and soften the look. A lot of the time the edges of the characters had a hard edge that totally separated it from the BG and just felt too processed through a computer.
    The flying sequence was a let down – it’s broken into 2 sections which ruined the flow for me and this was a bad decision.
    Then there’s the plane. Surely the magic of flying with the Snowman is the idea of the Snowman flying with you on his own? ie not something we can do ourselves in the real world? So why put a dumb plane in it? It also created an unnecessary storyline at the end where they had to return the plane they ‘stole’, and it totally ruined any feeling of magic the flying sequence should have. Oh – and the plane looked absolutely AWFUL against the wonderful hand drawn animated BGs – like a stuck on element. Epic fail.
    Clearly the writers felt that ‘just’ replicating another flying sequence would be criticised as a rehash from the original, so they added a stupid plane which disrupted the flow and was a stupid idea.
    But this leads me onto the main crux of my annoyance – the fact that the ‘story’ was totally redundant and a rehash of the original. Pointless. Even the addition of the very cute dog didn’t add much.
    I feel sorry for the team of animators and artists that worked so hard on this that they were let down by bad direction, a weak story and bad compositing work.
    The final insult was the fact they didn’t have enough time for the credits at the end and everyone who worked so hard on it’s names rushed by at Warp 9 that were totally illegible!
    What a shame.