“A story about death.”
If you thought Raymond Briggs’s The Snowman was a joyous Christmas cartoon for the festive season, you’re sadly mistaken.
In life, we cherish the precious moments and build our lives on happy memories. For the festive season, it’s traditional to gather with loved ones as we eat, decorate trees and of course, build a snowman. The Snowman has been part of the holidays tradition for many years, and those who are familiar with this cartoon know how teary-eyed one can become.
The Snowman, originally a children’s book created in 1978, is portrayed as a heart-warming fantasy about a young boy who creates a snowman that magically comes to life on the stroke of midnight. Together, they journey on an exciting adventure to the North Pole, flying through the air, to meet Santa Clause.
While this adaptation is meant to be a family-friendly cartoon and add to the festivities in a positive manner, there is a truly insidious undertone that innocent eyes are not aware of. In one’s adult years, it becomes easy to spot this film’s hidden agenda.
The Snowman is actually not a joyous story at all. It’s a story about death… and was never meant to become a festive favorite or have any Christmas sentimentality at all, for that matter.
The Snowman has been screened each festive season since 1982 – and was awarded an Oscar nomination. The cartoon is well known for its ballad “Walking in the Air.” No matter how angelic the boy’s voice is, the song has an extremely gloomy effect and brings tears to one’s eyes. I, for one, cannot watch this movie accompanied by this song, as it is rather overwhelming in terms of emotion and has a powerful, yet grim effect.
The original story is meant to be about a snowman melting away from the heat of the morning sun. Creating friends or building attachments to those we love or having a companion of some sort, and then having to deal with their mortality is, in the end, the fate of every mortal one of us. Dealing with the reality of being alone in this world – we all enter this world alone and depart in the same manner – is truly depressing, if you think about it. Not at all what you’d want to be contemplating on Christmas!
While this idea was meant to teach kids about mortality and death, it surely didn’t come across in that manner with the cartoon having been somewhat cheerful and festive in atmosphere. The cartoon itself focusses on the friendship and journey the two embark on, and not at all on the reality of the melting snowman or loss of a dear friend…
The author, Raymond Briggs, is not a fan of Christmas at all. He does, however, support the principle of the festivities and giving of gifts, but finds the excitement overwhelming and all too overbearing, adding anxiety into the mix. Raymond mentions that CGI was unsuitable for The Snowman, as he wanted a more natural, old style animation for his cartoon.
The Snowman is 24-minutes in length and together with the sequel, The Snowdog, the budget to create the two films is a whopping 2 million pounds! The actual cartoon was made up of 200,000 individual illustrations. Many artists worked on the original film and the aim was to maintain the look of the drawings by Raymond. The only digital add-ons were the snow and minor lighting effects.
So, if you’re feeling cheerful this festive season, take a look at this animated creation and keep in mind that, while Raymond Briggs believes there are no happy endings, we make our own happy endings in life and cherish those moments gone by.