The Snowman, the 1982 animation of the Raymond Briggs graphic novel, is rightly regarded as a Christmas classic, certainly here in Britain. It is shown every year and still has a fairly timeless appeal to it today. There were requests to make a sequel, which didn’t happen, unless you count Father Christmas in 1991, which was another animation of a Raymond Briggs graphic novel and featured the Snowman and James in a brief cameo. Now 30 years since the broadcast of the original one has been made.
It is one of those sequels that’s more of a remake. It links back to the original by having a new family move into the house and the boy, Billy, finding a box with a photograph of James and the Snowman and the Snowman’s hat and scarf plus the coal and satsuma used to make him from the first film. From then on it follows the same basic plot of the first one. Boy builds a snowman, it comes to life, they fly through the air, meet Father Christmas who gives the boy a present, and in the morning the boy finds out the Snowman has melted (if you’ve seen the original then you know that is coming). If you’d suspected from the title the only real difference is the addition of a cute ickle snow puppy then, you’d be right. It isn’t as good as the first one. But… I still really liked it
The Snowdog is adorable. It’s playful and very cute with its mitten ears and satsuma nose. I liked that Billy scooped snow from the top of a shed roof and from bushes and branches as he didn’t have quite enough snow to make a full snowman, because I think most people who have made a snowman have done that at some point.
The song used while they are flying through the sky is called ‘Light The Night’ by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows. It has been described as like a Coldplay song, but it reminds me more of Mike Batt’s ‘Better Than A Dream’ from the cartoon series The Dreamstone. It isn’t as memorable as the first film’s ‘Walking In The Air’, but what it works very well with the flying sequence, making it very pleasant and quite moving.
When they get to the snowman party the animators seem to have a lot of fun. There were two snowmen that resembled Laurel & Hardy. I liked the snowmen skiing, partly because it reminded me of an old Christmas tree decoration we had when I was a kid. There was also a skiing penguin, and just like in the first film many have pointed out that penguins live in the South Pole rather than the North Pole, but then as TV Tropes put it, Everything’s Better With Penguins.
The ending features Father Christmas giving Billy a dog collar to put on the Snowdog, which turns it into a real dog. That seems to have triggered the arbitrary “UNREALISTIC!” nerve of some viewers. I say arbitrary because it wasn’t any less unrealistic than the premise of a snowman coming to life. Of course everyone has their own limits as to what they will and won’t accept in any work of fiction and what they think is worth nitpicking. For me it was a bit strange that the snowman and Billy fly a plane. OK fair enough flying in a plane might be fun, but the Snowman can fly anyway, why bother even using a plane?
Personally, I think it was a good idea to go for a slightly happier ending in this version, because I was expecting the Snowdog to be melted by the end. Billy finding the Snowman melted in this version, as well played as it is, isn’t anywhere near as affecting for people who have seen the first film because, well, we’ve seen it before. I don’t think seeing the Snowdog melted as well would have made much difference either. The Snowdog becoming a real dog is a sweet moment, and it’s different from what they did before.
I think they were probably trying to make this as a tribute to the original, and it seems to have had a generally positive response from viewers. So while it isn’t as good as the first one, it is really lovely and warm-hearted, and it was a nice programme for Christmas.