#20 – The Snowman

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The Snowman (1982)

The Snowman is an animated special based on the book by Raymond Briggs. The book is noteworthy because it’s composed entirely of pictures and the animated special is notable for not featuring any dialogue, just a simple one-sentence introduction at the beginning.

As you can probably guess, The Snowman tells a simple story about a boy who builds a snowman only to see it come to life. They play together and sneak around the house at night so as not to alert the boy’s parents. The Snowman eventually unveils his wonderful magical powers to the boy and they both make a trip to see other animated snowmen, and eventually, Santa Claus himself (though since this is a British story, maybe I should refer to him as Father Christmas). The animation features a simple watercolor look that possess a sketch-like quality, to best emulate the book. It possesses a whimsical charm that suits the tone of the material. Pretty much anyone who has ever seen this special can recall the ending. I won’t spoil it (even if it is more than 30 years old at this point), but suffice to say, it is indeed memorable and the tone it strikes makes it pretty unique amongst Christmas specials.

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He certainly makes that “belly-whopping” snowman look like a piece of crap.

The Snowman is a story I’ve always felt I should like more than I do. If someone were to describe the tale to me in detail I’d say it sounds like something I’d enjoy quite a bit. For whatever reason, it’s never struck much of a chord with me. Maybe I just got so sick of seeing the promotional ads run on Nick Jr. as a kid ad nauseum that they poisoned the feature for me. When I watch it as an adult I enjoy it but do find it’s rather slow. I think, for me, it would have worked better as a short film rather than a half hour special. Not much happens, which I get is supposed to be part of its charm, but I can’t help the way I feel. I think if the story found a way to make me care about the characters more than it does I’d appreciate it more. Still, I acknowledge it’s an important enough special that it’s worthy of inclusion in my top 25, I just suspect a lot of people who have seen it would list it higher than I have.

Recently, a sequel has been made that I haven’t seen. I’ve actually owned it for some time but have never gotten around to viewing it. Apparently, I like to stockpile Christmas specials. The Snowman used to be shown on television with some frequency around the holidays, sometimes on public access in the US, but for whatever reason is rarely shown these days. If you wish to view it this holiday season your best bet is to rent or buy it.

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One response to “#20 – The Snowman

  • Anthony

    The first time I saw this I was on an airplane flying from Osaka to Paris (with brief stops in Copenhagen and Stockholm) Then I saw it again the next two years when I flew to Toronto from Osaka. I loved it and I loved how emotional it can be, even without dialogue.
    The scene of the snowman treating the fridge like we would treat a fireplace is truly brilliant.

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