Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Snowman

I have an aunt who lives in England and she would send us classic books for Christmas. I'm not sure if she was the one who sent me The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, but that book deserves its place as a classic.

Wordlessly told with lovely illustrations, the book tells the story of a little boy who goes outside to make a snowman one winter's day. At night—in a dream or reality, the reader decides—the Snowman comes to life and after playing in the house, he and the boy go flying through the air. Returning home as dawn is approaching, the little boy goes back to bed. Waking up, he goes outside and discovers that the Snowman has collapsed.

I knew The Snowman only from the book, which vanished quickly over the years, but when my younger siblings grew older, they found it and the animated film adaptation at the library.

The animated film successfully captures the look of the illustrations, but the plot deviates from the book when the Snowman comes to life. A number of the escapades in the house are cut, and there's a ride on a motorcycle added. When the Snowman and the boy (who gets the name James here) fly away, the beautiful song "Walking in the Air" sung by Peter Auty plays over the scene, making for a hauntingly beautiful sequence.

The Snowman and James join other Snowmen as they gather around at a celebration with Father Christmas, who lets James meet his reindeer and gives him a scarf. James still has this scarf when he wakes up in the morning, suggesting the experience was not a dream.

In 2012, a sequel to The Snowman film was released, titled The Snowman and the Snowdog. A new little boy named Billy, having recently lost his dog, finds a photo of the original Snowman and his remains. When it snows, he recreates the Snowman and makes a dog out of snow as well with sock ears. When the pair come to life, they fly in an airplane to another celebration, where they meet a more traditional Santa Claus who gives Billy a collar that turns the Snowdog into a real dog when he returns home. After finding the new dog when he wakes up, Billy and his dog discover that the Snowman has once again collapsed.

I was rather disappointed with The Snowman and the Snowdog. While it holds up well visually, the plot is too obvious a retread of the original story, now with a dog added. Perhaps magic can happen only once.

Recently, The Snowman was released on Blu-Ray in the UK and reissued on DVD in the US. I do have to express my disappointment that the original 4:3 image was cropped to a widescreen version in both releases.

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