The Snowman is a
children's book by English author
Raymond Briggs, published in
- This article is about the book (1978) and its film
adaptation (1982). For other uses, see Snowman .
In 1982, this book was turned into a 26-minute
animated movie by Dianne Jackson
the fledgling Channel 4
. It was first
shown on Channel 4 late on Christmas Eve in 1982 and was an
immediate success. The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Animated
in 1983. It has been shown every year since and has
become a part of British and international Christmas
The book is wordless, as is the film except for the song "Walking in the Air
".The story is told
through picture, action and music. The cartoon
version was scored by Howard Blake
who wrote both music and lyrics of
the song and also composed and conducted the complete orchestral
score for the film with his own orchestra, the Sinfonia of London
. The film's one song,
"Walking in the Air," was written specially for it and performed by
a St Paul's
Cathedral choirboy, Peter
In a list of the 100 Greatest British
drawn up by the British Film Institute
in 2000, voted
for by industry professionals, the film was placed 71st. It was
voted 4th in UKTV Gold
's Greatest TV
Briggs' illustration of the
is the tale of a boy who builds a snowman
one winter's day. That night, at the stroke
of twelve, the snowman comes to life. The first part of the story
deals with the snowman's attempts to understand the appliances,
toys and other bric-a-brac
in the boy's
house, all while keeping quiet enough not to wake the boy's
parents. The two then venture back outside and go for a ride on a
motorcycle, disturbing many animals: pheasants, rabbits, a barn
owl, a fox and a brown horse.
In the second part of the story, the boy and the snowman take
flight — the song "Walking in the Air" appears at this point.
over the boy's town, over houses and large public buildings before
flying past the Royal
Pavilion in Brighton and a pier
and then out into the ocean.
They continue north past many
sights and animals. Flying into the aurora borealis
they reach their
The two wander hand-in-hand into a snow-covered forest
and attend a snowmen's party, at which the boy
is the only human. They meet Father
and his reindeer, and the boy is given a scarf
with a snowman pattern.
The story ends after the return journey. However, the sun
has come out the next morning and the boy wakes up
to find the snowman has melted. The viewer begins to wonder if the
night's events were all a dream, but the boy discovers that he
still has the scarf given to him by Father Christmas.
After the initial showing on Channel 4, and in its initial showings
on U.S. television, an alternative introduction was sometimes used.
Instead of Raymond Briggs describing how much it had snowed the
winter he made The Snowman
, while walking through the
field that morphed into the animation of the same landscape,
was shown reciting the same
speech after walking into the attic of 'his' childhood home and
discovering a scarf in a drawer. This scarf closely resembles the
one given to the boy towards the end of the film. The Universal DVD
The Snowman & Father Christmas
- 11), released in the UK in 2000, uses the Bowie opening. (The
Bowie intro is actually missing on some Sony DVDs, despite being
featured on the packaging.)
To celebrate the film's 20th anniversary, Channel 4 used an
alternate opening directed by Roger Mainwood, with Raymond Briggs' interpretation of
recounting how he met the boy. Father
Christmas is voiced by comedian Mel Smith
Channel 4 have used this opening since 2002. This version is also
to 16:9 widescreen
"Walking in the Air" was released years later as a single, reaching number 5 in the UK charts,
sung by Welsh chorister
Jones is often wrongly
assumed to have sung the song in the film (e.g.
in a BBC
review, or the BFI's screenonline
website.), but in the film it was sung by Peter Auty
. Auty had a credit added to the 20th
Though the boy in the book is unnamed, in the film we discover he
is named "James". This is clear on the tag for the present he
receives from Father Christmas, added by one of the animators who
decided to use her then boyfriend, now husband's name.
film, the boy's home seems to be in the South Downs of England, near to Brighton; he and
Snowman fly over what appears to be Brighton; the Royal Pavilion and Palace
Pier are clearly depicted.
Later in the film, the
tag on his present confirms this.
has also been made into a stage show.
first produced by Contact
Theatre, Manchester in 1986.
The Contact Theatre
production was adapted and produced by Anthony Clark. It had a full
script and used Howard Blake's music and lyrics. In 1993,
Birmingham Repertory Company produced a version, with music and
lyrics by Howard Blake, scenario by Blake, with Bill Alexander and
choreography by Robert North. Since 1997 Sadler's Wells has presented it every year as the Christmas Show
at the Peacock
As in the book and the film, there are no
words, apart from the lyrics of the song "Walking in the Air". The
story is told through images and movement. Special effects include
the Snowman and boy flying high over the stage (with assistance of
wires and harnesses) and ‘snow’ falling in part of the auditorium.
The production has had several revisions – the most extensive
happening in 2000, when major changes were made to the second act,
introducing new characters: The Ice Princess and Jack Frost.
- Granpa, Dianne Jackson's second
animated film for Channel 4, with music by Howard Blake.
Christmas – Briggs' earlier two works Father
Christmas and Father Christmas Goes on Vacation were
combined into a film which was released in 1991. It features a
slightly altered version of the snowmans' party at the North Pole
from this film.
- Another Raymond Briggs book, The Bear, was adapted into a film
- Christmas Carol: The
Movie is also made by Dianne Jackson, being her first
cinema full length film in 2001.