3 Hopes For The Snowman Sequel

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The original is a genuine perennial classic; one that is guaranteed a valuable slot on the broadcast schedule without question. International equivalents include Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer for Americans and the Father Ted Christmas Special for all the Irish among us (not animated but impossible to beat).

So it’s quite a surprise to see that Channel 4 has commissioned a sequel to the original (not strictlya remake, as this Guardian post claims it is.) Here’s a few hopes I have for it that you should have too.

1. It Helps Put British Animation Back on the Map

While domestic animation in Britain is certain to get a boost from the tax credits that are coming soon, as a whole, the animation industry in the country has suffered over the last few decades. Many reasons can and have been given, but chief among them is that original British animation has suffered severely because networks are not commissioning near the volume that they used to. Today, many shows are imported (especially on the satellite clones of the American networks) and although domestic broadcasters continue to solicit content, more and more production has moved abroad in addition to more and more creators being abroad too.The Snowman is an instant British classic that has cast a long shadow over the British animation landscape for the last 30 years. While a sequel may not be ideal, here’s hoping it adds a bit o a halo to the industry as a whole.

2. It Reawakens Channel 4’s Love For Animation

Channel 4 brought was famous for commissioning a relatively substantial amount of animation in its early years. Such efforts gave rise to The Snowman and gave many previously unknown animators the opportunity to be seen. In an era when instant YouTube fame is starting to be taken for granted, the fact that you could create a film and get is broadcast on a national broadcaster (not matter the time of day or night) was and remains a big deal.Channel 4 (although faithful to animation as a whole; broadcasting South Park, The Simpsons and others) hasn’t had a serious interest in independent animation for quite some time. Partly to blame was the devastation wrought to original programming by Big Brother amongst others as well as a proliferation of offshoot digital channels. A web-only platform, 4mations was launched but whose last heartbeat was over two years ago is surely a sign that animation has taken a back seat in the 21st century.Here’s hoping that a sequel to a classic will give executives a reason to pause and examine how important animation was to the network’s early years and how beneficial it could be to its future.

3. It Prompts A Look At Traditional Styles if Not Technology

Traditional, hand-drawn animation is obsolescent in the real sense but not necessarily in the stylistic sense. CGI has been all-conquering over the last 10 to 15 years but also ushered in many new animation styles; from 3-D CGI to the flat shapes of Flash. Somewhat lost in all of this were the styles that traditional animation could deliver. Anything that looked inherently ‘drawn’ was off limits to computers for a long time until technology improved. Now, it is possible to do almost everything on a computer that you could do on a piece of paper. Although the new Snowman short was more old school than most, they did leverage technology to help speed up production. Hopefully, the inherently ‘drawn’ look of the Snowman will inspire animators to create works that look as if made with pencils even if the computer plays a role behind the scenes.

 

The Holy Grail of Channel 4 Idents

The video below appeared on my tumblr dashboard the other day and if you remember my post from the other week, you’ll know that there was no way I could ignore it. It’s a (very complete) compilation of just about every form of ident that the UK TV network Channel 4 used for the first 20 years of its existence. At just under half an hour, it isn’t short, but it is somewhat magical to see how animation can form the basis for a strong brand identity and reinforce it hundreds of times a day.

 

 

My Favourite Christmas Films: The Snowman

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Yes, ’tis the season and as we all know, one of the best things about Christmas (at least in Ireland) is that there are always tons of great movies, shows and other pieces of erstwhile entertainment that is never shown at any other time of the year. Besides the usual Christmas movies like Mary Poppins and Back to the Future, there is always the venerable Christmas Special. Of the TV shows out there, the greatest are always broadcast with certainty. Morcombe and Wise, your favourite soap opera and of course, the greatest of all, Father Ted.

Christmas is always a great time for animation fans too. Seeing as a huge majority of mainstream (and not so mainstream) animated films are kid-friendly and with plenty of kids at home around the holidays, you can be guaranteed to find some lovely films being broadcast. There is always a good selection of premieres but also plenty of favourites too. For the remainder of this week, I’ll be focusing on Christmas films because, well, there’s not much else to talk about is there?

One of my all-time favourite Christmas films is the version of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman. Irish people are incredibly familiar with this film partly because for years (maybe even still), An Post ran a Christmas ad based on it.

If you are not familiar with the film, it’s a great piece of animation and storytelling produced by the English TV station, Channel 4. It tells the tale of a young boy who creates a snowman one day and the adventures the two engage in once he comes to life, such as making a piece of toast, and dressing up in the parent’s clothes. The film’s most memorable sequence involves the two flying over the English countryside to the sounds of “We’re Walking in the Air” as they travel to visit Santa Claus.

It’s a fantastically simple film (most likely because it is based on a children’s book) and although it clocks in at around half an hour or so, it is perfect in length.

Interestingly enough, there is no dialogue in the film save for the aforementioned song. Thus, the characters are very much left open to interpretation by the viewer with the bulk of the characterization being handled by the animation itself, which retains the pencilly look from the original book. There are some dramatic scenes that are all the more fascinating in that they were created without any computers at all.

The film was made 28 years ago in 1982 and has gotten to the point where kids who originally enjoyed it back then are starting to enjoy it now with their own kids. As a result, the film has a perennial quality among the Irish and British populations. The fact that is was produced by a TV station ensures that it is broadcast every year.