The Snowman and The Snowdog
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It’s that time of year where films dominate the TV schedule and none are more evocative of Christmas than the timeless classic, The Snowman.
The first film ever commissioned by Channel 4 and screened every year since it was first transmitted in 1982, The Snowman continues to enchant audiences of all ages and tastes (yes, even you hardcore sci-fi fans) with its magic. As part of Channel 4’s 30th anniversary celebrations, this Christmas Eve will be extra special as The Snowman is set to make new friends in a brand new screen and game adventure starring The Snowdog; a white pup with mismatched socks for ears and a Satsuma for a nose.
We caught up with director Hilary Audus, art director Joanna Harrison (both of whom worked as animators on the original film) and producer Ruth Fielding at the preview screening to chat about dogs, motorbikes and snow. “Raymond Briggs was always very supportive of the original Snowman film but was reluctant to do a sequel for many years” Ruth mused, “He wouldn't even agree to have snowfall during the credits of the 20th anniversary DVD edition as it meant there was always a possibility that The Snowman could come back, but John Coates, the producer and commissioner of the original film, finally got Raymond to agree to a sequel, mainly because everyone involved in the project worked on the original and it’s been made with real love!” “Now the pressure is on to make something that lasts another 30 years” exhaled Joanna Harrison, “but I think we've done it and it’s something we’re all incredibly proud of.”
It’s almost impossible to not talk about The Snowman without a certain warm sentimentality as for many generations, this film epitomises Christmas. Importantly, Raymond Briggs’ coal bunker world still provides the backdrop to the entirely hand drawn movie. “We used 200,000 pieces of paper and over 5000 pencils during the year it took to make. It was so important to us that we retained the same style and ethos of Raymond’s work” continued Ruth Fielding. The opening scene reveals a new family moving into the house from the original film and there are plenty of knowing nods carefully woven throughout the story. When we finally meet The Snowman again, he immediately heads to the fridge whilst his new pal The Snowdog learns quickly not to relax by the fire. Outside, the shiny red motorbike much loved by The Snowman is tucked away in the shed whilst later on, flying past the Shard and London eye as the modern city sprawls underneath, children looking out of frosty windows cling to their Snowman merchandise. Much of Briggs’ work is about friendship, loss, discovery or journeys and this sequel is no exception. The story is compellingly charming, funny and emotional. Beautifully illustrated it manages to feel modern yet retains all the magic of the original without alienating young or old audiences. As for the soundtrack, Andy Burrows and Ilan Eshkeri’s fresh folky-pop, British sounding “Light the Night” plays for anyone who has ever wished to fly with The Snowman. It doesn't try to compete with the iconic ‘Walking In The Air’ and like every other aspect of the film, has been treated with real care.
For the current generation of kids who have been predominately fed a diet of digital animations, The Snowman and The Snowdog re-examines and values the handmade and will be a make for some very special family viewing come Christmas Eve.
But let’s not forget how much digital fun mobile phones and tablets can be and how modern families have festive fun. As part of The Snowman and The Snowdog celebrations, Channel 4 have also released a game for iPhone, iPad and Android devices!
Created for Channel 4 by East Midlands based developer Crash Lab, founded by veterans of the games industry previously involved in creating TimeSplitters at Free Radical Design, Goldeneye 007 and Jet Force Gemini at Rare, the game has been developed with the very broad range appeal of the film in mind. Colin Macdonald, Commissioning Editor for Games at Channel 4, said “The tremendous experience of the team at Crash Lab shines through in their technical, artistic and design capabilities and as a result I know we’ll have an experience that kids and adults alike will love and enjoy.”
Playable by novices and more experienced players alike – whether young or old, The Snowman and The Snowdog features the distinctive hand-drawn coloured pencil locations from the film. Its brilliance lies in its simplicity and beauty yet there are genuine challenges on offer for players wanting to test their tapping skills. Rather than controlling the jolly 3D flying characters, players must bank flying time by collecting snowflakes. As well as snowflakes, there are 24 mini-achievements to unlock along the way like collecting all the green woolly socks scattered across the roof of the Houses of Parliament. For those that choose to explore and play fetch with The Snowdog, jigsaw pieces hidden across the Hastings countryside allow access to film artwork if you manage to collect them all. Happily The Snowman and his passengers twist around an area two or three times to give players a chance to tap all the items but it will take the keenest eye and fastest finger to grab everything on one run, even we did a couple of laps! Swiping the screen will slow down the trio as they barrel-roll across the winter wonderland, swooping under bridges on a round trip to the North Pole. If very young players are struggling to catch snowflakes and are randomly tapping anywhere on the screen, the snowfall ceases and the flakes become bigger and easier to see. To start the snowfall again, simply shaking the device like a snowglobe makes the snow magically comes back which is a lovely touch!
Immersive and pretty with a superb musical score, The Snowman and The Snowdog game oozes Christmas charm and is great fun for all ages to play. It’s available to download for FREE now on iOS and Android whilst the film will be screened on Channel 4 at 8pm on Christmas Eve.