The Snowman and the Snowdog, Channel 4 | TV reviews, news & interviews
The Snowman and the Snowdog, Channel 4
Sequel to hardy Christmas perennial can't escape the shadow cast by the original
Over the past 29 years, annual screenings of the TV adaptation of Raymond Briggs's 1978 picture book The Snowman have become an integral part of Christmas. Now, on the 30th anniversary of its first broadcast, the original has friendly competition from The Snowman and the Snowdog, a new animation featuring the be-hatted, smiling fellow.
Not written by Briggs but approved by him, The Snowman and the Snowdog was charming, and a treat to look at. It was sensitive, too; a real heart-string tugger. The snowdog was unreservedly cute. But as to whether this new seasonal offering was necessary? Probably not.
As bah-humbug-ish as it sounds, it was impossible to watch The Snowman and the Snowdog without being all too aware of the shadow cast by The Snowman. Using much the same team, like the 1982 film it was created from individually drawn and hand-coloured (in crayon) images. With no computer-enabled imagery, this was animation as it used to be, faithfully evoking the flickering, washed-out look of the original. The early night-time scenes had the feel of charcoal drawings.
Time, its passing and loss are central to Briggs's book and the films. John Coates, who was behind both adaptations, died before The Snowman and the Snowdog was completed. Within the new production, time was difficult to pin down. The house had an old-fashioned telly with knobs for controls. No computers or digital-era objects were in evidence. Yet, when the snowman, snowdog and boy took flight, the cityscape was bang up to date – a London replete with The Shard, Gherkin and London Eye. A swoop over the Olympic Park would have completed the set. The household was one where time had stopped and the outside world is a place to be seen at a distance, from above, as through a lens.
References to and borrowings from The Snowman and the Snowdog’s roots were much clearer: a portrait of Briggs’s Fungus the Bogeyman hung on the bedroom wall; a girl in a first-floor window saw the snowman passing, just as in the original. On arriving at the North Pole snowman gathering, a single penguin had fled the southern hemisphere to join in the fun. In the original, there were masses of the dinner-jacketed waddlers. The initial ascent in both animations were like peas in a pod. More generally, even with the addition of the sweet snowdog the narrative in both was pretty much the same.
Despite the decision to keep the modern world at arm's length, setting it in a lone-parent household acknowledged that notions of the family ideal could be re-set. As was beginning with the loss a family member, a beloved pet.
Rather than being a sequel to The Snowman, this was a reconfiguring, with additions and replacements – no motorbike this time; London instead of Brighton. Although seamless, it was like watching a half-remembered version of the original, albeit with less impactful music. Whatever anyone’s feelings about Aled Jones's “Walking in the Air”, the new, quasi-Coldplay sounds of “Light the Night” failed to repeat its impact.
Whether The Snowman and the Snowdog is for life or just this Christmas remains to be seen. It’s a fair bet the TV programmers have made the decision already.
Watch the trailer for The Snowman and the Snowdog
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