by Joseph Walter
This made-for-TV film has a special place in my heart, due to its ability to make me cry uncontrollably with its conclusion or just its sheer beauty. It has almost haunted me since I first saw it, as I know it's going to make me feel something.
I decided for these reasons that this would be the best way to close out the inaugural "Christmas Special" of my blog!
Let us enjoy our last gift of the year, Raymond Briggs' "The Snowman!"
He speaks in a very nostalgic, almost forlorn tone, yet one that's filled with a sincerity that few can match: "I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day... and it was on that day I made the Snowman."
The scene transforms into the mesmerizing, colored-pencil art style and the first few notes of Howard Blake's hauntingly gorgeous score play.
After all the fun, the Snowman seems to get some sort of calling, and a concerned James follows him back outside. The Snowman grabs James' hand and they suddenly take to the air, with the Snowman flying the two across the village and out to sea.
It needs to be said that this sequence is one of the most stunningly jaw-dropping sequences of animation I've ever seen. The art-style lends itself to some sort of nostalgic dream, while the outstanding (and still haunting) "Walking in the Air" is eerily performed by the tenor, Peter Autry. I know I keep juxtaposing beauty and a level of fear with this artistic masterpiece, but the feeling is hard to describe. It's not that it's scary, but it's as if the entire production was plucked straight out of a foggy, Christmas dream. It's a beautiful, moving piece of art that nothing quite tops. See for yourself at 16:17 in the above video, or just click here.
After this synoptic sequence, where the boy and Snowman are joined by other Snowmen and see all kinds of wonders, they stop at the North Pole and engage in a party with Father Christmas himself, who shows off his reindeer and gives the boy an early Christmas gift, a lovely scarf.
James and the Snowman return home after the festivities, and say good night. After some restless sleep, James runs down the stairs and out the door to see his Snowman, but it seems he's melted away. Heartbroken, James puts his hand in his robe's pocket and pulls out the scarf Father Christmas gave him.
It wasn't a dream.
Note: In my head, in order to comfort myself after watching this sad ending, I always think that the magic that animated the Snowman in the first place, his soul, was from Santa, and that after he melted, he merely returned to the North Pole, born again, perhaps coming back to visit the next time the boy makes a snowman during the holiday season. I also tend to hug my little stuffed Snowmen profusely.
When I was younger, I felt that anything was possible during this season... that there was a magic in the air. As I grew older, I got a lot more crotchety in regards to that belief. I started to see the other side of the coin with people's behavior during these times, like desperate greed and all kinds of commercialization (yes, I was late to this party, unlike Charlie Brown).
On the flip side, there's something like "The Snowman," with a kid who is still innocent, and finds himself experiencing a magic that few others have. Or maybe they did, long, long ago.
I'm reminded of that feeling when I watch this. I try to emulate the young boy, and live my life with the wonder he has and believe in the magic that Christmas suggests.
The original Raymond Briggs' intro reflects this: He's an adult, he's lived his life, but he's never let the mysterious magic of Christmas dissipate over the years... he'll never forget the magical day that he built the Snowman. And neither will I.
Have a Happy New Year, everyone.