There aren’t many children’s films that I would describe as “hauntingly beautiful”…but then there’s The Snowman. This short film is under 30 minutes long and has zero dialogue; but it is an absolute masterpiece that transcends generations without needing either.
My sisters and I were lucky enough to have this film introduced to us in childhood by our Aunt, who was an elementary school teacher on Chicago’s Southside for many years. I am so grateful she found and shared this touching piece. I still cherish watching it every winter.
The Snowman is an adaptation of the children’s book written by British author Raymond Briggs, who did the original voice over introduction to the film. Later, the BBC also released an alternate version where David Bowie did the introductory voice over — I actually haven’t seen that one, so now I need to find it!
The story is of a boy named James who builds a snowman and, on Christmas Eve, the snowman comes to life. That’s literally ALL you need to know about this film. If you haven’t seen it, you should discover the rest of the plot organically to maximize the wonderment.
What’s most impressive about The Snowman is how they created a perfect mosaic between animation and music. The animation is gorgeous — it kind of looks like colored pencil or crayon drawings brought to life. I haven’t seen this style replicated anywhere else that I can recall. The resulting visuals feel soft, comforting, and classic.
The story alone is innocent and lovely, but then, when you layer in the elegant music…WOW. Congratulations to their music department on successfully shaping emotion and storytelling through sound.
The one song in the film that has lyrics, Walking in the Air, is the centerpiece of it all. I think that song, and the scene it’s featured in, are a huge factor in the haunting beauty I mentioned before. I had to dig a little bit to uncover whose voice sang it, but I finally found the answer. The boy’s name is (Was? Because he’s a man now?) Peter Auty, a St. Paul’s Cathedral choirboy. His voice is the sole accompaniment to the instruments, and it’s exquisite. If you hear this song and don’t get chills, are you even alive??!
I watched The Snowman again while writing this, and a wave of emotions came flooding back. I laughed at the silliness, I felt enchanted by the beauty, and I cried at the heartbreak. This film is a must-see for children and adults alike. It’s something truly special and I know that once you see it, you’ll fall in love with its magic, just as I have.