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The Snowman: The Film That Changed Christmas | Preview (Channel 4)

2022 marks Channel 4’s 40th Birthday. It also marks 40 years since Channel 4 first broadcast the film adaptation of the late Raymond Briggs’ timeless picture book - The Snowman™.

In a huge celebration of this iconic animation this 1x60 documentary explores how this little twenty-six-minute film has become so embedded in the nation’s heart at Christmas.

The film includes interviews with composer Howard Blake, we hear about the inspiration behind the film’s specially composed score; Hilary Audus and Joanna Harrison who formed part of the female led animation team, they explain the creative pressures involved when making the film.

The original C4 Commissioning editor in 1982: Paul Madden; and present-day commentators such as Children’s Laureate Joseph Coehlo, Puffin author and musician Tom Fletcher (of McFly), and Puffin illustrator and animator Dapo Adeola, who all talk about the films impact.

The film also corrects popular misconceptions about the show such as Aled Jones being the angelic little choirboy singing the iconic theme tune. It was actually a boy called Peter Auty who was never credited due to a last-minute rush to release the film.

Aled Jones didn’t first sing those immortal four words until three years later, when the song was re-released thanks to a Snowman themed advertisement campaign by Toys R Us (and Auty’s voice had broken). It was then released as a single and reached number 5 in the charts in the UK and saw young Aled perform on Top of the Pops.

The film also contained an error which was spotted at the screening of the final film, former Chief Executive of Channel 4 Jeremy Issacs cheekily complained that there was a glaring mistake in the animation – the animated TV in the film only had three buttons, how would The Snowman be able to watch Channel 4? The tv set was quickly changed to have four buttons.

The film also made deviations from the original picture book, Raymond never gave the boy a name but one of the animators decided to call him James – her boyfriend at the time (and now her husband). James doesn’t wear underpants (much to many viewers dismay) the animator was given a very specific duration for his scene and there just wasn’t time for pants AND trousers.

Little did the creators know that this short festive tale of friendship would become one of the most iconic emblems of Christmas in over 29 countries, spawning hit singles, a cameo from David Bowie and a host of snowy spin offs.

Howard Blake, composer said: “I had this tune in my head. I’d written it in 1970 on a beach in Cornwall, I took out manuscript paper. I wrote walking along Beach. I wrote the tune Walking in the Air, not the words, just the tune. And I thought, that’s marvellous.”

Paul Madden, former Channel 4 Commissioning Editor said: “The film is about love but also about loss. Christmas is a happy time but it’s also a time to think of all those people who are absent and used to be there. I think that’s the appeal of The Snowman”

The Snowman: The Film That Changed Christmas airs Saturday 17 December at 5pm on Channel 4.


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