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In 1978, English illustrator and artist Raymond Briggs drew a wordless Graphic Novel about a Snowman who comes to life at Christmas titled simply The Snowman. In 1982 it was animated in a 26 minute film for the the then fledgling Channel 4, and became an instant Christmas Classic and the favourite Christmas Special for many Britons. It is now shown on Channel 4 every Christmas.
The plot is simple: a young boy awakens on Christmas Eve (or possibly New Year's Eve, the dialog free nature makes it hard to tell) to find a thick blanket of snow on the ground around his countryside home. He decides to build a Snowman which comes to life that night when he wakes up in the night (his parents remain slumbering).
After several escapades, including a memorable motorcycle/car ride around the local fields the Snowman reveals another special ability when he flies the boy to the a snow covered northern forest, with the song "Walking in the Air" playing in the background. There, Father Christmas and a large group of other living Snowmen and Snow-women are having a party. Father Christmas gives the boy the gift of a blue scarf with snowmen on it. Then the Snowman flies the boy home. They part ways when the boy goes back to bed and the Snowman remains standing in the garden.
Come the morning the boy rushes downstairs to bright sunlight, and hurries to greet his friend in the garden. However, when he gets to the garden, all that remains is a pile of melted snow and a collection of coal and old clothes. The boy wonders if he dreamt it all but then finds the scarf from Father Christmas in his dressing gown pocket, and breaks down in tears... As does the audience.
Not to be confused with living snowmen in general.
- Adaptation Expansion: Many scenes were added to the film that weren't in the Graphic Novel.
- A Boy and His X: A boy and his snowman in this case.
- Christmas Special: Britain's most popular, where it is far more famous than the similarly themed Frosty the Snowman.
- Cool Bike: The one the snowman and the boy take for a midnight ride.
- Dances and Balls: Father Christmas hosts a large party for international snowmen.
- Death by Newbery Medal: Nominated for an academy award.
- Digital Destruction: In 2002 it was "restored"... by being cropped from 4:3 to 16:9. The vandalized version has been broadcast ever since.
- Downer Ending: Possibly the only straight example of a Christmas Special that has one.
- Fish Out of Water: The snowman is introduced to various facets of human life by the boy; mostly played for smiles.
- Foreshadowing: When the boy rushes downstairs the morning after flying around with the snowman, the look on the parents' faces say that they know the snowman has already melted, and that the boy will be devastated when he finds out.
- If you look closely, there is a moment when the snowman is flying the boy home, where he looks off to the East (where he can see the sun rising), and looks back forwards with a grim expression... as though he knows what is coming...
- Narrator: Raymond Briggs in the original broadcast, David Bowie in subsequent rereleases.
- No Name Given: The boy in the novel. In the film, his gift from Father Christmas identifies him as "James".
- Or Was It a Dream??: No, it was not.
- Santa Claus: Though the sequel identifies him by the more 'British' name of Father Christmas.
- Scenery Porn: The flying sequence.
- Silence Is Golden
- Sudden Downer Ending: Ultimately subverted in the cartoon based (rather loosely) on another work by the same author, which takes place in the same universe. He rebuilt the snowman the next year.
- Tragic Keepsake: The scarf from Father Christmas.