Amongst the endless amount of food & drink and the time spent with kith and kin, one thing I do look forward to at Christmas time is the opportunity to sit down and enjoy some unashamedly festive telly. However, this year I couldn’t help but notice the poor quality across the board from the festive specials; Downton Abbey was slow, bewildering and saved all its plot for the final 3 minutes, Call the Midwife wasn’t nearly up to the standard set down by the sensational first series, and the less said about The Royale Family, the better! Thank Santa then for Channel 4, the station that rarely pays any attention to making festive specials, for screening The Snowman and The Snowdog, a real Christmas cracker!
It was never going to be easy to follow-up something as well loved as Raymond Briggs’s 30-year-old masterpiece The Snowman. The superior hand drawn animation, Peter Auty’s superb rendition of Walking in the Air and that heart-breaking ending add up to create an excellent festive treat that I make a point of watching every year. It does have to be said that The Snowman and The Snowdog makes no attempt to reinvent Briggs’s tale, it’s more an updated retelling with added canine. But in just over 20 minutes, it exudes more emotion and charm than anything else on TV this Christmas, and does it all without dialogue.
The use of hand drawn animation is certainly a welcome change; as Snowman, Snowdog and boy (called Billy according to official synopsis) take to the skies, the feeling of nostalgia has the power to both melt your heart and plant a huge smile on your face. Andy Burrows’s accompanying song, Light the Night, may not feel as timeless as Walking in the Air, but it lyrically captures the majesty of the sequence in the same way the original did.
Moreover, The Snowman and The Snowdog takes that sense of the impossible being possible which, as a child, was one of the true wonders of Christmas. In a world where the whole concept of Santa seems to be ever more ignored (except by Coca-Cola), it’s nice to watch something that captures the magic of the season for the younger viewers.
A visually stunning and spellbinding tale, which will amaze younger viewers and nostalgically capture the hearts of adults, The Snowman and The Snowdog is Christmas TV at its absolute best… something of a rarity these days.