Re­build­ing The Snow­man

How Chan­nel 4 and Lu­pus Films re­vived Ray­mond Briggs’ beloved char­ac­ter in the charm­ing an­i­mated se­quel The Snow­man and the Snow­dog. by Ramin Za­hed

Animation Magazine - - Content -

How Chan­nel 4 and Lu­pus Films re­vived Ray­mond Briggs’ beloved char­ac­ter in the charm­ing an­i­mated se­quel The Snow­man

and the Snow­dog. by Ramin Za­hed

I“I think the fact that the film is tra­di­tion­ally made,

and clearly made with love, will make it stand out

t’s been 31 years since au­di­ences around the world fell in love with the an­i­mated adap­ta­tion of the chil­dren’s book The Snow­man. Pro­duced by the late Bri­tish an­i­ma­tion vet­eran John Coates, who passed away in 2012, and di­rected by Dianne Jack­son and Jimmy Mu­rakami, the stun­ningly beau­ti­ful 2D project re­ceived nu­mer­ous awards and an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for Best An­i­mated Short in 1983. Last Christ­mas, au­di­ences in the U.K. were treated to a new an­i­mated se­quel to the clas­sic, pro­duced by Lon­don-based Lu­pus Films (The Pinky & Perky Show, The Hive) and writ­ten and co-di­rected by Hi­lary Audus and Joanna Har­ri­son, both of whom worked as an­i­ma­tors on the orig­i­nal film.

The ge­n­e­sis of the se­quel goes back a cou­ple of years when Lu­pus Films prin­ci­pals Camilla Deakin and Ruth Field­ing pitched the idea to Chan­nel 4’s CCO Jay Hunt. “We knew the 30th an­niver­sary of Chan­nel 4 was com­ing up and as The Snow­man was one of the first things com­mis­sioned for the Chan­nel when it launched back in 1982 we thought it would be nice to have a se­quel to mark the an­niver­sary,” ex­plains Deakin.

Work­ing with a £2 mil­lion bud­get (ap­prox­i­mately $3.2 mil­lion), the an­i­ma­tion team chose to stay close to the hand-drawn tech­nique of the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion. Only some mi­nor CG an­i­ma­tion was used to de­pict the ve­hi­cles and keep them con­sis­tent. “We hand-ren­dered them so that they mix seam­lessly with the rest of the an­i­ma­tion,” she says. “Then com­posit­ing and spe­cials were added in Af­ter Ef­fects.” This need for hand­craft­ing most of the an­i­ma­tion was one of the pro­duc­tion’s big­gest dilem­mas, says Deakin. “Our big­gest chal­lenge has been do­ing all the an­i­ma­tion and ren­der­ing by hand. At the same time, we had to make sure the film is rich, col­or­ful and lus­cious to look at, so that it works for a mod­ern au­di­ence but also sits com­fort­ably along­side the first film.”

The pro­ducer says mak­ing the se­quel has been a hugely re­ward­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for her team at Lu­pus Films. “We love the fact that we have an­i­ma­tors work­ing on this film who also worked on the first Snow­man film. We love the fact that the stu­dio is so quiet ex­cept for the gen­tle sound of an­i­ma­tion pa- per be­ing flicked back and forth and the oc­ca­sional whir of an elec­tric pen­cil sharp­ener. We love the fact that we have lots of re­cent an­i­ma­tion school grad­u­ates who are ab­sorb­ing all the tra­di­tional tech­niques and learn­ing so much from the ex­pe­ri­enced an­i­ma­tors on the team. On top of it all, I think the Snow­dog is in­cred­i­bly cute and chil­dren ev­ery­where will love him.”

In­ter­est­ingly enough, the book’s au­thor had said that there could be no se­quel be­cause the Snow­man had melted at the end of the orig­i­nal pro­duc­tion. How­ever, when the show was dig­i­tally re-mas­tered for the 20th an­niver­sary edi­tion, Coates con­vinced Briggs that they should add snow fall­ing over the end cred­its. “At that point, we knew there was a pos­si­bil­ity the Snow­man could re­turn,” ex­plains Deakin. “By the time the 30th an­niver­sary came around, Ray­mond had soft­ened and agreed that it would be nice to give all the fans of The Snow­man

and re­ally ap­peal to the au­di­ence.”

— The Snow­man and the Snow­dog pro­ducer Camilla Deakin

another lovely film to en­joy along­side the first.”

Deakin is quick to point out the im­por­tant role the late Bri­tish an­i­ma­tion pro­ducer played in bring­ing to­gether the in­gre­di­ents for the se­quel. “John Coates has been a huge in­spi­ra­tion to us for many years,” she ex­plains. “When my busi­ness part­ner Ruth and I set up Lu­pus Films, we told John that we were bas­ing our com­pany strat­egy on his—namely that we would only work on projects we felt pas­sion­ate about, only work with peo­ple we liked and al­ways re­mem­ber to en­joy our­selves! John was a bril­liant pro­ducer be­cause he found ta­lented cre­ative peo­ple and al­lowed them space to do what they did best with­out too much in­ter­fer­ence. He was also very sup­port­ive of women in the in­dus­try and pro­vided a launch pad for quite a few fe­male producers and di­rec­tors to de­velop their ca­reers.”

Ac­cord­ing to Deakin, Coates was quite in­volved in the mak­ing of the spe­cial. He came up to the stu­dio reg­u­larly for ed­i­to­rial meet­ings and had an in­put on all cre­ative as­pects of the film. “Just be­fore he died we sent him a two and a half-minute trailer which we’d cut for [the TV mar­ket] MIP Ju­nior and he loved it. He was re­ally pleased to see how well the film was turn­ing out. We are re­ally sad he didn’t see it com­pleted, but we are ded­i­cat­ing the film to his mem­ory and we hope that it will go out there into the world and be loved by mil­lions of peo­ple just like the first Snow­man film, as that is what he would have wanted.”

The Snow­man and the Snow­dog is one of the shorts be­ing con­sid­ered for Os­car nom­i­na­tions this year. The spe­cial is avail­able on DVD (NCir­cle, $9.99) in the U.S.

Re­turn of a Sea­sonal Friend: For the new spe­cial, Lu­pus Films strove to recre­ate the orig­i­nal’s il­lus­tra­tive, hand-drawn qual­ity, us­ing lim­ited CG and han­dren­der­ing it to main­tain a co­her­ent look.

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