When snow falls fast and lies thick, thoughts turn to sledding, to playful snowball fights…to building snowmen. These winter wonders are not Christmas exclusives, of course, but have become inextricably linked with the festive season. So let’s celebrate all things snowman.
Ask people to name a famous snowman and they’ll likely say Frosty. Ask the same group to name music associated with a snowman and you’ll probably get the same answer – followed by: “Oh yeah – and that Aled Jones song as well.” That song is “Walking in the Air” and it concerns a character that needs no name other than “The Snowman”. Raymond Briggs created the wonderful wordless picture book, first published in 1978, using only pencil crayons and it was turned into a much-loved animation four years later.
The book does not include the Christmas elements shown in the film. There is no Christmas tree in the boy’s living room and there is no visit to Father Christmas. For the film, Howard Blake delivered a magical score, including the classic “Walking in the Air” sung by choirboy Peter Auty – and not Aled Jones. Aled recorded his own version that later became a UK chart hit. The film premiered on the UK’s Channel 4 on December 26, 1982 and features a young boy who makes a snowman that magically comes to life, taking him on a flying adventure to meet Father Christmas. It has become one of the great television traditions in the UK at Christmas. “The Snowman and the Snowdog” was created to mark the 30th anniversary of “The Snowman” and was broadcast on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 2012. This time, the snowman is joined by a snowdog with socks for ears. The music is provided by Ilan Eshkeri and Razorlight’s Andy Burrows. Although this does not quite match the magic of the original, it has a charm all of its own. And to think, Briggs wasn’t even a fan of Christmas.
Following the success of Gene Autry’s song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in 1949, “Frosty the Snowman” was written for him the next year in the hope of delivering another top 10 Christmas hit. Composers Jack Rollins (1906-1903) and Steve Nelson (1907-1981) did the trick once more. “Frosty the Snowman” was made into a children’s book in 1950, an animated short in 1954 and a half-hour cartoon special in 1969 narrated by comedian Jimmy Durante – his last performance in film. In the cartoon, Frosty is brought to life by a magic hat and adventure follows. American network CBS first aired this cartoon on December 7th 1969.
We cannot overlook Frosty Day. Armonk in Westchester County, New York has an annual parade in honour of Frosty and locals like to believe their hamlet was the setting for the song and story, although nearby towns and villages have claims of their own. Steve Nelson was a regular visitor to Armonk after World War II from his home in White Plains, New York and – according to the official website of ‘Armonk Frosty’ – “moved his young family to Armonk, where he lived for the rest of his life until his death in 1981.” On the same site, Armonk resident Barbara DiGiacinto says the traffic cop in the song whom hollers “Stop!” is based on their former police chief John Hergenhan who…“just happened to be my uncle.”
Elf Helper: How about a snowman joke or two? What do you get when you cross a snowman with a vampire? Answer: Frostbite AND Two snowmen are stood in a field. One says: “I don’t know about you, but I can’t half smell carrots.”
We humbly suggest you make “The Snowman”, “The Snowman and the Snowdog” and “Frosty the Snowman” part of your Christmas film collection. They are annual delights for all the family. Raymond Briggs’ wordless book “The Snowman” is a perfect way to introduce young children to the notion of curling up with Mum or Dad for a bedtime story.
The arrival of “Frozen” means Olaf is now front and centre as a snowman of worldwide fame. He is an adorable addition to any child’s Christmas. There are many purely decorative snowmen of different shapes and sizes on the Christmas shelves each year, but fame carries some weight when it comes to pleasing the youngsters in your life with a snowman gift.