I’ve had a tremendous tendency to focus on animated films from America or Japan. While that could be credited simply to the sheer volume both countries produce, I can’t help but feel like I’m slighting the rest of the world by ignoring their offerings to the world of film. I was recently reminded of the value in watching a verity of films from a verity of geographical locations by watching The Snowman, a 1982 animated short film that was nominated for an academy award. The 26 minute short is based on the wordless picture book by Ramon Briggs.
The story centers on a small boy who, after a tremendous amount of snow has fallen, spends his day building a snowman. As the boy admires his work throughout the day, and even into the evening, glancing out the window every chance he gets, he can’t help but be amazed by the wonder filled snow land that suddenly surrounds his house. At night, the snowman comes to life, and the boy introduces him to the human world, giving him a thorough tour of his home and yard. In return, the snowman takes the young boy on a magical journey to the North Pole where he meets other snowmen and even Santa Claus himself.
The Snowman is nothing short of beautiful. The animation used makes the entire thing look vividly like the picture book it is based on, but the real triumph comes from the sound. The movie is, with the exception of a particularly powerful musical number, entirely wordless. Not only is it wordless, but the sound effects in the movie are generated only from the orchestra whose score resounds throughout the duration of the short. We’re not subjected to background music haphazardly thrown into the mix to loosely convey emotion, the background music IS the emotion. When the Snowman sneezes or starts up a motorcycle, we rely entirely on the talent of the score to convey the sounds and emotional weight of the actions involved.
Short, sweet and somber. The Snowman blends childrens book animation with a near perfect musical score to present a story that is ripe with analogies ranging from the bliss of childhood to the loss of those closest to us. It’s a visually rich and emotionally valuable little title that taps into basic human emotions, without having to use an exclusive language.