Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Snowman

Lumiukko / Snögubben. GB © 1982 Snowman Enterprises Limited. PC: A Snowman Enterprises production for Channel 4. Made at the studios of TVC London. D: Dianne Jackson. EX: Iain Harvy. Supervising D: Jimmy T. Murakami. P: John Coates. SC: based on the wordless children's comic book by Raymond Briggs (1978). Published as Lumiukko in Finnish in 1979 (Jyväskylä: Gummerus), and in 2006 (Helsinki: Satusiivet, Lasten parhaat kirjat). A hand-made animation with pastel and crayon. 1,33:1. Colour by Rank Film Laboratories. Storyboard by: Dianne Jackson, Hilary Audus, Joanna Harrison (Joanna Fryer). AN: Hilary Audus, Alan Ball, Arthur Butten, Tony Guy, Joanna Harrison, Dianne Jackson, Dave Livesey, Roger Mainwood, John Offord, Eddie Radage, Joanna Fryer. Flying sequences: Stephen White, Glenn Whiting. Backgrounds by: Michael Gabriel, Tancy Barron, Paul Shardlow, Joanna Fryer. Design supervisor: Jill Brooks. Special FX supervisor. Mario Cassar. M+conductor: Howard Blake. Orchestra: Sinfonia of London. "Walking In The Air" (music and lyrics by Howard Blake) sung by Peter Auty (a St. Paul's Cathedral choirboy). ED: John Cary. Voice talent: Raymond Briggs (Older James / Narrator). 26 min. The 2004 Finnish (Nordic) dvd release (with Finnish, Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian language options) by FS Film viewed at home in the Finnish version in Helsinki on Christmas Eve, 24 Dec, 2011

2002: 20th anniversary opening sequence D+AN: Roger Mainwood with the voice of Mel Smith as Father Christmas.

"Walking In The Air" is in the original English in the Finnish voice version. There is no dialogue in the story proper. There are only the brief introduction and the song lyrics. The film can be enjoyed without understanding the language; it is in effect a silent movie.

Dvd features: - The original English language version. - Alternatively: with the David Bowie introduction with a Finnish voiceover recorded on top of the David Bowie voice (irritatingly). - A storyboard montage version. - A sketch montage version.

This classic television animation short is the first movie I have seen in almost a month. On 29 November I got into a dangerous traffic accident and spent almost three weeks in hospitals (in an emergency room, in a casualty ward, and in the rehabilitation department of a trauma center). Since 19 December I'm at home; our Christmas started already then, and now I felt like watching a movie again. Meanwhile, I have been enjoying lots of reading, music, and books on visual arts.

Because I don't watch tv I have never seen this beloved animation before, but I know and love the theme song "Walking In The Air", which belongs to the golden greats of movie theme tunes. Besides the wonderful original recording there are high quality Finnish interpretations called "Avaruus" [The Space], with a beautiful translation by Tarleena Sammalkorpi, interpreted eloquently by the sopranos Sini Hyytiäinen and Mari Palo among others; the interpretations of those two I have heard during this December at YLE Radio 1. "Walking In The Air" is sung during the wonderful climax of the film: the dream sequence in which the boy dreams that the snowman takes him to a flight to Far North, to the land of Father Christmas.

The visual approach is familiar to me from the nuclear holocaust animation When the Wind Blows, also based on a book by Raymond Briggs, and directed by Jimmy T. Murakami.

A perfect way to return to movie watching on Christmas Eve. Last year in Helsinki we had white Christmas. This year, Christmas is black. It's been raining today, but the sun is shining in our hearts.

P.S. The "Walking In The Air" sequence is one of the great dream sequences in the history of the cinema. I like also the maturity of the story. In the morning the boy gets to face loss and disappointment as the snowman has melted.

"Walking In The Air" lyrics beyond the jump break:
(Music and lyrics by Howard Blake)

We're walking in the air
We're floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we fly

I'm holding very tight
I'm riding in the midnight blue
I'm finding I can fly so high above with you

Far across the world
The villages go by like dreams
The rivers and the hills
The forests and the streams

Children gaze open mouthed
Taken by surprise
Nobody down below believes their eyes

We're surfing in the air
We're swimming in the frozen sky
We're drifting over icy mountains floating by

Suddenly swooping low
on an ocean deep
Arousing of a mighty monster
from its sleep

We're walking in the air
We're floating in the midnight sky
And everyone who sees us greets us as we fly

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