For three decades it has been a heart-melting festive favourite. But now Raymond Briggs, creator of The Snowman, has revealed his frustration at how his story was hijacked by Christmas sentimentalists – saying it was meant to be about death.
The illustrator who wrote The Snowman in 1978, has finally consented to produce a sequel to the enchanting animated story, The Snowman and The Snowdog, which will be broadcast by Channel 4 on Christmas Eve.
The original Oscar-nominated The Snowman, famed for the scene of the boy and his snowman taking flight to the swelling choral ballad 'Walking In The Air', has been screened every Christmas by Channel 4 since 1982.
Yet Briggs, 78, whose 1973 bestseller Father Christmas, presented Santa as an irritable old man, also admitted he was "not a fan of Christmas". He said: "I support the principle of a day of feasting and presents, but the anxiety starts in October: how many are coming? Are they bringing grandchildren? How long will they stay?"
A self-confessed "miserable git", he said that his story, which depicts the snowman melting, was designed to introduce children to mortality and should never have become an accompaniment to mince pies. "The idea was clean, nice and silent. I don't have happy endings," Briggs told the Christmas edition of Radio Times.
"I create what seems natural and inevitable. The snowman melts, my parents died, animals die, flowers die. Everything does. There's nothing particularly gloomy about it. It's a fact of life."
The animated version of The Snowman, which appeared four years after the book's publication, inserted 'Walking in the Air', a motorcycle ride and a visit to Santa at the North Pole. Briggs said: "I thought, 'It's a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas', as The Snowman had nothing to do with that.
"But it worked extremely well."
The 24-minute Snowman and The Snowdog cost £2m, comprising 200,000 drawings. Many of the artists worked on the original and have maintained the look of Briggs' drawings.