Snowman producer John Coates dies

The Snowman The Snowman has become a seasonal staple since making its TV debut three decades ago

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John Coates, the producer of the classic animation film The Snowman, has died of cancer. He was in his eighties.

Coates, recently finished work on a follow-up to the 1982 film to celebrate its 30th anniversary, died on Sunday at his home in Kent.

A spokeswoman for Lupus Films, the production company behind the sequel, said: "It's very sad news. He was very involved [in the new film]."

The Snowman and the Snowdog will be screened on Channel 4 this Christmas.

The film is said to involve a new boy, a "snow dog" and such modern landmarks as the London Eye.

Producer Camilla Deakin said Coates had recently seen the trailer and the storyboard of the whole film and was "very pleased" with them.

Coates served in World War II as an army officer and became a film distributor in Asia before returning to England and beginning to produce animation.

He teamed up with The Snowman writer Raymond Briggs and persuaded Channel 4 to make it one of its first films.

It went on to become a classic repeated every year at Christmas and it was nominated for an Academy Award in 1983.

'Complete innovation'

Coates also worked on the 1968 Beatles animation Yellow Submarine. His other production credits include TV film The Wind in the Willows, which was voiced by the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Michael Gambon, Michael Palin and Alan Bennett.

He also produced the TV series The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, based on the tales by Beatrix Potter.

Composer Howard Blake, who worked extensively with Coates on films such as The Snowman, Granpa and The Bear, met Coates in New York in 1981.

"He allowed me to go along with my ideas - he let me do the music without any dialogue. The Snowman was a complete innovation," he told BBC News.

He said making The Snowman had all been "very friendly", adding: "We fell out numerous times but always made it up. John always believed everything could be sorted out over a good lunch."

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