Essex

The Snowman and The Snowdog animator revisits classic

Scenes from The Snowman and The Snowdog, bedroom scene by Roger Mainwood
Image caption Roger Mainwood drew nearly 3,000 frames for four minutes of animation in The Snowman and The Snowdog

As families around the UK settle in front of the television to watch The Snowman and The Snowdog on Christmas Eve, for one man it will be more like catching up with an old friend.

Animator Roger Mainwood, from Wivenhoe in Essex, worked on the original Snowman film in 1982, based on the story by writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs.

The 59-year-old has now drawn the opening scenes in the sequel, commissioned by Channel 4 to mark both the channel's and the Oscar-nominated film's 30th anniversary.

"It was like getting him out of an old box," said Mr Mainwood. "Just familiarising yourself with the old characters was a nice thing to do.

"It was weird - when I was doing the first one 30 years ago I had my three-year-old girl running around my feet getting in the way as I was trying to do it.

"Thirty years on, I had a three-year-old grandson doing the same."

Image caption Mr Mainwood said "there's nothing quite like" bringing drawings to life

Briggs' book The Snowman follows the adventures of a young boy and the magical Snowman he creates.

Thirty years on Briggs gave his blessing to the sequel which has brought many of the original production team back together.

"It had been mooted for a bit, but it was Raymond Briggs who made it happen as he'd resisted for many years in doing a sequel," said Mr Mainwood.

"To be honest, there were some raised eyebrows and little bit of trepidation about whether we could pull it off because it's such a classic. You just feel this weight of history on your shoulders.

"But we put our hearts into making it the best we could."

Mr Mainwood spent about nine months animating four minutes of the new film, in addition to working on the storyboard and layout.

"Funnily enough, I've got more or less the opening sequence in both films. In the new one I'm doing a bedroom scene where the boy discovers a shoebox with a picture of the Snowman in it."

Magical adventure

The Snowman and The Snowdog tells the story of a boy who discovers a box hidden under his bedroom floorboards which contains a snowman-making kit.

Later that day he builds a Snowman and with a little leftover snow, a Snowdog. On that night at the stroke of midnight the two come to life where the boy joins them on a magical adventure.

"I worked on the layouts - drawing up the backgrounds and working out what action goes on in the scene, and then the actual animation," said Mr Mainwood.

"This time we used a computer to scan in the drawings to produce a look of the original film, but in a modern way."

Mr Mainwood has worked in animation since 1979 with The Snowman, When the Wind Blows and Father Christmas among his credits.

"I don't think anybody at the time thought The Snowman would become such a part of Christmas," said Mr Mainwood.

"I remember when director Dianne Jackson showed me the line test of that famous bit when the Snowman runs down the garden with the boy and takes off.

"She and I both got tingles down the spine and thought 'wow, this is going to be quite something', but obviously you don't realise just how much until later. It's just grown and grown and every generation seems to take it up."

Image caption The film is dedicated to producer John Coates who died during production

The new film, to be shown on Channel 4 at 20:00 GMT on Christmas Eve, features Light The Night by former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows. Mr Mainwood said it has a "sensitivity" to Howard Blake's original score, which included Walking In The Air.

"The first time I heard it, it was just a piano played by Howard Blake to a line test, it was so beautiful. He then orchestrated it to be sung by Peter Autie in the film, not Aled Jones."

Mr Mainwood said he was incredibly proud of his work on the Snowman legacy.

"There is something just magical about being an animator and bringing drawings to life, there's nothing quite like it.

"The film, the music and Raymond Briggs' brilliant sensitivity with the original story - we're just like members of an orchestra bringing somebody's score to fruition to create something really rather magical in people's lives.

"I'm very proud of The Snowman and with all this incredible attention on the new one it's really very pleasant to be part of it."

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