Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Snowman and the Snowdog

The Snowman and the Snowdog

Spring 2014 DVD
Ages: 3 & Up
DVD Price: $9.99

You may recall author Raymond Briggs' 1978 classic picture book The Snowman from your childhood—or even recall the film adaptation, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short Film in 1982. Now, The Snowman and the Snowdog commemorates the 30th anniversary of that beloved Christmastime classic.

To call the animation "gorgeous" is a gross understatement. It uses hand-drawn illustrations (with some subtle CGI effects) to create a dreamlike world that makes its impact with pure, visceral emotion. The film has no spoken dialogue but the storyline is clearly conveyed through action. A young boy moves into a new home (actually the same one seen in the original story but now a more modern suburb has grown around it) and discovers a loose floorboard in his bedroom. It reveals a box filled with the props to make a snowman, along with a picture of the Snowman and young boy from the original story. He rushes outside to build a snowman of his own and, moved by the recent loss of his pet, he also creates a sweet little snow dog complete with mismatched socks for ears. Later that night, the boy receives a magical surprise: Both dog and snowman have come to life and they lead him on an adventure that includes soaring through the skies over modern-day London to an enchanted land where snowmen from around the globe gather for a winter carnival. It's filled with music and festivities, including an exhilarating downhill race where the boy and his Snowdog out-sled the competition. Santa makes an appearance at this event and hands out a special gift, but soon the sun is rising and the boy, the Snowman and the Snowdog have to head back home. There the boy discovers that Santa's gift holds a special power to bring his Snowdog to life—but that joy is tempered by the warmer weather that melts his Snowman friend.

While the story honors whimsy and friendship and joy, parents should be aware that it includes heavy themes of death and loss. At the beginning of the film, we see the young boy and his pet dog move into the new home but it's soon clear that dog dies. And, for all the merriment of the snowman carnival, the film ends on a heartrending note as the boy and his new dog mourn the loss of the melted Snowman. These are incredibly poignant scenes that could deeply affect young children.

The DVD also includes a bonus behind-the-scenes documentary that talks about the origins of The Snowman, the animated films' story development, Briggs' involvement, and animation techniques. It's fascinating but best suited to adults who can appreciate a nostalgic tribute to this enduring classic. The bonus feature and short film combined add up to 70 minutes of content.

The Snowman and the Snowdog retains all the charm and depth of emotion of the original film but adds more modern touches to engage a new generation of viewers. If you're okay with the heavier themes, watching this beautiful but heart-tugging story could become part of your family's annual holiday traditions.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2014 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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