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A young boy wakes up one morning to discover there has been a heavy snowfall overnight. In delight, he throws on some clothes and runs outside to play, building a snowman in the garden. That night he sneaks downstairs to check on it while his parents are in bed and, at the stroke of midnight, the snowman magically comes to life.
After showing his new friend around the house, they take his dad’s motorcycle out for a joyride through the snowy countryside. The heat from the engine melts the snowman’s legs a little, so the boy helps him recover by letting him sit in the trunk freezer in the garage. All is good until the snowman spots a picture of the Arctic on a box of fish fingers, making him feel homesick. Then comes the film’s highlight as he takes the boy on a spectacular flight through the night sky to Lapland, where they join many other snowmen at Father Christmas’s holiday bash. The snowman whisks him home before the sun rises and they hug goodnight. When the boy rises the next day, he runs outside again to see his friend but is devastated to find that he has melted in the sun.
Director Dianne Jackson and her animation team expanded on Raymond Brigg’s original tale, adding the cinematic motorcycle ride, the trip to Lapland, and a Christmas theme that also wasn’t in the book. The animation is so gorgeous that I get completely absorbed in it; every frame was painstakingly hand-drawn with pastels and crayons, which gives the film a wonderfully tactile homespun feel. Personally, I can do without the shenanigans in the house and Father Christmas, but what keeps me coming back each year are three things: The introduction, the flying sequence, and the heartbreaking ending.