History of The Snowman
1. ORIGINS AS BOOK AND FILM 1982
'The Snowman' began as a wordless children's picture book by Raymond Briggs published by Hamish Hamilton in 1978. In 1982 the animated film company TVC (Television Cartoons) developed the story, and in association with Channel 4 TV made a 26-minute cartoon, produced by John Coates and directed by Dianne Jackson. The film was also wordless but featured the song 'Walking in the Air', which was sung by Peter Auty (See: www.tadpolemusic.com
), a choirboy at St. Paul's Cathedral, who has since become a celebrated operatic tenor.
Howard Blake wrote both music and lyrics of the song and also composed and conducted the complete orchestral score for the film with his own orchestra, The Sinfonia of London. It was first shown on Channel 4 on Christmas Eve 1982 and was an immediate success, being nominated for an Oscar and winning prizes in France and Italy and The British Academy's Best Children's Film Award 1983.
TVC and Hamish Hamilton created a company for promotion and exploitation of merchandising called 'Snowman Enterprises'; a video was realeased and various Snowman-related gift items produced. www.copyrights.co.uk
There is currently a DVD on release and Snowman Enterprises run a newsletter on available merchandise and events.
Hamish Hamilton later merged with Penguin Books who produce a range of different Snowman-related publications.
2. RECORD ALBUM, CONCERTS AND PUBLICATIONS 1983
In 1983 Howard Blake wrote a narration to fit with the recorded score and using his remixed film score track produced 'The Snowman' record album for CBS Masterworks on vinyl and cassette with Bernard Cribbins as narrator.
A live first performance of this narrated concert version was given at The Barbican in The City of London promoted by The Raymond Gubbay Organisation in December 1983. This has resulted in many similar concerts being given ever since both in UK and internationally.
Faber Music also began publishing the score and parts for concert use, both professional and for school orchestra along with various arrangements of the song, including instrumental versions for flute, violin, cello, guitar, recorder etc. See: www.fabermusic.co.uk and www.fabermusic.com
By 1988 the album had gone platinum and when CBS Masterworks merged with Columbia/Sony the rights transferred and the album was re-released on CD with a beautifully-produced illustrated Booklet. Columbia CDX 71116,
3. ALED JONES 1985
In 1985 the USA toy firm 'Toys 'r' Us' asked Howard if they could adapt the song for a prominent TV ad campaign in UK. By this time Peter Auty's voice had broken and Howard suggested the 12-year old Aled Jones, whom he had seen on a BBC documentary film. He also suggested that a single might be recorded in the same session and this version went to number 3 in the UK hit-parade for EMI, featuring on 'Top of the Pops' and helping to raise the profile of 'The Snowman' in all its guises. Aled has gone on to establish a high-profile career as singer and presenter based firmly on this success.
4. THE SNOWMAN BALLET 1993-2002
In 1993 Howard Blake collaborated with choreographer Robert North to create a one-hour ballet in the Stora Theater, Gothenburg, Sweden, adding 30 minutes of new music. Design of sets, costumes and lighting was by Andrew Storer. It had a successful season and transferred to the newly-built Opera House, Gothenburg in 1994, where it also ran in 1995 and 1996. In 1999 it ran for a season in the Teatro Filarmonico, Verona, Italy, and in 2001 and 2002 it was presented by The Royal Scottish Ballet for a season in the major Scottish theatres.
5. THE SNOWMAN STAGE SHOW 1993-1994
Immediately after composing the ballet in summer 1993, Howard Blake was approached by Bill Alexander, the artistic director of The Birmingham Repertory Theatre and invited to create a 90-minute stage show using dance and mime. Howard Blake suggested that with Robert North's permission they use his newly-written ballet score and create additional music and action to extend the show by a further 30 minutes. Robert was unable to choreograph since the ballet was simultaneously in production in Sweden and the show opened in December 1993 with choreography by Pat Garrett and costumes and sets by Ruari Murchison. Howard moved in to the theatre to write the additional music and the show opened on schedule to run for 90 performances to the end of January 1994. See: www.birmingham-rep.co.uk
6. THE REINER-MORITZ FILM OF THE STAGE SHOW 1997
Birmingham Rep requested rights for a further season of the stage show in 1997 with Howard stipulating Robert North as choreographer and Bill Alexander again as director. Features of the show were improved and the film company Reiner Moritz asked to make a film of it, shot in the theatre the following August. The director was Danish arts film-maker Thomas Grimm, and it was shown on BBC TV in Christmas 1998 when a video and CD were also released. DVD currently released by Contender.
7. THE STAGE SHOW AT THE PEACOCK 1998-2019
The Birmingham Rep stage show opened in The Peacock Theatre, Kingsway, London for its first West End season in December 1998. Sadler's Wells were also involved since the Peacock is their 'theatre in the West End'. In early 2000 a decision was taken to rewrite the second act, inventing two new characters, Jack Frost and The Ice Princess, creating a more dramatic story line and in this revised form the show has received consistent acclaim. In 2007 seasons were also mounted at The Edinburgh Festival Theatre and The Lowry, Salford. The show has contnued to run in The Peacock Theatre in London and on tour and has been named as the 'longest-running Christmas show of all time.'
For latest performances and forthcoming events see newspage.