So, before Christmas, we took the kids to the National Concert Hall to see ‘The Snowman’. It was a great show, with the half-hour film as the main event, but also featuring the Spotlight Stage School doing some excellent renditions of Disney tunes – although there were a few strange choices, given the range they had to choose from. There was also some carol singing (including a couple where the audience had to do the singing in true karaoke style) and a flying – or rather ‘cycling’ – visit from Santa Claus.
Watching the film again after all those years, I was struck not only by Raymond Briggs’ lovely story, but also the gorgeous animation, directed by Dianne Jackson. In these days of computer-generated animation, it’s hard to appreciate just how challenging a film like that would be to make. The sheer drawing technique involved in the flowing backgrounds, changing perspectives and the naturalistic rendering took my breath away when I first saw ‘The Snowman’ onscreen.
Seeing the film again, this time accompanied by the live orchestra, brought it to life once more. It was a joy to witness. Briggs’ work and the characters he creates have always had a piercing simplicity. If you ever want to see a funnier, but far more haunting example of his work adapted for film, you should check out ‘When the Wind Blows’. Storytelling at its best, but Disney it definitely ain’t.
On a brief negative note, I was disappointed to discover that neither Raymond Briggs’ nor Dianne Jackson’s names appeared anywhere in the programme for the concert. A shocking omission.
I’ve also just finished Tim Hamilton’s comic adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’. I went through a real Bradbury phase for a while (I had a lot of book phases) and Hamilton’s comic version of this classic book does it justice. This is a thoughtful work with dark, dramatic undertones about a man whose job it is to burn books because they are considered a danger to the state. It’s about how he starts questioning what he’s doing, and how those doubts put his own life in danger. And those questions about where culture is going are just as relevant now, as they were in the 1950’s.
Like all good sci-fi (and Bradbury has written across many genres), he questioned what kind of future we would end up in, if we continued along our present paths. Hamilton’s stark, brusque style of artwork suits the story really well. It’s a little bit ‘tell, don’t show’ for a comic adaptation, but well worth a read. For a rather more violent, stylized and Matrix-style (but still fun and thought-provoking) take on the story, check out ‘Equilbrium’, starring Christian Bale.
I’m in the middle of reading ‘Crash’ by JG Ballard. Definitely not for younger readers, or anybody with a delicate disposition or a weak stomach . . . or just about anyone of a vaguely uptight nature. But it is great, compelling writing from one of the masters in our field. Made into an eerie but engrossing film by David Cronenburg back in the 90’s, its themes of mankind’s obsession with and bonding with technology and how it affects relationships are, like Bradbury’s, all the more relevant today.