I know, Christmas is over, but the weather is still fairly wintery and it’s just starting to get warmer now, so you might forgive me if I wrote about snowmen. Since 1982 Channel 4 has been showing The Snowman every year for Christmas. It’s a 26-minute animation drawn using pencils.
I don’t think The Snowman is very well known outside the UK, but if you’re not on the British Isles you might know another animation from the author Raymond Briggs: When the Wind Blows.
According to the Cumberland Pencil Museum, where you can see a making of video, it has been drawn using Derwent Cumberland pencils.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the animation Channel 4 made a sequel: The Snowman and The Snowdog. When I first heard about the sequel I was sceptical and didn’t expect it to be hand drawn using pencils, but to my surprise it’s hand made using pencils. The sequel cost £2 million and according to a documentary about the making of the sequel 200 000 sheets of paper and 5000 pencils were used.
In a documentary, also shown on Channel 4, you can see all sorts of pencils being used in the studio in North London where the cells were hand drawn. I was surprised to see fairly few Derwent Cumberland pencils1. The pencils visible in the documentary don’t have to be representative of those used for the animation, but the pencils you get to see in the documentary are not from Derwent – they are mainly Prismacolor pencils. The 20044, an eraser-tipped blue pencil, seems to be particularly often used for outline animations2. I believe the reason blue is being used is because cameras or copiers will ignore this colour or shade of colour, so that sketch lines don’t need to be erased and the final black lines can just be drawn over the sketches3. You can also see some Caran d’Ache pencils, Staedtler’s Mars Lumograph and two mechanical pencils, which I think were both Pentels.
Some scenes were filmed in Raymond Briggs’ House where many Derwent Cumberland pencils were visible and where you can also see him using a Staedtler Mars Lumograph.
The images in this blog post have been taken from Rare Day‘s documentary How the Snowman Came Back to Life. I believe that the use of the images shown in this blog post falls under “fair dealing” as described by the UK Copyright service.