a.k.a. The Snow Child
Director – Lin Wenxiao – 1980 – China – Cert. N/C – 20m
A mother and her daughter build a snow child which comes to life and later saves the girl’s life – available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th
Made a couple of years ahead of the perennial British Christmas TV animated favourite The Snowman (Jimmy T. Murakami, Dianne Jackson, 1982), this similarly has a story of a child making a snowman which then comes to life. A mother rabbit and her daughter live in a small house near the woods. The mother prepares food while her daughter plays with a rocking toy then suggests she and the child make a snowman, so they go outside and do exactly that.
After the mother has coaxed the child into using for the snowman’s eyes two precious longan seeds the child plans to plant next Spring, the girl tries to add a nose, but when her back is turned, the snow child pulls the carrot off and throws it on the ground. While mum goes off into the woods to find radishes, the girl pushes the snow child through the snow so that, although neither has skates, they are effectively skating. When they reach a clearing covered with ice, the snow kid has developed legs to aid the pair’s skating. They repeat a variant of the skate without skates trick by skiing down a slope without skis.
Then the girl wants a rest, so she pushes the snow child closer to the warmth of the house, then, realising this may not be such a good idea, leaves her outside while she goes in to warm up. Alone outside, the snow child watches chipmunks frolic in the trees and rescues a freezing bird by placing it in a pan and covering it with a leaf, all of which the snow child then places safely in the branches of a tree.
Meanwhile, the girl has left some logs outside the wood burner causing the house to catch fire, so the snow child races into rescue her. She’s successful – but at a price, since the heat causes her to melt afterwards. Mother and daughter watch the snow child’s spirit rise into the air as the water evaporates.
The songs on the soundtrack are deeply sentimental, covering the joys of making a snowman, a song sung when the snow child wanders off alone about “pure white snowflakes” and finally, when the melted snow child ascends to the skies, a song about being “more beautiful” and “the purest of heart”.
If you can look past all that, there are some particularly lovely moments of animation – mother and daughter synchronised in their movements whilst shovelling snow, a vertical pan rising over the trees to where the pair are building their snowman, a delirious point of view spinning around whilst looking up at trees pointing skywards, a sequence of the snow child skating alone through a section of the forest populated with silver birch trees – while the overall tone is simple and kindly, clearly aimed at small children.
The house fire rescue at the end reminded this writer of the live action Mighty Joe Young (Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1949) in which a stop-frame animated gorilla (brought to life by Willis O’Brien and his assistants Ray Harryhausen and Pete Peterson) rescues children from a burning orphange.
No masterpiece, perhaps, but a genuinely pleasant little film.