Snowman and the Snowdog: Programme drew one of Channel 4"s biggest audiences of the year

Snowman and the Snowdog melts hearts of six million: Animation draws one of Channel 4's biggest audiences of the year (but it's still beaten by Coronation Street and Merlin)
Sequel to Christmas classic The Snowman was big winner for Channel 4New animation got peak of 5.8m viewers and an average audience of 4.9mOriginal version of
Raymond Briggs's story also performed well this year

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UPDATED:

22:34 GMT, 25 December 2012

In an age of computer wizardry and high-tech animation, one might have expected its simple hand-drawn style to leave a modern audience slightly nonplussed.

But the sequel to Christmas classic The Snowman has become one of Channel 4’s highest-rated programmes of the year.

Almost six million tuned in to watch The Snowman and the Snowdog on Christmas Eve.

Heart-melting: The Snowman and the Snowdog, which is the sequel to Christmas classic The Snowman, has become one of Channel 4's highest-rated programmes of the year

Heart-melting: The Snowman and the Snowdog, which is the sequel to Christmas classic The Snowman, has become one of Channel 4's highest-rated programmes of the year

The new animation recorded a peak of 5.8million viewers and an average audience of 4.9million, making it the highest-rating Channel 4 programme to be broadcast on Christmas Eve in more than 10 years and the channel’s fourth highest rating programme of 2012.

The original version of the classic Raymond Briggs Christmas story The Snowman also performed well on Channel 4 this year. On Sunday night it drew an audience of 2.8million.

It means that the film, which has been shown on Channel 4 every Christmas bar one since 1982, achieved its highest ratings in 13 years, when 2.6million tuned in to watch in 1999.

Shown at 8pm, there were fears that youngsters would miss The Snowman and the Snowdog because it would be past their bedtime.

The 2million half-hour animation also
faced competition with the last-ever episode of BBC1’s big-budget drama
Merlin, which started at 8.15pm.

The
clash between the two programmes resulted in scores of viewers to
complaining to Channel 4, while others took to Twitter to express their
concerns.

Happy days: The new animation recorded a peak of 5.8million viewers and an average audience of 4.9million, making it the highest rating Channel 4 programme to be broadcast on Christmas Eve in more than 10 years

Happy days: The new animation recorded a peak of 5.8million viewers and an average audience of 4.9million, making it the highest rating Channel 4 programme to be broadcast on Christmas Eve in more than 10 years

In the end, the film was beaten in
the ratings by the BBC1 drama and ITV1’s long-running soap opera
Coronation Street, which recorded a peak of almost eight million
viewers.

Convinced: Raymond Briggs, the author of the original 1978 book, said it took a lot of persuasion to allow the sequel to be made

Convinced: Raymond Briggs, the author of the original 1978 book, said it took a lot of persuasion to allow the sequel to be made

The Snowman and the Snowdog is set in the same house as the original Snowman.

It tells the story of a boy who discovers a box hidden under his bedroom floorboards which contains a snowman-making kit.

Later that day he builds a Snowman and with a little leftover snow, a Snowdog. On that night at the stroke of midnight the two come to life.

It was so laborious to make, that it took over a year to produce, since it was possible to produce only five seconds of animation a week.

Unlike modern computer generated animation, the film was drawn by hand – a process that required 77 artists. Each second is made up of 12 frames and took up to 30 hours to complete.

In total, the film’s artists worked their way through 200,000 pieces of paper and 5,000 pencils.

There was concern that today’s young audience, used to the type of high-tech animation featured in films such as Toy Story, Shrek and Avatar, would not enjoy the simple hand-drawn style. But test audiences were enthusiastic.

Raymond Briggs, the author of the original 1978 book, said it took a lot of persuasion to allow the sequel to be made.

The 78-year-old said: ‘It would have been cashing in to do it before. Now it won’t do any harm and it’s not vulgar and American. I’m a notorious grumbler, but I found nothing to grumble about.’

He has admitted that he was initially unhappy when his original book was made into a film.

‘I thought, “It’s a bit corny and twee, dragging in Christmas”, as The Snowman had nothing to do with that. But it worked extremely well.’