The Sandman was directed and animated by Paul Berry in 1992 with Colin Batty, Ian Mackinnon and Richard Sykes as puppeteers and set designers. For those of a nervous disposition or troubled sleep patterns it is not recommended viewing. For everyone else with an interest in animation it is compulsory. The movie is the first of what I deign to label the “classic” (and occasional) series of animations of the 20th Century. (Not to say the other featured animations are not classics but they are 21st Century classics!) It was Oscar nominated in 1992 and won the Best Short Film Award at Annecy the following year. It is nearing bedtime, the child dances and beats his toy drum in the living room as his mother works on her embroidery. The clock strikes eight and the boy kisses his mother goodnight. He climbs the very long and steep stairs with only an insubstantial lantern to guide him. He is distracted by shadows, draughts and strange creeping noises. Inside his bedroom the moonlight casts an eerie light through the casement window. The child pulls his sheet over his face to hide from the terrors of night. Creaking stairs, moon, shadows and the like are all traditional images of the horror genre. So is the frightening figure beating out the notes in the clock. A cuckoo would be far cheerier! The music by Colin Towns perfectly builds up the tension. Those who believe puppets are not scary should think again. The origins of Luis Manchado González's “Senor Sombra”, about which I wrote recently, are obvious. Joe Dembinski and Peter Kidd work their magic with the cameras although the puppeteer’s manoeuvring of the Sandman himself is a key ingredient. This is no sprinkler of magic sand into the eyes to whisk a child into the land of sleep and dreams. From his first appearance behind the moon to his creeping up the stairs there is a predatory threat to the fiend. And why does he go out of his way to creak stairs and attract attention? The animation is beautifully crafted with a firm grasp of the psychology of fear and nightmare. There is also a frightening climax together with some haunting images after the credits have rolled. However I must focus on the set for this has such a dominant effect on the atmosphere. The staircase is huge, coarsely timbered and shadowed. Even the living room induces a dark, oppressive mood. The best copies of this film will need to be purchased though there are some inferior versions of the movie available online. However you can visit the site of Ian Mackinnon & Peter Saunders and view the arrival of the Sandman in all his glory. Ian and Peter's company, by the way, have some outstanding work to their credit after first working together at Cosgrove Hall Films (production company for The Sandman) in the 1980s. I plan a feature of both companies shortly.