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Saturday, 15 December 2007

Alison Snowden "Second Class Mail"










To lead into the Christmas period you're being treated to one of my favourite movies seen, and remembered fondly, when it first came out. Sometimes a movie just hits the spot, withstanding the test of time much better than other works of the period. Such is the case with the absolutely fabulous Second Class Mail directed in 1984 by Alison Snowden, and co-animated and scripted by David Fine. It was Alison’s graduation piece during her time at The National Film School. The movie is an exquisite blend of humour tinged with sadness and, despite the script outline, is in the best possible taste. A lady of a certain age posts off a second class envelope to acquire an inflatable companion for her latter days. The mail arrives and she leaves her cup of tea and canary (don’t get too attached) to collect the parcel and inflate her would-be soul mate. It was an impressive outing for a student for Alison's movie obtained top prize at the Annecy Film Festival as well as an Oscar nomination. The screenshot reveals the style, rounded drawings, with warm blushes of colour. There's also a priceless element of timing in the animation that distinguishes the class act: the old lady swooping on her man, the reaction of the canary to the full circle turn it manages on its perch and the unceremonious conclusion of the movie. Alison was in good company at the time and collaborations from no less an assemblage than Nick Park, Mark Baker and Barry Baker signalled a bright future for British animation. The movie is as fresh as the day it was animated, signalling the birth of a partnership (domestic and professional) with Canadian David Fine that has given us several animated classics including collaborations with Nick Park, splendid commercials for the Inland Revenue featuring the voice of Sir Alec Guinness (a future post as it happens), the adult series Bob and Margaret and even, I discover, scripts for Peppa Pig, the Asley, Baker and Davies children's series about which I have written here before and for which no praise in my household is too strong. The couple have alternated their work between the UK and Canada.

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