In honour of the 40th anniversary of the publication of the Raymond Briggs book of The Snowman, this new “experience” has been created by Backyard Cinema. It claims to be a fully immersive experience in which fans of both book and the 1982 television film can enjoy the story in a “3-D” setting, as “if you are flying with the Snowman”. In short, it claims something special: but is it?
The attraction begins with the now obligatory photographs which you can buy later in the gift shop. Then to a waiting area where a trailer promises great things ahead, before you are ushered into a screening room to watch the first part of the film.
This area is dressed with sets of both the living room and the kitchen, plus windows leading to the outside. A snowball hits the kitchen window in virtual form when the little boy throws it. The Christmas tree lights and the TV come on and off in synch with what we see on the screen. When the Snowman turns on the hot tap, steam comes out of the one on the set.
But sadly no magic feeling when the Snowman comes to life at midnight, other than the spotlighting of a grandfather clock.
Then to room two, which you reach through a forest of branches and crunchy ground, to stand and watch the bike ride and the Walking in the Air flying sequence. At the point the Snowman and the boy take off, the 4:3 ratio film is zoomed in and stretched to widescreen, and I’m sorry to say the quality suffered, spoiling many of the sequences such as the man with the bottle, and the appearance of the whale.
Finally, the North Pole party is viewed (back to original ratio, happily) in a set dressed with a party table, lights, and a brief appearance of the Snowman himself.
This experience is an interesting idea, but to me it was a three-star experience showcasing a five-star film. The power is in Briggs’s story and how it was adapted for the small screen. That does come across – just – but the extras just aren’t magical or special enough for me, and I left a little disappointed. Immersive experiences are thriving in the theatre and this needs to up its game to compete with them.
In the gift shop the best value items are a small Snowman for £9, one of the photos from the start for £10 (or four for £25), and small badge pins. You can splash out on a beautiful Stieff Snowman for £69, or a large cuddly version for £26. Or if you would like the anniversary editions of the book or film, these are here too.
Tickets for The Snowman Experience are £13, and the experience takes 45 minutes to complete, with shows starting every 20 minutes. Entry to Winter Wonderland itself is free.