Video Vulture: Life In Snowman Prison

Hey, don’t you think it’s time you checked in on that best friend you keep frozen in your garage?

Sorry, confused reader; I wasn’t addressing you, I was addressing Lily, the hero of that heartwarming animated short Lily and the Snowman that Cineplex used to run before every movie in the winter of 2015. Remember that? If not, you can watch it right here:

Just in case you can’t watch that right now, I’ll provide a summary. A little girl makes a snowman who comes to life, and entertains her with impossibly magnificent shadow puppetry. Lily (the little girl) adores these performances, but watches them less and less as she gets older. As an adult, she suddenly remembers the snowman (who is being kept in a refrigerator in the garage to prevent thawing), and introduces her own daughter to the snowman’s still-charming shadow theatrics. Sappy music swells, and the audience pretends not to cry. It’s all very sweet, and twee, and adorable.

… Or is it?

Look, Cineplex; I get that your beautifully-animated short is actually a metaphor for rediscovering the joy of watching movies in a real cinema in this modern age. That doesn’t change the fact that the protagonist locks her magical snow friend up in a tiny, airless cell for decades at a time, like a Medieval torturer.

There’s a bit where an adolescent Lily opens the door to the fridge, igniting the snowman’s hopes for some human company; but no. She’s just getting a box of candy, while chatting on her cell phone, and ignoring the snowman’s pleading eyes. What kind of a conversation is she having, I wonder? “Ohmygod, Trisha, you would NOT believe what Sandi said to Melanie! Hang on a second, I’m just getting some Mike and Ikes out of the freezer. Huh? Of course. Why, where do you store YOUR jelly beans? Pffft, whatever.”

Some viewers think (or hope) that the snowman is in a state of suspended animation while he’s alone in his tiny box, but that contradicts the sense of loneliness the film is skillfully cultivating, and the joy of their eventual reunion. No, the truth is that the poor little guy is aware of the passage of time, and of his predicament. We even see inside the fridge after it closes, and watch the smile drain from his snowy face as he realizes that depths of his isolation. Lily gives him a teddy to keep him company for the 20-odd years of his imprisonment. Yeah, that’ll do it. The basement girl from Silence of the Lambs was treated better than this – she at least had leg room and lotion privileges.

“But John,” you argue, “the snowman HAD to stay in the fridge to keep from melting!”

Indeed. Which raises yet another troubling point – the snowman is aware of the burning gaze of the sun, and must please his creator in order to avoid it. Like Scheherazade, he must entertain a jaded authority figure in order to live another night. We can see from his act that this snow homunculus is a creature with vivid imagination. He creates scenes of adventure and romance, the likes of which he will never, ever experience in his refrigerated prison. How that creative mind must suffer, trapped in that hellish sensory deprivation chamber! Yet he must plead with Lily to return to its cold embrace, lest he melt. This is not a healthy relationship. This is Stockholm Syndrome, a supremely dysfunctional life-or-death balancing act with the only parent the snowman will ever know. 

Despite all of that, it’s still a really cute film, and I like it. Cineplex replaced it with a new pre-show short recently (A Balloon for Ben), but that one’s not nearly as creepy (or as memorable) as Lily and the Snowman. 

John Tebbutt is the Video Vulture. He has been writing about obscure and ridiculous cinema since 1997. You can keep up with his nonsense on his websiteFacebook and Twitter. You can also watch Volume 1 of his new series produced for NUTV here.