The Snow Queen (1995) poster

The Snow Queen (1995)


UK. 1995.


Director/Producer – Martin Gates, Screenplay – Martin Gates & Sue Radley, Based on the Fairy-Tale by Hans Christian Andersen, Music/Songs – Chris Caswell, Animation Supervisor – Chris Randall. Production Company – Martin Gates Productions/Carrington Productions International


Ellie Beaven (Ellie), Damian Hunt (Tom), Helen Mirren (The Snow Queen), Hugh Laurie (Peeps), David Jason (Eric), Russell Floyd (Wardrobe), Colin Marsh (Bagey), Gary Martin (Dimly), Julia McKenzie (Frida/Old Lady), Rik Mayall (Robber King), Imelda Staunton (Angorra/Ivy), Richard Tate (Les), Rowan D’Albert (Prince)


The Snow Queen desires to erect a magic mirror that will reflect all sunlight from the world. However, her bumbling troll lackeys cause the mirror to fall from a mountaintop and shatter. The Snow Queen demands that all the pieces be gathered and brought back to her. However, two of the shards have been absorbed by young Tom, causing him to become mean and nasty. The Snow Queen abducts Tom and sets him to repairing the mirror. Tom’s sister Ellie sets out on a quest to rescue him. Joined by Peeps, a talking sparrow, and Dimly, a flying reindeer, she passes through a number of adventures in her efforts to get to the North Pole and stop The Snow Queen.

This adaptation of the 1846 Hans Christian Andersen fairytale comes from British animator Martin Gates. Martin Gates has made a number of low-budget animated films, including two adaptations of The Wind in the Willows (1908) – Mole’s Christmas (1994) and The Adventures of Mole (1995) – as well as adaptations of other fairytales such as Jack and the Beanstalk (1997) and The Ugly Duckling (1997).

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen has been adapted to film several times before, although none of these are particularly well-known with the exception of the subsequent Hallmark Entertainment’s tv mini-series production Snow Queen (2002). Martin Gates’ version is actually very faithful to the original Hans Christian Andersen story – certainly a good deal more so than the Hallmark version, which bumped the ages of the children up to their late teens and distorted the various adventure episodes considerably. About the only additions that come here is Ellie’s talking sparrow companion and the Snow Queen’s bumbling troll servants.

The Snow Queen (voiced by Helen Mirren) in The Snow Queen (1995)
The Snow Queen (voiced by Helen Mirren)

However, it is this latter element that shows up the main problem with the film – namely a tiresome overemphasis on slapstick. The trolls in particular take pratfalls every time they turn up on screen – falling down stairs, idiocy with the airship and mirror – as well scenes with the witch’s cat flying around demolishing things as it tries to catch Peeps and various inanities with the Robber King’s daughter as Ellie makes her escape. This slapstick comes to dominate the film at the exclusion of almost all else. The overemphasis placed on this is eventually tiresome. The quality of the animation throughout is limited.

Martin Gates later made a sequel The Snow Queen’s Revenge (1996).

Film online in several parts beginning here

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