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(Credit: David Shankbone)


When David Bowie’s son found a Christmas present from his dad years later

Part of the Christmas iconography in the UK involves the classic animated short film The Snowman, however, it comes as an unexpected twist that the tale is one that involves David Bowie. From the snowman who flew from Earth to the man who fell to it, if Christmas is a time for heart-warming stories, then trust ‘The Starman’ to warm the cockles of our heart with a fateful tale as sweet as a mince pie.

The classic short film sees Raymond Briggs’ iconic novel rendered faithfully into animated form. Therein the gentle narrative unfurls as follows: “On Christmas Eve, a young boy builds a snowman that comes to life and takes him to the North Pole to meet Father Christmas.” The magical trip is scored with the classic song ‘Walking in the Air’ and the beauty of the piece has forever proved endearing. 

When it was released in 1982, David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, was 11 years old. Like many young folks, the film became an instant Christmas favourite. Thus, two years later, when Bowie was offered the chance to become involved with the project, he immediately celebrated the producers offer. 

For the US broadcast of the show, Bowie was asked to provide an introduction to the piece. As a staple of British culture who had already cosied up to Christmas with his 1977 hit Bing Crosby collaboration, ‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’, he seemed the ideal fit to capture the feel of the feature for a US audience. 

In the long-forgotten introduction, Bowie is seen wrapping up warm for the frosty weather and embodying an older version of the young protagonist, James. He whips out a scarf from a dusty attic and explains that a “real snowman” once gave it to him as a gift. As it happens, that very scarf would fatefully return to an attic draw once more, only for Duncan Jones to pluck it out and wrap up in it years later.

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As Jones explained in a tweet last year, “Went looking for sock monkeys in the storage boxes and FOUND THE SCARF!!! YAY!” But as it happens, there was even more to the story than a mere long-lost discovery. As it happens, Jones’ tweet was seen by the TV producer Brian Harding who worked with Bowie on the introduction that he filmed. 

“You may not remember the history,” Harding wrote. “The scarf was knitted by the lady in the accounts department of TVC, the production company who made the animation. She came onto the set and presented it to David. When filming was over, David asked very politely if he could keep the scarf to give to his son, Zowie. This was the only fee he charged for the filming, and I believe he offered his services for personal reasons.”

He then touchingly concluded: “[Bowie was] charming throughout and totally professional.” Adding: I am glad that the scarf found its way to the destination he intended, From the dude to another dude.” And everyone suddenly had to pretend that they had just been chopping onions. Bowie is undoubtedly the gift that keeps on giving and the story of this scarf that the elves forgot is literal proof of that.