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Fine, David (1960-) and Snowden, Alison (1958-)

Director, Writer, Animator

Main image of Fine, David (1960-) and Snowden, Alison (1958-)

Born in Toronto in 1960, David Fine spent his teens making amateur 8mm and 16mm films before collaborating with documentarist Ron Mann on a Plasticine animated short, The Only Game In Town (Canada, 1977). He then joined the National Film Board of Canada's student film programme, which allowed him to see several major Canadian animators at work. Still in his teens, he made a live-action documentary about a Toronto-based viola maker and his wife, who plays his creations. He continued to make live-action films when studying at the National Film and Television School, but returned to animation when he met his future creative and life partner Alison Snowden.

At the end of her NFTS course, Snowden wrote and directed the four-minute Second Class Mail (1984) in collaboration with Fine and a handful of colleagues (including fellow students Nick Park and Mark Baker). A witty yet poignant study of middle-aged loneliness in which a woman orders an inflatable husband that turns out to fall woefully short of expectations, it first showcased what would become a Snowden-Fine trademark: simple line drawings verging on abstraction at times. Disproportionately successful for what was essentially a student film, it won a major prize at the Annecy Film Festival and secured the first of three Oscar nominations.

Snowden and Fine then moved to his native Canada to work for the National Film Board. There, they co-directed George and Rosemary (1987), another tale of autumn-years romance, though rather more evenly matched in that both partners are alive and capable of generating their own fantasies. This was also Oscar-nominated. A third short, In and Out (1989), crammed a lifetime from birth to death into nine minutes.

They moved back to London in 1989, and spent several years working on rent-paying commercials work followed (together with a contribution to Marv Newland's erotic animation Pink Komkommer, in 1991), until their breakthrough in 1993 with Bob's Birthday, a tale of a disastrously misconceived surprise party planned for Bob, a troubled dentist in the throes of a mid-life crisis. It finally won them an Oscar, and generated a spin-off television series, Bob and Margaret (1998-2001). Initially part-funded by Channel 4, it failed to catch the popular imagination in Britain (not helped by inconsistent scheduling), though it was so successful in the US and especially Canada that it ran to four series - the action relocating from Balham in South London to Toronto for the last two as a condition of funding.

More recently, Snowden and Fine have continued to make TV commercials (perhaps the best known being the Inland Revenue campaign whose tax inspector was voiced by Alec Guinness), as well as contributing to work by former colleagues such as Nick Park (they developed Aardman's series Shaun the Sheep, 2007) based on a character in Park's A Close Shave, 1995) and Mark Baker (Snowden wrote scripts for his Peppa Pig, 2004-7, and their daughter Lily originally voiced the character). They returned to Canada in 2004.

Michael Brooke

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Thumbnail image of Second Class Mail (1984)Second Class Mail (1984)

Mournfully funny short animation about a woman in search of the perfect man

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