To start with, I'll explain the 4 stars I've given this. The story itself, the animation, performances and overall execution get 5 stars from me, but this is a review of the DVD and it's nothing more than film itself, which is not surprising but is a little disappointing considering how much attention The Snowman gets.
The story is based on two children's books by Raymond Briggs: "Father Christmas" (first published in 1973, hence the 40th Anniversary sticker from the 2013 DVD re-release of the 1991 animation) and its sequel,"Father Christmas Goes On Holiday". The film adaptation reverses the order of the books to tell the story of a good-hearted but under-appreciated Father Christmas who wants the world to know just how difficult life really is being him. To wit, he introduces the story of what happened when he tried to take a well-earned, relaxing holiday. After we've been shown how it really didn't go to plan, we then see Father Christmas launch into what we all know him for: the delivery of presents around the world on Christmas Eve. Again, our beleaguered hero (which I feel he can be so called), encounters all kinds of difficulties on the way.
It must be said that there is a fair bit of what some might consider to be rather grown-up content and cynicism in the script. Scenes depict gambling and excessive alcohol consumption and there is prolific use of the mild oath 'blooming' by Father Christmas himself, all of which might be considered inappropriate for some children. I've grown up watching this my whole life, since before I can remember, and I never had trouble with it. No two children are the same and it should be considered as a matter of discretion by parents and guardians.
In the film's defence, Father Christmas (FC henceforth) is clearly portrayed as being good, even if he's flawed and grumpy. Whenever FC indulges to excess, the negative consequences are shown and clearly enough that my 3-year-old Monday could tell he'd been a bit naughty without any prompting from my parents. Despite his flaws, the film shows (in its second half) just how far FC is prepared to go to ensure the happiness of every child on Christmas Day, battling time, weather, obstacles, age and mistakes to make people happy. The film doesn't present magic as a convenient remedy to all problems, either; the flying reindeer are simply a matter of fact and it's hard work and perseverance that win the day. What's more, it's a largely thankless task, but he does it anyway, every year, without fail. If that isn't a good Christmas message, I don't know what is.
This is not the story of the right jolly old elf Santa Claus. This is the story of a very British old man who, despite everything, wants to make everyone happy. Yes, there are elements of the story some might find objectionable but I love it and won't hesitate to share it with my children, if/when I have them, right from the start of their lives. In fact, I'd share it with all the children everywhere, in the whole, wide, blooming world!