The Radio Times logo
We may earn commission from links on this page. Our editorial is always independent (learn more)

Doctor Who animation director: Why Abominable Snowmen designs were changed

Certain character designs for the new animation differ dramatically from the live-action version.

Doctor Who: Abominable Snowmen
Doctor Who/YouTube
Published: Monday, 5th September 2022 at 4:41 pm
Subscribe to Radio Times magazine and get 12 issues for £1

Doctor Who serial The Abominable Snowmen was first broadcast in 1967 – now missing from the archives bar one episode, the six-parter has been recreated for a new release, with animated visuals being matched to the original soundtrack.

Advertisement

The story sees the Second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) and companions Jamie (Frazer Hines) and Victoria (Deborah Watling) arrive at a monastery in Tibet in 1935, where they battle robotic Yeti.

Fans will notice that the animated version features radically different character designs for the Tibetan monks featured in the story, with the project's co-director Gary Russell explaining that he wanted to "rectify [the] mistake" made by the live-action original of casting white actors in these roles.

Speaking at a BFI Southbank screening, Russell explained that he and the animation team on the project "looked at [real] Tibetan monks from the 1930s" to inspire the new designs.

"It's actually my only real bugbear about [original director] Gerald Blake's directing: what was he thinking?" said Russell. "Why did he cast white people to play Asian characters? It's not even 'a thing of the 1960s' because there were plenty of Asian actors living and working in the UK, [appearing] on television.

"The directors and producers of that time say, 'Oh well, there just weren't the actors around at the time to do that sort of thing' – absolute rubbish. There were, and they should've been given that job.

"It was never even an issue for me. That was an obvious thing that we were going to do - we were going to rectify that mistake that was made in 1967, because it's just bloody insulting."

One other character – master of the monastery Padmasambhava (played by Wolfe Morris), who has been kept alive for centuries by the Great Intelligence – also gets a substantial redesign, with Russell explaining that the character's newly-wizened form was inspired by the classic Tales from the Crypt comic series.

More like this

"I'm a big fan of EC Comics so I was looking at the Crypt Keeper and things like that," he revealed.

Of the original story, only episode 2 is believed to exist – however, Russell advised the teams working on the new animation not to watch the surviving footage.

"It's a very different beast – the designs are completely different, but it's the whole thing... animation and live-action are not directed the same way, they're not made the same way, so if you try to replicate what the director did in the live-action episode 2, they would look very odd as animated episodes. You have to make it flow as six episodes of animation."

Read more about Doctor Who:

Doctor Who: The Abominable Snowmen is available now on DVD, on Blu-ray and as a limited edition steelbook.

Doctor Who is available to stream on BBC iPlayer with episodes of the classic series also available on BritBox – you can sign up for a 7-day free trial here.

Check out more of our Sci-Fi coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.

Advertisement

The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content