Can you feel that change in the air? The Autumn People that the late and great Ray Bradbury wrote about are well and truly here and Halloween night is just around the corner. Which is when people normally begin to alter their viewing habits to include all things spooky and creepy – which is most assuredly where The Sandman should be placed. It is a wickedly wonderful bit of stop-motion animation provided by Paul Berry – an animator who sadly passed away in 2001 at the far too young age of 40 years old. The Sandman is based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s 1816 short story of the same name and the Craft Prize winning short is obviously influenced by German Expressionism in the likes of The Student of Prague, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, as well as Nosferatu. The story concerns the titular Sandman – an otherworldly being that will arrive to pluck the eyes from children who refuse to go to bed – feeding them to his own children upon the moon.
I was able to first view The Sandman on a VHS collection that one of my friends had rented from the local Hasting’s. It had a nice assortment of animated shorts – including a few from The Brothers Quay – who are fellow stop-motion animators. I can remember well as the last credit rolled – make sure to watch it all – the cold feeling of fear that began to spread up the back of my neck.
Paul Berry in The Sandman allows the character to appear very bird-like in his appearance and even the way he moves – in addition to being incredibly devious and cruel. While as I previously mentioned – the animator passed on too soon – he did get to work on 1993’s A Nightmare Before Christmas as an animator before acting as an animation supervisor for 1996’s James and the Giant Peach and supervising animator for 2001’s Monkeybone.
The story for 1991’s The Sandman concerns a young boy who as the clock strikes eight o’clock – is sent to his room to turn in for the evening by his Mother. I feel it is quite evident that the boy is terrified of the dark – especially as the hallway to his bedroom seems to stretch in the darkness. Perhaps the boy could sleep more peacefully if not for the creaking of the house and the howling wind – the latter of which blows open the windows to his room and startles the poor lad. Which is how it appears that he catches the eye of the Sandman who lives upon the moon – who shortly arrives upon the Earth and begins to do his best to get the young boy to open his eyes.
Now here is something we do not normally have to do with a Toon In offering – a slight warning that 1991’s The Sandman might be too intense for young viewers. So turn down the lights if you can and enjoy Paul Berry’s creepy and spooky offering… just make sure you aren’t staying up too late when you watch it!