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Sandman, The — Paul Berry, 1991

A little boy is sent upstairs to bed with just a candle to see away the shadows. Negotiating the dark, creaky staircase, his trepidation grows, and when he finally reaches his room he races to the relative sanctuary of his bed. Sleep does not come easily and he hears scary sounds all round him. Finally dozing off, the boy does not see the arrival of the Sandman...

This Oscar-nominated film (for Best Animated Short in 1992) may deal with a children's legend - but this is not one for the little kids!

You will find a complete BGE Fourth Level Literacy unit for 'The Sandman' here.

Classroom Activities

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  • Play the film up to the point the Sandman appears in the boy’s room. Pause the film and ask for predictions of what might happen next.
  • Show the sequence of the boy going up to bed (from 01:58 to 03:05). Freeze frame on each significant shot and ask pupils to note/draw on a storyboard what they see. Discuss the different camera angles used and how they make the viewer feel. How are we made to feel the boy’s vulnerability and fear? Note any use of colour, lighting or sound that adds to the effect.
  • Show the film up to 03:40 (when the camera pans from the boy’s bed across to the moon through the window). Why is this camera move used at this point? Are we meant to experience anyone’s point of view?
  • Screen the film, asking pupils to focus on sound. Ask them to list all the diegetic and non-diegetic sounds they can hear. You may want to focus this discussion on specific sections of the film (such as the point when the Sandman appears in the boy’s room – is the sound of the Sandman moving diegetic or non-diegetic?).
  • 'The Sandman' is a horror film. Discuss the role of colour and lighting as a tool to generate suspense.


  • Show the sequence of the boy going up to bed (from 01:58 to 03:05). On the class board, invite suggestions of words or phrases that might describe how the boy is feeling going up the stairs and walking along the corridors (look for descriptive nouns, adverbs and adjectives).
  • Breakdown the story into its narrative structure: beginning, middle and end. Discuss this common structure with reference to other stories – how it creates momentum through the narrative towards a climax.
  • Discuss feelings of fear and nervous anticipation. Share experiences of times when pupils have felt nervous, afraid or anxious. What did it feel like and how did you make yourself feel better?
  • Create a list of other films or stories that this reminds pupils of.



  • Try to re-tell the story in prose form, attempting to capture – in words – the sense of tension and suspense in the film.
  • Using stills from the film, create a comic-strip version of the film with thought bubbles and speech (where appropriate) for the characters.
  • Research the tale of the Sandman (e.g folklore, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘Der Sandmann’, popular song). Create a moving image essay or PowerPoint presentation on the different interpretations of this myth.


  • Download 'The Sandman' from the Screening Shorts website and edit together a one-minute trailer for the film.
  • Research other fairy tales, myths and legends and then storyboard and film new version of one.


  • Explore moving like the Sandman.

Clip Details

Record Id 007-002-000-065-C
Resource Rights Holder Batty Berry MacKinnon
Project Ref SCRS-06
Year of Production 1991
Genre Horror, Stop-Motion
Curriculum Areas Expressive Arts, Health and Wellbeing, Modern Languages, Literacy and English, Religious and Moral Education, Social Studies
Director Paul Berry
Country of Origin UK
Medium / Content 3D Animation, Fiction, Colour, Sound
Themes Feelings, Danger / Fear, Culture / Society
Clip Length 10:00
Clip Length 10:00
Age Group S1-S3, S4-S6