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What is Movie Snow Made Of?

What is Movie Snow Made Of

The magic of movies has always been in its ability to transport the viewer into a space of make belief that we really believe. When movies are truly well-done, we think that what we see on the screen is reality. With CGI technology, movies have become hyper realistic. But it hasn’t always been this way. For example, something as simple as snow wasn’t always made in the same way as it used to be. So, what is movie snow made of? We look at the development of movie snow to understand how far we’ve come in the film industry!

First Movie Snow

Charlie Chaplin’s silent film, The Gold Rush, was one of the first films to ever use artificial snow in 1925. Set in Alaska, amidst terrible snow storms, the cast become ill when trying to film on location. So, they decided to film everything in Hollywood, using salt and flour to create the illusion of snowy Alaska.

Another form of fake snow was also used in The Wizard of Oz, which began by using cotton.  Movie snow was often made up of cotton during this time. However, this soon became a fire hazard. So the cotton was replaced industrial grade chrysotile, more commonly known as white asbestos. From the 1930’s until the 1950’s, white asbestos, also known as “Pure White” during that time, was used to create movie snow.

It’s a Wonderful Life

It wasn’t until the making of It’s a Wonderful Life that a safer and more practical fake snow was invented. It used a mixture of foamite (the foam used in fire extinguishers), water, sugar and soap flakes, and this artificial snow was discontinued because it made a crunch sound when filming. They also used shaved ice and plaster on certain parts of the set.

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Related: learn why movie green screens are green

Movie Snow Today

Movie snow has now taken on a more eco-friendly turn for the better. In The Day After Tomorrow (2004), the company Snow Business supplied a product called SnowCel, which is biodegradable and completely safe to use. It’s also one of the most realistic looking movie snows yet. They have even developed a ground cover snow that bio-degrades as fertiliser!

Movie Snow in the past

Lots of Christmas decorations from the 1940’s and earlier contained white asbestos, including a fake snow called snow drift. These decorations we’re sold on small scale, intended for private homes, and have been the source of many concerns. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a very rare and deadly cancer.


Movie snow hasn’t always been as realistic, or as safe, as it is today. Now, we can rest assured that people working on movie sets will not be exposed to dangerous fake snow that could negatively affect their health!

How Hollywood Makes Movie Snow, Explained

You probably have never thought about it, but a lot of the snow you see in your favorite holiday film is actually a bit of movie magic. Special materials that have honed over a century of sometimes dangerous experimentation, technological wizardry, and actual snow consultants merge together to craft all those wondrous flurries, squalls, and snowbanks.

Here’s an inside look at how at how movie snow is created and used in movies you have watched. Super fascinating!