Frosty the Snowman (TV program)
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|Frosty the Snowman|
|Directed by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Produced by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Narrated by||Jimmy Durante|
|Starring||Billy De Wolfe
|Music by||Maury Laws|
|Release date||December 7, 1969|
|Running time||25 minutes|
Frosty the Snowman is an American animated Christmas family television special based on the popular song of the same title. The program, which first aired on December 7, 1969 on CBS (where it still airs to this day), was produced for television by Rankin/Bass and featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as narrator (Durante's final performance in a film) and Jackie Vernon as the titular character.
This special marked the first use of traditional cel animation (as opposed to stop-motion animation) for Rankin/Bass in a Christmas special. Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to give the show and its characters the look of a Christmas card, so Paul Coker, Jr., a greeting card and Mad magazine artist, was hired to do the character and background drawings. The animation was produced by Mushi Production in Japan, with then-Mushi staffer Osamu Dezaki among the animation staff.
The scene descends on Christmas Eve, in a small elementary one-room schoolhouse in which the obviously disinterested children wait impatiently for school to let out for Christmas vacation. The teacher has hired Professor Hinkle, an inept magician with a habit of repeating adjectives three times, to perform some tricks for the class Christmas party and keep the children's attention. Hinkle fails in both regards and throws his old silk top hat in the garbage in disgust. The school day ends, and the children go outside to build a snowman. After considering and rejecting names such as Bruce, Christopher Columbus and, to the other children's dismay, Oatmeal, a young girl named Karen names the snowman Frosty. At that point, Hinkle's rabbit Hocus Pocus escapes from the building while wearing his hat, which the children put on top of Frosty's head. To their surprise, and to great irony given Hinkle's inability to perform even the most basic sleight of hand, the magic of the hat causes Frosty to come to life. (The narrator's comments also suggest the timing of the snow—a first snow of the season on Christmas Eve—played a role in Frosty's animation.)
This delights the students, but after seeing that the hat is actually magic, the agitated Hinkle takes it back after the wind blows it off Frosty's head. Karen asks Hinkle for the hat back on the principle of finders keepers. Hinkle refuses, telling them (disingenuously) that when they get older, they will learn that snowmen can't come alive. However, after he leaves, Hocus returns the hat to the children (swapping Hinkle's hat for a Christmas wreath), thus bringing Frosty to life again. The children are very happy with their new (if somewhat dimwitted) friend, but the temperature is rising and Frosty must leave for somewhere that is colder or else he will melt. Frosty surmises that the only place he won't melt is the North Pole. They parade through the town to the train station, shocking passersby and a traffic cop, who swallows his whistle. When they get to the station however, they find that they do not have money to buy tickets to the North Pole. So, Karen, Frosty, and Hocus sneak into the back of a train headed north. Hinkle also sneaks aboard, determined to get the hat back.
While Frosty is safe from melting in the refrigerated car, Karen is freezing so the group leaves the train and Hocus gathers a group of woodland creatures to build a fire for her. Frosty knows that it is best if Karen is brought home and he and Hocus decide to enlist the help of Santa Claus. Hocus leaves to wait for Santa with the animals, but Hinkle comes back to get the hat back. Being too fast for Hinkle (the narrator explains that Frosty's snowy composition made him the fastest “belly-whopper” on Earth), Frosty and Karen slide down the hill to a small greenhouse used to grow poinsettias. Frosty carries Karen inside where she will be warm and safe. However, Hinkle catches up and locks Frosty and Karen inside.
Hocus brings Santa to the greenhouse only to find Karen crying over a melted Frosty. But Santa explains to Karen that Frosty is made of Christmas snow and can never melt away and will always come back every winter. He then opens the greenhouse door and revives Frosty. But before they can put the hat on him, Hinkle appears and demands the hat back. Santa tells him that if he even takes the hat back, he will never bring him another Christmas present for the rest of his life. Hinkle begs for another chance and Santa tells him to apologize and he might reconsider and possibly give him a new hat for Christmas. Hinkle then runs home to write his apologies and after bringing Frosty back to life, Santa takes Karen on a sleigh ride home and brings Frosty back to the North Pole, keeping his promise that he will return every year when another Christmas snowfall comes.
As the end credits roll, Frosty leads the town on another parade through town and Hinkle is seen with a new hat as the title song is sung. At the end of the parade, Frosty climbs in the back of Santa's sleigh and they leave for the North Pole with Frosty altering the last lyric of the song, saying, "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty the Snowman
- Jimmy Durante as the Narrator
- June Foray as Karen, schoolteacher.
- Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
- Paul Frees as the traffic cop, stationmaster, and Santa Claus
Released by Rhino on October 1, 2002, the entire audio portion of Frosty the Snowman is available on CD along with the entire audio portion of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the Rankin-Bass special produced in 1970. This edition contains the full dialogue and song audio of both specials.
The tracklisting is as follows:
- Medley: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town...Be Prepared To Pay 25:18
- Medley: Put One Foot In Front Of The Other...Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (finale) 24:55
- Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Beginning) 13:45
- Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Conclusion) 11:48
- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Soundtrack Version) 1:50
- Frosty The Snowman (Soundtrack Version) 1:04
On later airings after 1970, June Foray's voice was replaced by an unknown actress (Foray's voice is still heard as her singing voice, as well as other minor roles). The dubbing is also obvious on the DVD, as the audio quality of the replacement voice is better than that of the other sounds. The current restored version, which debuted in 2005, does not restore Foray's voice. At the time, rumors implied a controversy over copyrights and/or royalties as the reason behind the change, but the reason remains unknown. The original soundtrack with Foray's original voice track is available on CD. Foray recalled her experiences in the book "The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass","I was called in to voice the little girl Karen, I was disappointed to learn later that my work for the Karen character was replaced by another actress. To this day, I am unsure of the reason, but I still enjoy the special."
In the United States, CBS continues to hold the telecast rights to the original program (under license from the current copyright holder, DreamWorks Classics and still airs it yearly with the CBS-produced sequel Frosty Returns (see below). The CBC holds broadcast rights in Canada. The special also airs on ABC Family in some territories. However, CBS does not own the telecast rights to the 1976 sequel Frosty's Winter Wonderland (that special currently airs on ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas each year), which prompted CBS to produce its own "sequel" of sorts, Frosty Returns (see below).
Frosty returned in several sequels:
- Frosty's Winter Wonderland - This 1976 sequel by Rankin-Bass was also written by Romeo Muller. Narration is provided by Andy Griffith. Jackie Vernon once again reprised his role as the voice of Frosty. Unlike the original, the sequel doesn't take place on or around Christmas, instead taking place later in the winter season.
- Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July - This 1979 Rankin-Bass sequel was filmed in stop-motion animation in the style of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rudolph's Shiny New Year. While the Frosty specials were 30 minutes long, and the Rudolph specials were 60 minutes, this ambitious special was feature length, at 97 minutes long (120 minutes on television, including commercials). Vernon once again played the role of Frosty, and this is his last time in Rankin Bass playing the voice of Frosty.
- Frosty Returns - This 1992 half-hour special is not truly a sequel to the 1969 classic, as it was produced not by Rankin-Bass but by CBS. The characters, setting, and voices are different and the animation (by Bill Melendez) is vastly different. Despite this, it is shown with the original special every year on CBS and was even included as a bonus on its DVD release. John Goodman provides the voice of Frosty in this special, as Jackie Vernon had died five years earlier, in 1987. Frosty's appearance is physically different, and has the ability to live without his top hat. In this special and later specials, when his hat comes off, he turns back into an inanimate snowman, also like in Frosty's Winter Wonderland, Christmas isn't ever mentioned, not Santa Claus either. The possible reason why Frosty can live without his top hat because in Frosty's Winter Wonderland, he received a kiss from his wife Crystal.
- The Legend of Frosty the Snowman - This 2005 straight-to-video film was produced by Classic Media, the current rights holder for the original Rankin/Bass special, and the remainder of their pre-1974 library. This movie has been bundled with the original 1969 Rankin/Bass special and the CBS sequel, and has also aired on Cartoon Network. The appearance of Frosty resembles much more the Rankin-Bass character design from their original animation, and Professor Hinkle returns in two cameo appearances - shown in a picture and flashback during the special. Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, best known as the voice of Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants.