Frosty the Snowman (film)

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Frosty the Snowman
FTSM cover.jpg
Written by Romeo Muller
Directed by Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Starring Billy De Wolfe
Jackie Vernon
Paul Frees
June Foray
Narrated by Jimmy Durante
Theme music composer Maury Laws
Country of origin United States
Japan
Original language(s) English
Production
Producer(s) Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Running time 25 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass
Mushi Production
Distributor DreamWorks Classics
Release
Original network CBS
Original release December 7, 1969 (1969-12-07)
Chronology
Followed by Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 animated Christmas television special based on the song "Frosty the Snowman". 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 Productions and featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as the film's narrator (Durante's final performance in a film) and Jackie Vernon as the title character.

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.

Rankin/Bass veteran writer Romeo Muller adapted and expanded the story for television as he had done with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

TV Guide ranked the special number 4 on its 10 Best Family Holiday Specials list.[1]

Plot[edit]

On Christmas Eve, the schoolteacher hires an inept magician named Professor Hinkle to perform magic for the class Christmas party and keep her students' attention. Hinkle fails in both regards and throws his hat away in disgust, but it releases his white rabbit named Hocus Pocus who then wear the hat and hop around the classroom, taunting Hinkle and making the children laugh. As soon as the school day ends, the children rush outside to play and decide to build a snowman. When their snowman was completed with a corncob pipe, a red button nose, two lumps of coal as his eyes and a broomstick, the children wonder what name they should call him. After considering and rejecting names such as Harold, Bruce, Christopher Columbus and even "Oatmeal," a young girl named Karen names the snowman "Frosty." At that point, Hocus escapes from the school building still wearing the hat, with Hinkle chasing him. As Hinkle finally grabbed Hocus, the hat was knocked off and blown by the wind, allowing Karen to catch it and place it onto Frosty's head. And then to the surprise of the children and Hinkle, the magic of the hat causes Frosty to come to life, saying his first words, "Happy Birthday!" This delighted the children at first, but after he was also amazed to see that the hat is actually magic, the agitated Hinkle takes it back after another wind blows it off Frosty's head, making the snowman inanimate. When the children protest, he tells them that when they get older, they will learn that snowmen can't come alive. However, after he leaves, Hocus steals back the hat by switching it with a pine wreath on Hinkle's head and returns it to the children, thus bringing Frosty to life again. The children are very happy with their friend, but the temperature of the school's thermometer on the wall soon rises, making Frosty know that he must leave for somewhere that is colder or else he will melt. Frosty explains that the only place he won't melt is the North Pole, and the children suggests that they'll take him to a downtown train station to get there. They parade through the town to the train station, shocking passersby and a traffic cop, who swallows his whistle after excusing Frosty. When they get to the station however, they find that they do not have money to buy tickets. So Karen, Frosty, and Hocus sneak into the back of a train headed north as stowaways, into the refrigerated car full of ice cream and Christmas cakes. Hinkle also sneaks aboard the undercarriage of the caboose, determined to get the hat back.

While Frosty is safe from melting in the refrigerated car, Karen is freezing. When the train stops to give the right of way to a passenger train, Frosty, Karen and Hocus jump off. Once the train starts up again, Hinkle see this and, realizing he's been foiled yet again, jumps off and tumbles down a cliff and hits a tree where snow and icicles fall on him while a nearby squirrel laughs at his misfortune. The trio is able to get a good distance away before Hinkle comes to, but Frosty needs to get Karen warmed up as soon as possible as she is risking hypothermia. Frosty recommends making a campfire but knows that he can't do that, so Hocus convinces all the forest animals to make the fire. While Karen is warming herself, Frosty tells Hocus that they must find someone to take Karen home and him to the North Pole. Hocus recommends enlisting the aid of the U.S. Marines or the President of the United States, but Frosty tells him that they need someone nearby, prompting Hocus to suggest Santa Claus which he agrees. Hocus leaves with the other animals to search for Santa. As Frosty patiently waits, Hinkle suddenly appears, blows out the fire, and demands the hat back; but Frosty and Karen make another getaway by sliding down the hill to a small greenhouse used to grow poinsettias. Frosty carries Karen inside where she will be warm and safe. However, Hinkle again catches up and locks Frosty and Karen inside, ensuring that the hat will be his again when Frosty melts.

Hocus takes Santa to the greenhouse where they find Karen crying over a melted Frosty. Santa explains to Karen that Frosty can't melt away forever because he is made of Christmas snow and will always come back every winter. He then opens the greenhouse door, letting in a cold winter wind which revives Frosty. Just as about they are about to put the hat on to bring him back to life, Hinkle appears and again demands the hat back. Santa warns Hinkle that he will never bring him another Christmas present again if he takes the hat from Frosty. Hinkle begs for another chance and Santa suggests if he writes his apologies repeatedly, he may be forgiven and might get a new hat. Hinkle then runs home to write his apologies and after bringing Frosty back to life, Santa takes Karen on a sleigh ride home and then takes Frosty to the North Pole, promising that he will return every year when another Christmas snowfall comes.

As the end credits roll, Frosty leads the children and the townspeople 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!"

Voice Characterizations[edit]

Production credits[edit]

© 1969 Videocraft International Limited

Soundtrack[edit]

CD cover

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 track listing is as follows:

  1. Medley: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town...Be Prepared To Pay 25:18
  2. Medley: Put One Foot In Front Of The Other...Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (finale) 24:55
  3. Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Beginning) 13:45
  4. Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Conclusion) 11:48
  5. Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Soundtrack Version) 1:50
  6. Frosty The Snowman (Soundtrack Version) 1:04

Later edits[edit]

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."

Television rights[edit]

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).

Home media releases[edit]

VHS and LaserDisc[edit]

Family Home Entertainment released Frosty the Snowman on VHS as part of the Christmas Classics Series in 1989 and 1993, with multiple re-prints throughout the 1990s. It was paired with the The Little Drummer Boy on LaserDisc in 1992. Upon its 1989 and 1993 releases, the special was also bundled in box sets with the other Rankin/Bass Christmas specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the 1973 Chuck Jones holiday special, A Very Merry Cricket and the sequel Frosty Returns which aired on CBS in 1992. In 1998, Sony Wonder and Golden Books Family Entertainment released the special on VHS, and also paired it with these other Rankin/Bass Christmas specials including Cricket on the Hearth in the separate Holiday Classics Collection box sets.

DVD and Blu-ray[edit]

The special was also released on DVD by Sony Wonder and Classic Media in 2002 and 2004, and by Genius Entertainment in 2007. Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment released it on DVD and Blu-ray on October 12, 2010, and on the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack on November 6, 2012. Most DVD releases also include Frosty Returns. On September 8, 2015, Classic Media released both the special and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town in their 45th Anniversary Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD in addition to the 50th Anniversary release of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 2014.

Sequels[edit]

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 (Durante had suffered a stroke that had forced his retirement in 1972). Jackie Vernon once again reprised his role as the voice of Frosty. Animation is produced by Topcraft in Japan. Unlike the original, the sequel takes place later in the winter season and is based upon the 1934 song "Winter Wonderland;" it features Frosty's pursuit of a wife and efforts to preserve him into the springtime.
  • Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July - This 1979 Rankin/Bass feature-length sequel was filmed in "Animagic" 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, in his last time for Rankin/Bass playing the voice of Frosty. This film features Frosty and his family as supporting characters.
  • 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, voices and animation (by Bill Melendez) are 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, and Jonathan Winters serves as narrator. Frosty's appearance is physically different, his personality and humor have changed, and he has the ability to live without his top hat, in direct contrast with the original and its other sequels. Also in contrast to the original specials, the special avoids all mention of Christmas (despite the special portraying the beginning of winter) and has an environmentalist theme, as Frosty works to stop a corporate executive whose product wipes out snow packs with one spray.
  • 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. Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, best known as the voice of Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants. And it, like Frosty Returns and Frosty's Winter Wonderland, also never mentions anything to do with Christmas whatsoever.

References[edit]

  1. ^ TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 574. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1. 

External links[edit]