Frosty the Snowman (film)
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|Frosty the Snowman|
|Based on||"Frosty the Snowman"
by Steve Nelson
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Directed by||Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Starring||Billy De Wolfe
|Narrated by||Jimmy Durante|
|Theme music composer||Maury Laws|
|Country of origin||United States
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Rankin/Bass Productions
NBCUniversal Television Distribution
|Original release||December 7, 1969|
|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 continues to air annually), 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.
One December afternoon, a little girl named Karen and her friends create a snowman after a class Christmas party at school. After several suggestions of what to call their snowman (including "Oatmeal" and "Christopher Columbus"), Karen decides to name him "Frosty." Later, the children acquire a top hat discarded by inept magician Professor Hinkle. Karen places the hat on top of Frosty's head, and the snowman comes to life (and always says "Happy Birthday!" in response). When Hinkle learns of the magic power his hat actually possesses, he takes it back and departs, pretending that he did not see Frosty come to life. However, the professor's pet rabbit, Hocus Pocus, returns the hat to Frosty and the children.
Frosty soon senses the temperature is rising and worries about melting away. The children suggest putting him on the next train to the North Pole, where he will never melt, and they all parade into the city on the way to the train station, where Frosty has his confrontation with the traffic cop mentioned in the song's lyrics. When Karen explains that Frosty came to life and doesn't know what a traffic light or a lamp post is, the traffic cop lets Frosty go. At the train station, Frosty stows away aboard a refrigerated train car, since neither he nor the children have any money for a train ticket. As the train is about to leave the station, Karen and Hocus decide to join Frosty for the ride to keep him company. With that, Frosty, Karen, and Hocus wave goodbye to the other kids as the train takes off. Unbeknownst to them, Hinkle has also hitched a ride on the train, intending to get his hat back.
As the train continues up north, however, Frosty notices Karen is freezing and starting to catch a cold, so they jump off the train, leaving Hinkle behind once again. Hinkle, seeing them escape, jumps off the train too, but falls down a mountain and crashes into a tree where a pile of snow falls on him. At Frosty's request, Hocus convinces some forest animals who are preparing for Christmas to build a campfire for Karen. Fearing that Karen still cannot survive for long in the cold weather, Frosty asks Hocus who might be able to help them. Hocus suggests (by pantomiming) the President of the United States and the United States Marines, before suggesting Santa Claus. Frosty agrees, and promptly takes credit for the idea himself (much to Hocus' annoyance). Hocus hops off to get Santa, but Hinkle then confronts Frosty and Karen once more and blows out Karen's campfire. Frosty and Karen are again forced to flee, this time with Karen riding on Frosty's back as he slides head-first down a hill. At the bottom of the slope, Karen and Frosty discover a greenhouse filled with Christmas poinsettias. Despite Karen's objections, Frosty steps inside the warm greenhouse with her, suggesting that he could afford to lose a little weight while she warms up. Unfortunately, an angry and vengeful Hinkle catches up to them immediately after and locks them in the greenhouse.
Hocus brings Santa Claus to the greenhouse only to find Karen in tears and Frosty melted on the floor due to Hinkle's cruel act. Santa explains to Karen that Frosty is made from Christmas snow, and that he can never completely disappear, only take the form of summer rain, until next December. With a gust of cold wind through the open greenhouse door, the puddle that was Frosty blows out the door and magically changes back into his typical snowman form. Before Santa can put the finishing touch on Frosty and bring him back to life, as Hocus arrives with the hat, Hinkle arrives on the scene and again demands the return of his hat. He relents only when threatened with being removed from Santa's Christmas list for the rest of his life if he put so much as one finger on the hat. Santa states that if Hinkle is truly repentant for his mean attitude and harming Frosty, and if he goes home and writes "I am really sorry for what I did to Frosty" a hundred zillion times, he may find a gift in his stocking on Christmas morning, which makes Hinkle bid Frosty and Karen farewell and run home to repeatedly write his apologies, assuming he may get a new hat. Finally, Santa then places the magic hat back on top of Frosty's head, and the snowman returns to life again. After celebrating, Santa takes Karen home and Frosty to the North Pole, but promises that Frosty will be back next winter.
The end credits show all the characters the next Christmas marching through the town square with Frosty in the lead, singing the "Frosty the Snowman" song. Among them is a redeemed Professor Hinkle, who is proudly wearing his new top hat. At the end of the parade, Frosty gets back into Santa's waiting sleigh and they return to the North Pole, with Frosty proclaiming, "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty
- Jimmy Durante as himself (Narrator)
- June Foray as Karen (original airing), schoolteacher, and Karen's friends (original airing)
- Suzanne Davidson as Karen (later airings, uncredited)
- Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
- Paul Frees as the traffic cop, ticket man, and Santa Claus
- Produced and Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass
- Written by Romeo Muller
- Based on the Original Song by Steve Nelson, Jack Rollins © 1951 Hill-Range Songs
- Production Designer: Paul Coker, Jr.
- Continuity Designer: Don Duga
- Animation Production by Mushi Studio
- Supervising Director: Steve Nakagawa
- Animation Director: Osamu Dezaki (uncredited)
- Animation: Akio Sugino, Sadao Miyamoto (both uncredited)
- Music Composed and Directed by Maury Laws
- Sound Effects Engineers: Jim Harris, Phil Kaye
- Supervising Film Editing: Irwin Goldress
© 1969 Videocraft International Limited
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:
- 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
In the United States, CBS continues to hold the telecast rights to the original program (under license from the current copyright holder, Universal Television, 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 Freeform in some territories. However, CBS does not own the telecast rights to the 1976 sequel Frosty's Winter Wonderland (that special currently airs on Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas each year), which prompted CBS to produce its own "sequel" of sorts, Frosty Returns (see below).
VHS and LaserDisc
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 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
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.
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 and eventually killed him). 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. Furthermore, it makes no mention whatsoever of Christmas; in fact it could be considered more a "winter solstice" special than a Christmas special as it celebrates the season of winter.
- 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. This is the only other Frosty cartoon to mention Christmas or Santa Claus in addition to the 1969 original.
- 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 previous 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.
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