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.
|Voices of||Billy De Wolfe|
|Narrated by||Jimmy Durante|
|Country of origin||United States|
Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Rankin/Bass Productions|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution|
|Original release||December 7, 1969|
|Followed by||Frosty's Winter Wonderland|
Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and currently distributed by Universal Television. It is the first television special featuring the character Frosty the Snowman. The special first aired on December 7, 1969 on the CBS television network in the United States; it has been airing annually for the network's Christmas and holiday season. The special was based on the Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson song of the same name. It featured the voices of comedians Jimmy Durante as the film's narrator (Durante's final performance in a film), Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle the Magician, and Jackie Vernon as Frosty.
The special's story follows a group of school children who build a snowman called Frosty and place a magic hat on his head, which makes him come to life with enchanted power. But after noticing the high hot temperature and fearing that he would melt, Frosty, along with young girl named Karen and a rabbit named Hocus Pocus, must go to the North Pole to be safe from melting.
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 Tokyo, Japan, with Hanna-Barbera staffer Yusaku "Steve" Nakagawa and then-Mushi staffer Osamu Dezaki (who is uncredited) among the animation staff. Durante was one of the first people to record the song when it was released in 1950 (at the time the song had slightly different lyrics); he re-recorded the song for the special.
In a school on Christmas Eve, a teacher hires Professor Hinkle, an inept magician, to entertain the children for their class Christmas party. After failing his first trick, he throws his hat away.
Class is dismissed and the children go to play in the snow where they build a snowman. After debating and rejecting several names such as "Christopher Columbus" and "Oatmeal," a girl named Karen chooses the name "Frosty." Hocus Pocus, Hinkle's rabbit, comes out of the school with the hat, which lands on Frosty's head, bringing him to life. When Hinkle sees this, he takes the hat back after a gust of wind blows it off Frosty's head. Hinkle refuses to give the hat back, telling the children that when they grow up, they'll learn that snowmen cannot come to life and leaves. Hocus brings the hat back to the children, who put it back on Frosty's head, bringing him back to life; the children all celebrate. Frosty feels the temperature rising and worries he'll melt. 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, shocking several townspeople, including the traffic cop. Despite having no money for tickets, Frosty and Karen sneak aboard a refrigerated boxcar on a northbound train, with Karen expecting to be home before dinner that night. Hinkle clings to the undercarriage of the caboose of the same train, still demanding his hat back.
As the train continues northward and night falls, Karen is getting colder, so they disembark in search of something to keep her warm. 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 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 again flee, this time with Karen riding on Frosty's back as he belly-whops down the hill. At the bottom of the slope, Karen and Frosty discover a greenhouse filled with 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. When Hinkle arrives, he locks the door of the greenhouse, trapping Frosty inside.
Hocus leads Santa to the greenhouse, only to find Karen crying over a melted Frosty. But Santa explains that Frosty cannot melt away because he is made of Christmas snow and will always come back every winter. He then opens the greenhouse door, letting in a gust of wind, reviving Frosty. Just as they're about to put his hat on, Hinkle arrives and demands his hat back, Santa threatens never to give him any Christmas presents for the rest of his life and tells Hinkle to go home and write his apologies so he might get a new hat on Christmas morning. After Hinkle runs home to write his apologies, Santa then brings Frosty back to life and takes Karen home and Frosty to the North Pole, with Santa and Frosty promising to return the following Christmas.
As the credits roll, Frosty leads a parade through the town with the children, Jimmy Durante, Hocus, the traffic cop, a reformed Professor Hinkle, who is proudly wearing his new top hat, and the rest of the townspeople. At the end of the parade, Frosty boards Santa's sleigh and they leave for the North Pole, with Frosty altering the song's last lyric, saying, "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty
- Jimmy Durante as himself (Narrator)
- June Foray as Karen (original airing, vocal effects in later airings), schoolteacher, and Karen's friends (original airing, some lines in later airing)
- Suzanne Davidson as Karen, and Karen's friends (later airings, uncredited)
- Greg Thomas as Karen’s friends (later airings, uncredited)
- Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
- Paul Frees as Karen's friends (original airing), the traffic cop, ticket man, 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 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, NBCUniversal Television), and still airs it yearly with the CBS-produced sequel Frosty Returns (see below); it has run 49 years on the same network as of 2018, longer than any other currently airing Christmas special (other specials that debuted earlier have changed networks at least once). 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 AMC's "Best Christmas Ever" block), which prompted CBS to commission 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, DreamWorks Animation (Classic Media's parent company since 2012) and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (which served as DreamWorks' distributor until mid-2017) 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. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released a Deluxe Edition of the special, along with other specials on Blu-ray and DVD in 2018.
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. As the special takes place in the late winter, it makes no mention of Christmas (the original song likewise did not mention Christmas).
- 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. (Funny, as Patrick starred in a Nicktoons crossover short called "Patrick the Snowman" before this. Tom Kenny also plays a role in this film.) And it, like Frosty Returns and Frosty's Winter Wonderland, also never mentions anything to do with Christmas whatsoever.
- TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 574. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
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