Frosty the Snowman (film)

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Frosty the Snowman
FTSM cover.jpg
DVD cover
Based on "Frosty the Snowman"
by Steve Nelson
Jack Rollins
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.
Cinematography Steve Nakagawa
Osamu Dezaki
Running time 25 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass Productions
Mushi Production
(animation)
Distributor NBCUniversal Television Distribution
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 teacher hires Professor Hinkle, an inept magician, to perform for the children's Christmas party. After becoming uninterested in his tricks, the children go outside to play in the snow where they build a snowman with a corncob pipe, a red button nose, two coal eyes and a broomstick. After the children's suggested names for the snowman including Harold, Bruce, Christopher Columbus and "Oatmeal", Karen names him Frosty. Just then, Hinkle's rabbit, Hocus Pocus, hops outside with Hinkle's silk hat over him. By the time Hinkle also comes out and grabs Hocus, the wind then blows the hat until Karen catches it and quickly places it onto Frosty's head. And suddenly, to the children and Hinkle's surprise, Frosty transforms into a living snowman with an aura of sparkle, saying, "Happy Birthday!" The children becomes delighted as they realize it was the magic of the hat that cause Frosty to come to life. But after he also finds out that the hat is magic, Professor Hinkle takes back the hat when another wind blows it off Frosty's head, changing the snowman back to his lifeless form. The ridiculous magician vows to use the hat to become a millionaire, and when the children state their objections, he mockingly tells them that when they grow up, they'll learn that snowmen can't come to life and leaves.

However, Hocus steals back the hat from Hinkle by switching it with the pine-wrath and escapes his greedy master, immediately returning back to the children and Frosty. Thanks to Hocus, Karen puts the hat back on Frosty's head, and for the second time, the snowman is brought to life by its magical power. However, as the children had fun with their friend after observing him learn to speak more words, move his body, juggle snowballs, count numbers and express emotions like being ticklish, Frosty enters the early stages of sweating. Noticing a thermometer on the school's brick wall, he worries that when the temperature rises, he will melt. On Karen's suggestions to find some place where he'd never melt, Frosty names only one place: the North Pole. The children decide to take him to the North Pole, even taking him downtown to the railroad station where he can ride on the train. Frosty, the children and Hocus parade through town, shocking other people including the traffic cop who then accidentally swallows his whistle after excusing Frosty for being alive and naive. When the group arrives at the railroad station, however, they realize they have no money to buy train tickets. So Frosty, Karen and Hocus hitch a ride on a train headed north in a refrigerator car full of ice cream and frozen Christmas cakes. However, as the train departs from the station, Professor Hinkle also sneaks aboard, still vowing to get the hat back.

Noticing that Karen is freezing in the boxcar, Frosty realizes that she has to get out. And so, when the freight train stops to let a passenger train filled with Christmas travelers pass, Frosty, Karen and Hocus jump off the car just before the train starts off again. Seeing the trio avoiding him, Professor Hinkle jumps off the train as well, but tumbles down the hill and hits a tree where snow and icicles fell on him while a nearby squirrel laughs at his misfortune. Now in the woods, Frosty, Karen and Hocus struggle to get away before Hinkle can catch up to them, Karen is near hypothermia, and the woods are bitterly cold. And to make matters worse, when Hocus suggests the need of building a fire, Frosty reveals that he can't do it. Luckily, the threesome find the forest animals decorating their Christmas tree to await the arrival of Santa Claus. Frosty asks Hocus to tell the animals to build a fire for Karen. After the animals do so to let Karen warm herself, Frosty also needs someone to come bring her home and him to the North Pole. Both the ideas of the Marines and the President of the United States refused, Hocus suggests Santa. Frosty orders Hocus to go back to the animals and bring Santa to him when he appears. But that night, as Frosty waits patiently for Santa, the now-recovered Professor Hinkle shows up. He blows out the fire and demands Frosty to give him back the hat. Frosty and Karen escape Hinkle by sliding down the snowy hills at the fact that Frosty was the "fastest belly whopper in the world", being made of snow. They both find a greenhouse used to grow Christmas poinsettias, and go inside where Frosty begins to melt slowly. But the exhausted Professor Hinkle again catches up and closes the door behind Frosty and Karen, trapping them inside and ensuring that hat will be his again when Frosty is completely melted.

Meanwhile, Santa Claus arrives and Hocus leads him to the greenhouse where Professor Hinkle quickly hides behind the tree to avoided getting seen, only to find Karen crying over a melted Frosty. But Santa explains that Frosty is made of Christmas snow and will come back every winter. And to show Karen how he means it, Santa then opens the greenhouse door and lets the magical "December Wind" take out Frosty's puddle, restoring his body. But just as Santa, Karen and Hocus are about to put Frosty's magic hat back on to bring him back to life, Professor Hinkle reappears and still demands that he wants the hat back. But Santa warns him that if he takes it, he'll never get another Christmas present for the rest of his life. Professor Hinkle is upset at the fact that he may never have any more magic accessories, stating that "evil magicians" have to make a living as well. Santa suggests that if Hinkle writes his apologies a hundred-zillion times with the words, "I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty.", he'll get a new hat in his stocking on Christmas morning. Overjoyed in agreement, Hinkle runs home to write his apologies, saying goodbye to Santa, Karen and Hocus. Santa then brings Frosty back to life, and later on, he takes Karen home, and brings Frosty back to the North Pole, promising that he'll return next year.

As the end credits roll, Frosty and the children parade through town. The townspeople also join the parade, including the traffic cop, and a reformed Professor Hinkle wearing his new hat. 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!"

Voice cast[edit]

  • Jackie Vernon as Frosty
  • Jimmy Durante as the Narrator
  • June Foray as Karen, schoolteacher, and Karen's friends; Karen's non-singing lines were re-dubbed by an unknown actress for later releases of the film
  • Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
  • Paul Frees as the traffic cop, ticket man, and Santa Claus

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

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, 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).

Home media[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 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 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.

References[edit]

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

External links[edit]