Frosty the Snowman (TV program)

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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
Narrated by Jimmy Durante
Theme music composer Maury Laws
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr.
Running time 25 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass
Mushi Production
Distributor DreamWorks Classics
Original network CBS
Original release December 7, 1969 (1969-12-07)
Followed by Frosty's Winter Wonderland

Frosty the Snowman is an American animated Christmas family 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 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 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.

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]


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, but Hinkle fails in both regards and throws his hat away in disgust. As soon as the school day ends, the children rush outside to play and decide to build a snowman. 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, Hinkle's rabbit Hocus Pocus escapes from the building wearing the now discarded hat, which the wind blows it off before Hinkle finally grabs the rabbit. Karen quickly catch the hat from the wind, and place it onto Frosty's head. 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 seeing that the hat is actually magic, the agitated Hinkle takes it back after another wind blows it off Frosty's head, inanimating him again. 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 and returns it to the children, thus bringing Frosty to life again. The children are very happy with their friend, but soon the temperature rises and Frosty 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. 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. So, Karen, Frosty, and Hocus sneak into the back of a train headed north as stowaways. 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 and Karen jump off, foiling Hinkle yet again who jumps off the now moving train and tumbles down a cliff and hits the ground where snow and icicles fall on him while a nearby squirrel laughs at his misfortune. Frosty carries Karen through the forest before Hinkle woke up, and she is starting to catch cold. Frosty recommends making a campfire to warm her up, but he knows he cannot 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 President of the United States or the US Marines, but Frosty says they need someone nearby, so Hocus suggests Santa Claus. Though frosty takes it much to Hocus's dismay he leaves to wait for Santa with the animals, but Hinkle comes back to get the hat back. Being too fast for Hinkle, 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. 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, reviving Frosty. But before they can put the hat to bring him back to life, Hinkle appears and demands the hat back. Santa tells Hinkle 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 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!"

Voice Characterizations[edit]

Production credits[edit]

© 1969 Videocraft International Limited


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 tracklisting 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 1990's. 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 three Rankin/Bass Christmas specials 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 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. 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 nor does it even mention anything to do with Christmas, instead taking place later in the winter season.
  • 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, as Jackie Vernon had died five years earlier in 1987. 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. Like Frosty's Winter Wonderland, neither Christmas nor Santa Clause is mentioned.
  • 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.


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

External links[edit]