FROSTY THE SNOWMAN
Original Air Date: December 7, 1969
A group of children and a magical rabbit bring a lovable snowman to life. Keeping him that way gets to be a little problematic…
Frosty the Snowman comes from the popular Christmas song written by Walter “Jack” Collins and Steve Nelson in 1950, just one year after the duo penned the immortal “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tale” for Easter.
The book adaptation of the Frosty song, and the album on which it appears performed by Gene Autry, who first turned down the opportunity perform Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, thinking the song was “too silly”
Following the success of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Cricket on the Hearth, Rankin/Bass decided to adapt another Holiday tune into a televised Christmas special and Mad Magazine artist, Paul Cocker Jr. was brought in to give Frosty the look and feel of a Christmas greeting card.
Frosty the Snowman premiered on CBS in 1969, and has done so every year since. Rankin/Bass produced numerous sequels to the special, including Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. Their success would prompt latter day rights holders to produce further Frosty specials including CBS’s Frosty Returns in 1992 and the direct-to-DVD The Legend of Frosty the Snowman in 2005.
Frosty Returns and The Legend of Frosty the Snowman. The sheer amount of Frosty sequels alone ensure this blog will have material until 2015
My memories of this special are a little vague, since I believe Frosty the Snowman’s annual airings began to taper off into earlier timeslots during my childhood, thus somehow passing me by once the other Xmas specials were airing in full swing in late December.
Now, I don’t mean to sell the special short, but it’s not hard to see why a kid could become slightly less interested in Frosty. Compared to other Rankin/Bass Christmas classics based of Holiday songs, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty just doesn’t hold up as well.
I’ll bet you’ve forgotten about some of this stuff
The animation isn’t crude necessarily, yet it’s certainly rudimentary, especially when watched side-by-side with something as painstakingly gorgeous as How the Grinch Stole Christmas. And I’m not sure if my DVD was an odd remaster, but the audio was almost distracting. The children’s vocals are so crystal clear they seem disembodied from what’s onscreen, coupled with several sequences that are just a mess of stock Hanna-Barbera sound effects, oftentimes accompanied with the low-fi ambient noise of a record player.
The Great Tiny Train Robbery of ’69
That said, of course I’m still nostalgic for Frosty – Jackie Vernon’s depiction of the famous snowman remains one of the most iconic versions of the character to this day. But just writing about it makes me feel old as dirt. How would you try and convey the magic of Jimmy Durante’s role as narrator and songman?
I’d like to tell kids he’s the comedian Looney Tunes are impersonating every time they grow a large nose and say “Inka-Dinka-Do,” but it’s not like those toons have aired much in the last decade either.
The simple joys of winter
Doesn’t matter much anyway, because Frosty the Snowman is still a pretty grand adventure, even if it is unspooled at a pace better suited for preschoolers. Before the opening credits role, we see a snowed in school visited by a rather shitty magician named Professor Hinkle.
“Nothing up my sleeve”
He botches every trick in his bag, and once the kids quit groaning long enough to take off outside, a magic rabbit named Hocus Pocus runs outside with the illusionist’s hat.
Hats: The key to existence
Turns out the hat is actually powerful enough to bring precipitation to life! And the kids all rejoice for several minutes after their snowman becomes strangely sentient.
Just a little bit of pixie dust
Unfortunately, even though Hinkle has failed to produce anything but failed appearances at elementary schools with the godlike abilities of the hat, he demands it back, believing he can make millions doing nothing other than making snow talk.
For this, Hocus Pocus, will not stand! Even Uncle Jimmy confirms that, since the hat basically is the soul of this now-living creature, the hat now belongs to Frosty, and the hapless rabbit runs it back to the snowman.
Resurrection: A cause for celebration
Okay, assuming you accept the statutes enacted by the Finders v. Keepers case, you’ll have no problem swallowing the rest of the special. Because Frosty parties so goddamned hard, he begins to sweat profusely.
“The hat must’ve given me glands too”
Not sure about the meteorological feasibility of condensation on precipitation, but one thing’s clear: If Frosty gets too hot, he’s gonna melt. The kids don’t want to see him die, so a plan is conspired to get Frosty to the North Pole, post haste! And what better way to kick off the convoy then with a slam-bangin’ Xmas parade?!
Too merry for crosswalks
I love the following sequence, as it chucks away most of the ambiguity in other Christmas fables. Frosty is alive, and it’s no secret, nor a figment of the children’s imagination, because the entire town gets to see it too.
“This town is for figurative Whites only!”
A policeman is shown to already harbor negative snowman stereotypes, and even worse, the guy at the train station is demanding $3K to get Frosty to the North Pole. A bold statement on the corrupt practices found in Holiday travel inflation? I think so.
You must be at least this rich to ride over the the Holidays
With that kind of price gouge in place, I won’t fault the petty crime they pull next. No longer merely hat thieves, the kids stow Frosty away in a refrigerated train car. And for whatever reason, Karen opts to ride along in the icebox, and Frosty foresees zero conflict with this.
I see no problem with this
Nor do the shortsighted trio see that Professor Hinkle stow away too, still hellbent on getting his goddamn hat back and reverting Frosty back to a lifetime of stationary snow standing.
Not the smartest stowaway
Here’s where my theory on this special being geared towards preschoolers gains a little more credence, as Karen starts to succumb to the inevitable. Now kids now the dangers of weather! Don’t eat cold, kids. Sure a snow creature and a rabbit are fit for traveling to the North Pole through the snow and a refrigerator, but the idiocy the rest of us all saw coming begins to unfold.
Oh, right! It’s fucking freezing
Frosty’s left with no choice but to hop off his ideal lift to immorality and get Karen to warmer pastures. So what do we do when we get to cold, kids? That’s right: Start Fires!
Stumbling upon a woodland Xmas
Thing is, Frosty can’t get too close to flame, as he’s become all too aware of his own mortality in his less than 15 minute existence on this earth, so it’s up to Hocus Rabbit to get the forest creatures to build a fire.
Speaking “animal” is sorta like asking where the bathroom is in a foreign country
“This is awesome, why have been hibernating all these years?!”
In order to keep Karen alive, Frosty’s gotta keep his distance, and waits for Santa to fly by and give her a lift home. Unfortunately, both of their survival necessities leave them vulnerable to attack from, you guessed it: Proffy Hinkey.
Okay, he could be arrested for this
Frosty’s gotta act fast, and fast he acts, whisking Karen away on his back, becoming the fastest sled that ever lived!
His body bonds with snow like a blood cell in an artery
Karen is still weary and desperately in need of heat, so in a complicated choice, Frosty opts to set her down inside a tropical poinsettia greenhouse, then get the hell outta there before the heat reduces him to slush.
Somewhere between a sauna and Hell for Frosty
Oh, If only Hinkle weren’t right behind them…
Tried to piece together one of the panning shots. Hope ya like!
Back at the forest vestibule, Santa arrives and is thankfully fluent enough in animal tongue to get directions to Karen and Frosty.
This should’ve been subtitled
Tragically, it’s too late. I’m not sure why, but much like the ending of The Snowman, nothing gets me misty like a man melted.
Snowdeath for the Holidays
Not to worry, in this here magical dick-waving contest, Santa’s a regular John Holmes. He not only resurrects Frosty…
Brought back for the third time in a single special
He threatens Hinkle with a lifetime of presentlessness should he ever attempt to reclaim his hat.
How ’bout a festive knuckle sandwich?
Karen’s sleighed back home, and Frosty’s prolonged safety is all but assured.
“Thanks for not dropping me off at the front door“
The special concludes, yet in keeping with the wonderful tradition Rankin/Bass started with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman wraps up every loose end during the credits.
A shot from Christmas 1970
Frosty’s return is promised, and return he does in the numerous sequels that followed this Holiday staple.
“I’ll be back. A lot, actually“
Despite more than a few reasons to bend a knee and pray for survival, Christ gets no acknowledgment whatsoever.
Santa’s here big time, baby! And no offense to Frosty’s look, but his minimalist design ranks among some of my all time favorite depictions of Kris Kringle.
In spite of being a slightly antiquated affair, a whole lot happens during the brief half hour runtime. It’s likely you’ve forgotten many of the whimsical sequences that transpire here, so it’s certainly worth a watch. Yet, while I cherished this viewing from a historical perspective, I can’t say that Frosty the Snowman holds up as well as half a dozen other Rankin/Bass Christmas classics. Perhaps it’s due to animation that doesn’t set itself apart anywhere near as well as their stop-motion output. Those specials raised the bar in their respective medium, whereas Frosty barely touches it. However, it’s important to remember that Frosty pretty much provided template for a zillion other animated TV specials you hold dear today. So, if you haven’t see it, you don’t shit about Christmas specials, son!
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
Frosty the Snowman is available on numerous DVDs, and generally comes bundled with Frosty Returns as a bonus feature. I’d recommend people pick it up in The Original Christmas Classics on DVD or Blu-ray since they come with the phenomenal Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and more! Of course, you can also purchase the standalone Frosty DVD, as can Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, which all technically relate back to this Rankin/Bass original.
Yesterday’s Christmas Special
A DISNEY CHRISTMAS GIFT
2009’s Dec. 2nd Special