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Frosty the Snowman (TV special)
|Frosty the Snowman|
|Based on||"Frosty the Snowman"
by Steve Nelson
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Directed by||Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Voices of||Billy De Wolfe
|Narrated by||Jimmy Durante|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Producer(s)||Arthur Rankin, Jr.
|Running time||25 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Rankin/Bass Productions
|Original release||December 7, 1969 (1969-12-07)|
|Followed by||Frosty's Winter Wonderland|
Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 American 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 aired annually for the network's Christmas and holiday season every year since. 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 (in what would be Durante's final performance in a film), Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle, 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 a 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 (though at the time the song had slightly different lyrics); he re-recorded the song for the special.
In the schoolhouse on Christmas Eve, a teacher hires Professor Hinkle, an inept magician, to entertain her class for their Christmas party. After fumbling a trick, he throws his hat away in disgust. It then bounces off the trash can and releases his white rabbit, Hocus Pocus, who wears the hat and humiliates Hinkle, much to the otherwise bored and impatient children's amusement. Class is dismissed and the children go to play in the snow where they build a snowman. After suggesting several names, a girl named Karen names him "Frosty" to her classmates’ jovial agreement. Hocus comes out of the school with the hat, which is then caught in a gust of wind until Karen grabs it and puts it on Frosty's head, causing him to magically become conscious. When Hinkle sees this, he takes the hat back after another wind blows it off Frosty's head, turning the snowman back to his previous inanimate form. Hinkle refuses to give the hat back, planning to use the hat's magic to become rich.
Hocus brings the hat back to the children, who return Frosty to an animate state. While celebrating with the children, he feels the temperature rising and fears he will melt. The children then suggest putting him on the next train to the North Pole and parade through town on the way to the train station. This shocks several townspeople, including a police officer who accidentally swallows his whistle. Because they have no money for a ticket to the North Pole—noted by the receptionist as a $3,000 fare, Hocus, Frosty, and Karen hop a refrigerated boxcar on a northbound train. Hinkle clings to the undercarriage of the caboose of the same train, scheming to recover the hat.
As the train continues northward, Frosty notices Karen getting colder and realizes that she has to get out as soon as possible. When the freight train stops to let a passenger train full of Christmas travelers pass, they disembark in search of somewhere to warm Karen, with Hinkle following in pursuit. By nightfall, Frosty, Karen, and Hocus struggle through the woods. Hocus convinces a group of animals to build a campfire for Karen. Fearing that she still cannot survive for long in the cold weather, Frosty asks Hocus who else might be able to help them. Hocus suggests the United States Marines and President of the United States before they agree upon looking for Santa Claus. Hocus then goes off in search of him, and soon after, Hinkle catches up to Frosty and Karen, extinguishes the fire, and forcefully tries to steal Frosty's hat. The team then flee with Karen riding on Frosty's back as he luges down a hill on his stomach (described by narrator Jimmy Durante: “you see Frosty, for he was made of snow, was the fastest belly-whopper in the world.”)
At the bottom of the slope, they discover a greenhouse filled with poinsettias. Despite Karen's objections, Frosty steps inside with her, suggesting that he could afford to lose a little weight while she warms up. When Hinkle arrives, he locks the door and traps them inside.
Meanwhile, Hocus leads Santa to the greenhouse, only to find a heartbroken Karen crying over a melted Frosty; this segues into a flashback sequence through the puddle of water. After Santa breaks a fourth wall and refutes the Narrator's claim that he and Hocus were “too late,” he explains to Karen that Frosty cannot permanently die because he is “made of Christmas snow”, meaning he will return every winter. He then opens the greenhouse door, causing a gust of wind to reconstruct Frosty's lifeless figure. Just as they are about to put his hat back on, Hinkle arrives and demands its return. Santa intervenes, threatening to never give him any more presents if he assumes the hat. With Hinkle having to give up his plans, Santa tells him to go home and write an apology in order to receive a present; Hinkle leaves realizing that it might be a new hat and excitedly rushes off the screen. Santa then places the current hat on Frosty's head, bringing him back to life, before the three of them celebrate. Later, he returns Karen home and takes Frosty to the North Pole, promising to return on Christmas Day.
The ending shows Santa making good on his promise as Frosty parades through town again with Karen and her classmates, but this time joined by a reformed Hinkle with a new hat (indicating Santa kept his promise), the traffic cop, Hocus, the Narrator, and several townspeople. At the end, Frosty boards Santa's sleigh to be taken back north and said he'll be back on Christmas as the sleigh takes flight to end the parade.
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty
- Jimmy Durante as himself (Narrator)
- June Foray as Karen (original airing, vocal effects in later airings), Karen's friends (original airing, some lines in later airings), and schoolteacher
- Suzanne Davidson as Karen (later airings)
- Greg Thomas as Karen's friends (later airings)
- Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
- Paul Frees as Hocus Pocus, Traffic Cop, Ticket Man, and Santa Claus
- Producers/Directors: Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass
- Writer: Romeo Muller
- Based on "Frosty the Snowman" by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins
- Character Designer: Paul Coker, Jr.
- Continuity Designer: Don Duga
- Sound Effects Engineers: Jim Harris and Phil Kaye
- Editorial Supervisor: Irwin Goldress
- Animation: Mushi Studios
- Animation Supervisor: Steve Nakagawa
- Animation Director: Osamu Dezaki (uncredited)
- Musical Director: Maury Laws
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 holds the telecast rights to the original program (under license from the current copyright holder, Universal Television), and airs annually with the CBS-produced sequel Frosty Returns (see below), making it the longest run of a television special (50 years) on the same network, longer than any other currently airing Christmas special. The CBC holds broadcast rights in Canada. The special also airs on Freeform in some territories, and it began airing on that network in the U.S. beginning in 2019. (The deal will continue to allow both CBS and Freeform to share the broadcast rights to the special.) The telecast rights to the 1976 sequel Frosty's Winter Wonderland are held by AMC as part of its “Best Christmas Ever” block. CBS would later 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, 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. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released a Deluxe Edition of the special, along with other specials on Blu-ray and DVD on October 16, 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 (Jimmy Durante retired after a stroke in 1972) and Jackie Vernon reprised the role of Frosty. The animation was 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." The plot follows Frosty's pursuit of a wife and the town's efforts to preserve him into the springtime. Jack Frost is introduced as the new antagonist, and no characters besides Frosty return from the original. 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 the "Animagic" stop-motion style of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. While the Frosty special is 30 minutes long, and the Rudolph special runs 60 minutes, this film is feature-length, at 97 minutes long (120 minutes on television, including commercials). Jackie Vernon returned as the voice of Frosty for the final time. Rudolph is the primary character of the story, with Frosty and his family being supporting characters, and Jack Frost makes a brief return from Frosty's Winter Wonderland. Although set during the Fourth of July, this sequel is the only one to mention Christmas, and Santa Claus plays a major role.
- 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, and the characters, setting, voices and animation (by Bill Melendez) have all changed. Frosty's physical appearance, personality, and humor are markedly different, and he has the ability to live without his top hat, in direct contrast with the original and its other sequels. Despite this, it was included as a bonus on previous DVD releases. John Goodman provides the voice of Frosty in this special, and Jonathan Winters serves as narrator. The special avoids all mention of Christmas and has an environmentalist theme, as Frosty works to stop a corporate executive whose spray product wipes out snow.
- 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 aired on Cartoon Network. The story features almost entirely new characters and there are some inconsistencies in continuity, but Frosty's appearance closely resembles the Rankin/Bass character design, and Professor Hinkle appears in a flashback cameo role. Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, best known as the voice of Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants.
- Woolery, George W. (1989). Animated TV Specials: The Complete Directory to the First Twenty-Five Years, 1962-1987. Scarecrow Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 0-8108-2198-2. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
- Crump, William D. (2019). Happy Holidays--Animated! A Worldwide Encyclopedia of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year's Cartoons on Television and Film. McFarland & Co. p. 112. ISBN 9781476672939. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
- TV Guide Guide to TV. Barnes and Noble. 2004. p. 574. ISBN 0-7607-5634-1.
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