Frosty the Snowman (1969) – a Rankin/Bass Production – Starring Jackie Vernon, Jimmy Durante, Billy De Wolfe, Paul Frees, and June Foray.
FROSTY THE SNOWMAN is as perfect a 25-minute holiday special can be, featuring great characters, a great story, a great message, great animation, and great songs.
I love the boundless energy, enthusiasm, and hopefulness that permeates this special. I love how the good guy/bad guy split comes down to selflessness vs. selfishness. I love how Christmas is shown to have a true transformative power, able to turn bad guys good and offer a miraculous ending. And mostly, I just flat out love Frosty and Karen and Hocus Pocus.
FROSTY tells the tale of how a snowman comes to life on a magical day and with the help of a magical hat. Frosty’s birth occurs because of a perfect storm between a, well, perfect storm and a magician’s top hat. Animated Jimmy Durante (the Narrator of our tale) tells us that when the first snow of the year is also a Christmas snow that special things can happen. The kids build a snowman and when they place Professor Hinkle’s discarded hat on Frosty’s head, the big snowman bursts to life. “Happy birthday!” he exalts.
Professor Hinkle, who Durante tells us is just about the worst magician ever, sees the snowman come to life and decides he wants his hat back after throwing it away in a fit after his magic act bombed in front of the school kids.
Hinkle leaves with his hat, but Hocus steals it from the magician and returns it to the kids, allowing Frosty to come to life a second time. Frosty realizes the only place he’ll be safe is the North Pole, so he and the kids go to the train station to buy a ticket. “That’ll be three thousand dollars,” the ticket agent tells them, which neither the kids nor Frosty have, of course. Hocus points out the train outside has a refrigerated car, so he, Frosty, and Karen decide to hop the train and ride for free.
Occupy Refrigerated Car in full effect.
While Frosty can handle the cold, Karen can’t, so Frosty jumps off the car in an attempt to get her to safety. I love this aspect of Frosty – he’s so good and so selfless that he’s more than willing to put others before himself. He doesn’t do this blindly – when it’s obvious Karen needs to get warm, he gets Hocus to talk to the woodland creatures to ask for their help in getting a fire built, as he sits far away from the fire they build. When Hinkle shows up and blows out Karen’s fire, Frosty is right there to rescue her and spirit her away.
They come across a greenhouse and Frosty brings her inside, even though he knows he’s putting himself in danger. And sure enough, Hinkle arrives and traps Frosty inside, where he eventually turns into a big puddle. Karen is heartbroken, but Santa tells her Frosty is made of Christmas snow and Christmas snow will never disappear. With the jolly man’s help, Frosty comes back to life. Hinkle steps in to demand the hat back, but Santa puts him in his place, and everyone leaves the special happier than when it began.
From start to finish, FROSTY THE SNOWMAN is a wonderful story. Jimmy Durante is spot-on as the narrator, and Jackie Vernon is perfect as Frosty. Rankin-Bass made the special animated instead of stop-motion and the look of the special is all rounded and gentle and clean. In short, everything about this Christmas special works beautifully.
Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.
And hey, if you like all ages stories with a Christmas theme (and a snowman that comes to life!), check out my kid’s novel ADVENTURES OF THE FIVE: THE COMING OF FROST. Available now in both paperback and for the Kindle.