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Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 American animated Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. 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 (in his final film role) as the film s narrator, Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle, and Jackie Vernon as Frosty the Snowman.
The special s story follows a group of school children who build a snowman called Frosty and place a magician s hat on his head, which makes him come to life. 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.
Rankin/Bass veteran writer Romeo Muller adapted and expanded the story for television, as he had done with the Animagic stop motion production of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
TV Guide ranked the special number 9 on its 10 Best Family Holiday Specials list.
In a schoolhouse on Christmas Eve, inept magician Professor Hinkle arrives to perform for the class Christmas party. After the children become bored and disappointed when his tricks fail, they go outside to play in the snow where they build a snowman. After other children suggest several names for him, they agree on Karen s name Frosty , Hinkle chases his hat over his rabbit Hocus Pocus, which blows off by the wind and is caught by Karen who puts it on Frosty s head and brings him to life. Hinkle reclaims the hat when it gets blown off and declines that he saw Frosty come to life. Later, Hocus brings the hat back to the children, who bring Frosty back to life again.
Feeling the temperature rising, Frosty fears he will melt unless he can get to the North Pole. The children suggest putting him on a train to get there and they parade through town on the way to the train station, shocking several townspeople. Because they have no money for tickets, Hocus, Frosty and Karen secretly board a northbound train s refrigerator car while Hinkle schemes to reclaim the hat.
As the train continues northward, Frosty notices Karen getting colder. When the freight train stops to let a passenger train pass, the group disembarks in search of somewhere to warm Karen, with Hinkle following in pursuit. By nightfall, Frosty, Karen and Hocus struggle through the forest where Hocus convinces the forest animals to build a campfire for Karen. Fearing that fire will not be enough, Frosty decides to look for Santa Claus who they assume can save Karen and bring him to the North Pole. Hocus then goes off in search of Santa and, soon after, Hinkle arrives and Karen and Frosty flee and stumble upon a greenhouse that the latter enters to warm Karen up, only for Hinkle to arrive and lock them both inside.
Hocus leads Santa to the greenhouse, only to find Karen heartbroken over a melted Frosty. Santa explains that Frosty is made of Christmas snow and will return every winter. He then opens the greenhouse door and the winter wind restores Frosty. Just as they are about to put the hat on, Hinkle appears, and Santa threatens to never bring him another Christmas present for the rest of his life if he reclaims the hat. Hinkle runs home to write his apologies, hoping to get a new hat for Christmas, Santa brings Frosty back to life, drops Karen off at her house, and takes Frosty to the North Pole, promising that Frosty will return every year with the magical Christmas snow.
As the credits roll, Frosty leads a parade with the children, Hocus, the narrator (Jimmy Durante), and the rest of the town, including Hinkle who is now sporting his new hat. As the parade ends, Frosty boards Santa s sleigh and they fly off to the North Pole with Frosty altering the song s last lyric promising to be back on Christmas Day.
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty
- Jimmy Durante as the 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 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)
- 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:
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 Golden Books Family Entertainment in 2001 and Classic Media in 2002 and 2004, and by Genius Entertainment in 2007. Vivendi Entertainment re-released it on DVD and for the first time on 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 re-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 and the traffic cop 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. Jack Frost also 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. This is also the only Frosty special not to feature a narrator.
- Frosty Returns – This 1992 half-hour special is not truly a sequel to the original since 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 Rankin/Bass specials. 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 in the comics as the father of Mr. Tinkerton. Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, best known as the voice of Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants, while Burt Reynolds voices the narrator.
|Plot||A living snowman and a little girl struggle to elude a greedy magician who is after the snowman’s magic hat.|
|Directors||Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.|
|Stars||Jackie Vernon, Billy De Wolfe, Jimmy Durante|
|Produced by||Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.|
|Film Editing by||Irwin Goldress|
|Sound Department||Jim Harris, Phil Kaye, Eric Tomlinson, Bob Elder|
|Animation Department||Paul Coker Jr., Steve Nakagawa, Osamu Dezaki, Sadao Miyamoto, Akio Sugino|
|Editorial Department||Irwin Goldress|
|Music Department||Maury Laws, Brian Tyler|
|Additional Crew||Don Duga, Kat Mullaly|
|Genres||Animation, Short, Comedy|
|Companies||Rankin/Bass Productions, Videocraft International|