Western Animation: Frosty the Snowman
Thumpitty Thump Thump! Thumpitty Thump Thump! Look at that Frosty go!note
"Happy Birthday!"Frosty the Snowman
is a 1969 Rankin/Bass Christmas Special
, telling the story of how a snowman was brought to life by a magic top hat. Frosty the Snowman
is unusual among the Rankin/Bass œuvre
in that it features hand-drawn animation (Courtesy of Mushi Productions
), instead of R/B's usual "Animagic" Stop Motion
The script is by Rankin/Bass' favorite writer, Romeo Muller, and as usual, is built around a classic holiday tune (although technically, the original song doesn't actually mention Christmas at all
), though the usual additional original songs by Maury Laws and Jules Bass are conspicuously missing.
It is notable that in the audio album version of this special, June Foray
voices Karen, and indeed all the children's parts, whereas the televised version uses the voices of actual (uncredited) children.
A sequel, Frosty's Winter Wonderland
, was produced in 1976 and the feature-length Crossover Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
(which, unlike the previous installments, utilized R/B's "Animagic" process
) followed in 1979; Jackie Vernon reprised the part of Frosty in both, and over the course of them our hero acquires a snow-wife (Crystal, voiced by Shelley Winters) and even snow-kids. A non-Rankin/Bass sequel, Frosty Returns
, with John Goodman as the title character and Jonathan Winters
as the narrator, was made in 1992; it was not generally well-received
. In this one, the plot focuses around a secular "Winter Carnival" holiday and features an evil businessman named Mr. Twitchell that goes around spraying "Summer Wheeze" an aerosol that gets rid of snow. Apparently, the entire town hates snow
. The entire film is about Frosty and a new girl named Holly singing about how good snow is
. If you haven't guessed, it's an environmentally-themed short. Then in 2005, another special, Legend of Frosty the Snowman
, was released on video, with Bill Fagerbakke as the voice of Frosty.
Not to be confused with the somewhat similarly-themed British Christmas Special
, The Snowman
This is also not the first time the song was adapted into animation. There had previously been a theatrical short created in 1954 by UPA (of Mr. Magoo
This Christmas Special provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Has one in the Web Original animated short series Snowy.
- Anachronism Stew: The clothing of the animated characters seems to cover the entire period from the 1910s to The Sixties.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Frosty himself, and later his snow-family and friends.
- Art Shift: Frosty and Crystal make their only stop-motion appearances for a crossover with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- Ascended Extra: Jack Frost, the Jerkass-turned-ally from Winter Wonderland would eventually star in his own Christmas Special, Jack Frost, where he's a lovestruck cloudcuckoolander.
- Aside Comment: After Frosty asks Karen if she's cold on the train, he turns to the audience and says, "Now, that's a silly question!"
- Brick Joke:
- In the first special, a kid suggests "Oatmeal" as a name for Frosty. In the sequel, the same kid suggests "Corn Flakes" as a name for Frosty's wife.
- Also, in the first special, the traffic cop swallows his whistle from the shock after he realizes he was just talking to a living snowman. In the second, he remembers Frosty, but after realizing Frosty is about to get married, he does the same thing.
- Another one: In the first special, after coming to life, Frosty tries to count, only to find out he can't. (Well, he makes it up to five.) I the sequel, there are two gags about his inability to count, one where he thinks a two-horse sleigh has one horse, and another where he tries to skate a figure-eight but it turns out a nine.
- This is lampshaded in the third special where Frosty manages to count to 100, and remembers when he can barely count to four.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Professor Hinkle. "Think nasty, think nasty, think nasty! Muahahahaha!"
- Christmas Special: Although only the first is actually set during Christmas. Winter Wonderland doesn't bring up the holiday at all, and the closest mention are a couple holiday songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" featured in the special.
- Conspicuous CGI: Jonathan Winters sits on a CGI snowflake at the start and end of Frosty Returns. This was later excised completely on later airings.
- Continuity Nod: In the sequels.
- To give one example, Frosty's Winter Wonderland has a scene where the cop who swallowed his whistle in the original special claims to be used to Frosty and brags that he can't surprise him this time. He ends up swallowing his whistle again when he is introduced to Crystal, Frosty's new wife.
- Crack Is Cheaper: An In-Universe example; train tickets aren't exactly the cheapest things to buy, but a single ticket to the North Pole, including tax, is in the quadruple digits.
- Dark Reprise: When Frosty melts.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Professor Hinkle is very close to this type of villain, at least in appearance. He's far less competent than either Dick Dastardly or Snidely Whiplash, and that's saying something.
- Distaff Counterpart: Crystal, Frosty's bride in Winter Wonderland. She even has a similar-sounding voice courtesy of Shelley Winters.
- Easily Forgiven: Frosty and Crystal forgive Jack Frost pretty quickly in the sequel, considering what he tried to do. (Of course, Christmas specials aren't big on comeuppance.)
- Eleventy Zillion: Santa orders Hinkle to write, "I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty," a hundred zillion times. (And then maybe, just ''maybe,'' he'll find something in his stocking the next morning). And apparently he's successful because the next time we see him, he's got a new hat!
- Face-Heel Turn: In the sequel, Jack Frost is the villain and unlike the clumsy Professor Hinkle, Jack is a serious threat against Frosty and the kids. Fortunately, Jack realizes he's being a dick for no good reasons and performs a Heel-Face Turn, remaining as a friend and powerful ally every time he appeared again.
- Fainting: Done by a random orange-haired woman upon her sight of Frosty and the kids marching to the North Pole.
- Friend to All Living Things: Santa, "who, as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit."
- Genre Savvy: Professor Hinkle displays how much of this he is when confronted by Santa at the climax (specifically, Hinkle was at least smart enough to recognize how the viewers currently see him at that point):
: [kicks a can while undergoing a Villainous BSOD]
That's not fair! I mean, we evil magicians have to make a living too...
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: "With a corn-cob pipe" — which Frosty never actually seems to smoke — perhaps because he can't even strike a match, let alone "build a fire."
- Green-Eyed Monster: Jack Frost's antagonism is due to the fact that he's jealous of the attention Frosty's getting.
- The Grinch: Hinkle, of course.
- Heart Drive: The magic hat, without which Frosty's body is just an ordinary inanimate snowman. Come the climax of Frosty's Winter Wonderland, he doesn't need it anymore (though he still wears it).
- Heel-Face Turn: Professor Hinkle, though only when threatened by Santa, and he still describes himself as an "evil magician" during this sequence (though that may just have been because he was Genre Savvy enough to realize just how low he had sunk and was only making a correct observation of how the average viewer would view him after what he had put Frosty through). Of course, it helps that Santa had promised him that he'd probably get a new hat if he wrote "I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty" a hundred zillion times, so he wouldn't need his old one anymore.
- Jack Frost in the sequel pulls a more legitimate one when Crystal acknowledges his importance and invites him to participate in the wedding.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Jimmy Durante as the narrator and Billy DeWolfe as Professor Hinkle in the original; Andy Griffith as the narrator in Frosty's Winter Wonderland.
- iSophagus: The traffic cop swallows his whistle — which nonetheless still sounds.
- Jerkass: When Hinkle comes upon Karen in the woods, he immediately blows out her campfire for no particular reason. Seeing as she needed it to not freeze to death, this is pretty despicable.
- Love Imbues Life: In the sequel, the kids build Crystal, a snow-wife for Frosty. She receives the gift of life out of the love Frosty immediately felt for her, embodied in a bouquet of frost flowers he gives her. Later, a gust of wind snatches away Frosty's hat (turning him back into a non-sentient snowman) but Crystal's love allows him to become alive again without the need of his magic hat.
- Magicians Are Wizards: Averted, in that Hinkle can not only not work real magic, but is lousy even at the stage variety. His hat, however...
- Narrator: Jimmy Durante in the original, Andy Griffith in Winter Wonderland.
- Nice Hat: The Hat, of course. (Described as an "old silk hat".)
- Non-Human Sidekick: Hocus Pocus the rabbit.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Professor Hinkle may seem like an incompetent Dastardly Whiplash villain at first, but see Moral Event Horizon in the YMMV section.
- Parody Commercial: In 2009 CBS made this mash-up ad combining Frosty with How I Met Your Mother.
- Religion Is Magic: In Frosty's Winter Wonderland, Parson Brown explains to the kids that he can't marry Frosty and Crystal since they aren't humans, and suggests they build a snow-parson who can do the job. They do, and Parson Brown brings it to life by giving it a Bible ("A parson's not a parson without the Good Book in his hand!").
- Running Gag: Whenever a snowman comes to life (including Frosty himself, as well as Crystal and the snow-parson), the snowman's first words afterwards, without exception, will be "Happy Birthday!"
- Snowlems: Frosty himself. Type I.
- Speaks Fluent Animal: Santa can talk to Hocus Pocus the rabbit.
- The Speechless: Hocus Pocus, though he hasn't a single line, goes near to stealing the whole show.
- Sudden Anatomy: Frosty has Four-Fingered Hands, but sprouts a fifth finger when he tries to count.
- True Love's Kiss: Crystal's kiss grants Frosty permanent sentinence in Winter Wonderland, thwarting Jack Frost's efforts to destroy him by stealing his hat.
- Underside Ride: The magician does this on the underside of a train, in an attempt to get his hat back.
- Villainous BSOD: Professor Hinkle goes through a brief one at the climax until Santa gives him a shot at redemption, which he immediately and hurriedly takes up.
: That's not fair! I mean, we evil magicians
have to make a living too...
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Frosty and his wife may be happy up in the Arctic, but what ever became of "Pastor Snow" who married them? He was alive too; but isn't mentioned after the wedding.
Frosty Returns has examples of:
- Bald of Evil: Mr. Twitchell.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Mr. Twitchell, who wants to use his product Summer Wheeze to eliminate snow without a care about how this would affect the environment.
- Expy: Holly is one for Karen from the original special.
- Green Aesop: One of the main criticisms for this special.
- Heel-Face Turn/Defeat Means Friendship: After Karen and Frosty convinces everyone that snow is important after all, she offers Mr. Twitchell a ride in he tobogan and Frosty gives him the crown and cape even though he was elected the Carnival King. The narrator also mentions that Mr. Twitchell ceased production of Summer Wheeze and starts making sleds instead.
- Hollywood Tone-Deaf: Holly's friend Charles. Frosty and Holly even cringe when he sings part of the "Let There Be Snow" song.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: Yet another criticism aimed at this special is that Christmas is never mentioned in any capacity and is replaced by the town celebrating a Winter Carnival. Quite jarring considering the fact that Frosty the Snowman originated as a Christmas song and nobody complained about his connection to the holiday before.
- Right-Hand Cat: Mr. Twitchell has one.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: Charles wears glasses and is shown to have an obsession with science.
- Villain Song: Mr. Twitchell has a part of the "Let There Be Snow" song where he sings "There's No More Snow" and brags about how nothing can stop his plan to eliminate the snow and become king of the Winter Carnival.
Legend of Frosty the Snowman has examples of:
- ...And That Little Girl Was Me/Narrator All Along: The ending reveals that the aged narrator is an elderly Tommy Tinkerton.
- Bald of Evil: Principal Pankley serves as the main antagonist and is balding.
- Happily Married: Tommy Tinkerton and Sarah are revealed to have been married for years in the ending.
- Heroic BSOD: Tommy Tinkerton's father goes through this when Principal Pankley points out how chaotic things have been since Frosty's return.
- Mythology Gag: Tommy Tinkerton's grandfather is a magician and is a dead ringer for Professor Hinkle from the original 1969 special.
- Non-Standard Character Design: With the new art style that the other characters follow, Frosty looking exactly how he did in the original 1969 special makes him look out of place.
- Off Model: The design of the characters never really stay consistent. Frosty's body, for example, changes sizes various times between consecutive shots!
- Sealed Good in a Can: Frosty's role in the film, where his hat was locked away years ago by Pankley because he was jealous of him. In the film's current setting, the hat breaks free and Frosty returns once his hat is placed on a mound of snow.