Frosty the Snowman is a Christmas Special, produced by Rankin/Bass and first aired on CBS in 1969, 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 śuvre in that it features hand-drawn animation (Courtesy of Mushi Productions, under the uncredited direction of Osamu Dezaki) and designed by Paul Coker Jr. who is also well-known for his artwork in MAD Magazine, instead of Rankin/Bass's usual "Animagic" Stop Motion puppet process.
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. Jimmy Durante voices the special's narrator.
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 featuring Andy Griffith as the narrator, 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 (for everyone's sanity, don't ask how that works). A non-Rankin/Bass sequel, Frosty Returns, with John Goodman as the title character, Jonathan Winters as the narrator, and the animation made by Bill Meléndez of the Peanuts animated specials fame, 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 a somewhat environmentally-themed short, one that would make the Planeteers cringe at how unsubtle it is with its message if it could decide whether snow is environmentally necessary or just something pretty and fun to play in. Then in 2005, another special, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, was released on video, with Bill Fagerbakke as the voice of Frosty.
This Christmas Special provides examples of:
- Adaptational Sympathy: The original song didn't refer much to Frosty's plight other than him being threatened with melting in the heat. The special shows Frosty as being terrified of such a fate, his friends' efforts to help him get to the North Pole in time, and an evil magician who tries his damndest to steal Frosty's hat—the only thing keeping him alive—so he can enrich himself.
- Affectionate Parody: Has one in the Web Original animated short series Snowy.
- Frosty also shows up in the comic strip FoxTrot in Paige's dream of the Land of Animated Christmas TV Specials.
- Anachronism Stew: The clothing of the animated characters seems to cover the entire period from the 1910s to The '60s.
- And Starring: The opening cast roll ends with "and Jackie Vernon as Frosty".
- Animate Inanimate Object: Frosty himself is an animated snowman, and later his snow-family and friends.
- Animating Artifact: Frosty's hat is what imbues him with life.
- Animesque: As with other Rankin-Bass specials, this was animated in Japan (by Osamu Tezuka's studio), and on occasion it shows, particularly in the kids' facial expressions and other artistic touches like Cheeky Mouth.
- Art Shift: Frosty and Crystal make their only stop-motion appearances for a crossover with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- 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!"
- Right after coming alive, Frosty turns around to the audience and asks, "Could I really be alive?"
- As You Know: A rare case of this phrase being targeted at the audience:Narrator: Hocus Pocus explained the situation to Santa, who, as you know, speaks fluent rabbit.
- Badass Adorable: For such a friendly-looking guy, Frosty has undoubtedly earned the title of "Fastest Belly Whopper in the World." He can also lead a mean parade.
- Beware the Silly Ones: The clerk at the train station is willing to help you out despite being accident-prone... but God help you if you can't afford your ticket.Clerk: That'll be $3,000.04, including tax.
Karen: Oh, but... we don't have any money.
Clerk: NO MONEY!? (the clerk tangles himself in the tickets he just stamped for Karen and Frosty before glowering at the two of them) No money, no ticket! (slams window shut, causing "Tickets" sign above to fall)
- Big Bad: Professor Hinkle and Jack Frost are the respective antagonists of the original special and Frosty's Winter Wonderland. In both specials, they plot to steal Frosty's hat.
- Blatant Lies: Hinkle denies to the kids that he just witnessed his hat bring Frosty to life, even when Karen points out otherwise.Karen: You saw it happen!
Hinkle: I saw nothing of the kind.
- Born of Magic: The jolly, happy soul only came into existence after a vaguely humanoid-shaped lump of ice crystals was topped with an inexplicably magical top hat. (Though it's possible the consciousness already existed inside the hat, and only needed a sufficient vessel.)
- 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.) In 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.
- But Now I Must Go: Frosty has to leave for the North Pole with Santa after taking Karen home.
- Cassandra Truth: Hinkle refuses to believe he saw Frosty come to life, despite Karen pointing it out to him.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Professor Hinkle. "Think nasty, think nasty, think nasty! Muahahahaha!"
- When cornered by Santa Claus and everyone, Hinkle outright refers to himself as an “evil magician”. Though it’s more an admission of guilt if anything.
- 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 of holiday songs like "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland" featured in the special.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Karen and her friends, along with Professor Hinkle and Hocus, are not present in the sequels.
- 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. And keep in mind, this special was released in 1969 when long-distance passenger rail in the United States was sharply declining due to the advent of private automobile ownership and jet airliners (commuter rail was faring better thanks to traffic congestion), so of course, ticket prices would be very high so the railroads could continue justifying the existence of their intercity passenger services (at least until they were able to pawn them off on Amtrak in 1971).
- And that was in 1969, it has a 2017 value of nearly $20,000
- 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.
- Debating Names: There's a scene early on where the kids debate on what to name the snowman they've built, including "Harold", "Bruce", "Christopher Columbus" and "Oatmeal", before Karen suggests "Frosty".
- Delayed "Oh, Crap!": The traffic cop has one of these when he realizes he was talking to a snowman who came to life, swallowing his own whistle in shock.
- Didn't Think This Through:
- Upon learning that Frosty will melt when the temperature rises, the kids decided to put Frosty on a train to the one place he won't melt: The North Pole...only to realize upon arriving that none of them have any money for the ticket.
- When they decide to have Frosty stowaway on a refrigerated boxcar due north instead, Karen opts to go with him. No one ever gives any thought as to how she'll get home, and she very nearly freezes to death.
- Disney Death: Frosty gets this in every Rankin Bass special. In the original, he melts when Professor Hinkle locks him in a greenhouse, but Santa brings him back with a December wind. In Frosty's Winter Wonderland, he turns back into an ordinary snowman when Jack Frost steals his magic hat, but Crystal's kiss brings him back to life. And in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, he gets two Disney Deaths: first by loss of his hat, then again by melting, but as usual, neither lasts long.
- Double Take: The cop does one of these when he first meets Frosty:Traffic Cop [to Frosty]: Oh, you want a ticket, wise guy?
Frosty: I'd love one; to the North Pole, please.
Traffic Cop: Huh?
Karen: You've got to excuse him, sir. You see, he just came to life, and he doesn't know much about such things.
Traffic Cop: Oh, well, okay, if he just came to life. [blows his whistle] Move along! Ah, silly snowmen. Once they come to life, they don't know nothing. COME TO LIFE?! [accidentally swallows his whistle]
- 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!
- During 12 hours of night, Hinkle could have written the phrase a few thousand times at most. Perhaps, as a zillion is undefined, after Hinkle spent all night writing it Santa said "OK, that'll do."
- Exposed to the Elements: Karen and her friends don't wear long pants with their outfits when out in the snow, and one girl wears a short-sleeved jumper without a coat.
- Expy: Hocus Pocus seems inspired by Snoopy (or at least the non-verbal, pantomime portrayal of him in the Peanuts specials).
- Faint in Shock: A random orange-haired woman faints when she sees Frosty and the kids marching to the North Pole in her hand mirror.
- Foreign Re-Score: A significant part of the original score is replaced with two renditions of the Frosty the Snowman music, including the opening and ending themes, in the Greek dub. One of them is done by 101 Strings Orchestra.
- Free-Range Children: The kids walk around the town with Frosty with none of their parents in sight. Karen even says that her mom won't mind if she travels to the North Pole as long as she's home by supper.
- Freeze Sneeze: Frosty and Karen's train ride toward the North Pole in a refrigerated boxcar is cut short when Karen starts sneezing and Frosty realizes the boxcar is too cold for her.
- Friend to All Living Things: Santa, "who, as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit."
- 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."
- Giver of Lame Names: The kid who suggests naming the snowman "Oatmeal." Luckily, they're voted down by the rest of the bunch.
- Glad I Thought of It: While Frosty is struggling to think of a person to ask for help, Hocus Pocus pantomimes Santa Claus. Frosty responds, “What a great idea. Why didn’t I think of that before?” Hocus is visibly annoyed.
- Green Is Gross: All the characters have flesh colored a standard pinkish beige—1969, everybody, no minorities in the cartoon. All except for Frosty himself, who is obviously pure white, and Professor Hinkle, the bad guy. Hinkle is colored a pale green, as if he's constantly nauseous.
- 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). He does need it again in Christmas in July, however.
- Heel–Face Turn: Professor Hinkle, though only when threatened by Santa, and he still describes himself as an "evil magician" during this sequence. 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.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Frosty takes Karen to a greenhouse, and obviously doesn't care that a warm greenhouse will do him in quickly.
- I'm Melting!: Frosty gets this.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Jimmy Durante as the narrator and Billy DeWolfe as Professor Hinkle in the original.
- Intelligible Unintelligible: Frosty and Karen are capable of understanding Hocus's rabbit noises and pantomiming. Santa understands him completely, due to being able to speak fluent rabbit.
- iSophagus: The traffic cop swallows his whistle — which nonetheless still sounds.
- Is This a Joke?: Frosty's first impression upon being brought to life, as snowmen can't talk in the first place.
- Just Train Wrong:
- When Karen goes to the train station to ask for a ticket to the North Pole, the stationmaster quickly scrounges up a route with multiple transfers. The only problem is that there is no such route; the North Pole is a lifeless ball of ice in real life with only a shrinking handful of arctic critters and no actual humans, so no railroad could sustain itself up there, let alone keep up operations on a constantly-changing landscape. Even Canada's northernmost railroad lines don't go up that far, so Karen wouldn't have any way of getting Frosty up there by train anyway.
- The small little train that hauls the refrigerator car is a 2-2-2, which is not only exceedingly rare in the United States (being commonly used in Europe), but wouldn't be in charge of a mainline run up north with only one car full of priority perishables. Freight trains around this time would at least have a larger locomotive (like a 4-8-2 or a 2-8-4, if not an articulated), and far more cars, unless it was a local run exclusively to the North Pole (which, as noted above, wasn't possible), but even smaller runs would have used a larger engine to maintain schedule.
- When the freight stops to take siding, it's shown crossing a diamond, not pulling off the mainline to let the express pass, and said express is a diesel-powered streamliner with a steam-powered whistle.
- Kick the Dog: 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.
- Limited Animation: It's a TV special from the 1960s, after all. And was animated by a studio that had earlier pioneered limited animation for TV in Japan.
- Little Stowaway: After Frosty and Karen learn that a passenger train ticket costs $3,000.04, they hitch a ride on a freight train towards the North Pole.
- Magicians Are Wizards: Averted. Not only can Hinkle not work real magic, but is completely lousy even at the stage variety. His hat, however...
- Mailman vs. Dog: Averted, with the opening scene showing a mailman and dog getting along, demonstrating the Narrator's comment on how the holiday season turns "natural enemies friends".
- Merchandise-Driven: Following the same vein as Rudolph, the show has received loads of merch, from Christmas decorations to even toys and books. The merch originally depicted Frosty in his Winter Wonderland design, but has since started to use his traditional 1969 appearance beginning in the mid '10s.
- Namedar: Frosty somehow knows Karen's name despite her not introducing herself to him. Justified, as he was probably aware of her when being built, and she was the one who named him and who brought him to life by putting the magic hat on his head.
- Narrator: Jimmy Durante in the original, Andy Griffith in Winter Wonderland, Jonathan Winters in Frosty Returns, and Burt Reynolds in The Legend of Frosty The Snowman.
- No Name Given: None of the kids except for Karen in the first special are referred to by name. The narrator in Winter Wonderland off-handedly refers to one kid as Elsie, but none of the kids in that special are directly named.
- Not Quite Dead: Hinkle locks Frosty and Karen in the greenhouse, causing the snowman to melt to her sadness. When Santa arrives and sees what happened, he reveals Frosty is not gone for good; Frosty is made from Christmas snow, which can regenerate from a nice December wind. He opens the doors, which let the winds in and restores Frosty back to normal.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Hocus Pocus the rabbit.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Professor Hinkle may seem like an incompetent Dastardly Whiplash villain at first, but eventually poses a real threat by trapping Frosty in a Greenhouse to melt.
- Officer O'Hara: The traffic cop who stops Frosty and plans to give him a ticket for jaywalking, which Frosty misinterprets as an offer to go to the North Pole. He makes a return cameo appearance in Frosty's Winter Wonderland.
- One, Two, Skip a Few: Frosty's attempt to count to ten goes: "One, two, three, four, five, nine, six, eight... well, I can count to five."
- Parody Commercial: In 2009 CBS made this mash-up ad combining Frosty with How I Met Your Mother.
- Prolonged Prologue: The title card doesn't appear until five whole minutes into the show.
- Really Dead Montage: Combined with a Dark Reprise after Frosty melts.
- Riddle for the Ages: It's clearly been established that Professor Hinkle/Frosty's hat has mysterious mystical abilities as it's the object that brings Frosty to life. Except it's never revealed just where the hat came from or who crafted said hat in the first place.
- 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!"
- Shockingly Expensive Bill: Train tickets to the North Pole aren't cheap, as Karen finds out the hard way.
- Shown Their Work: The children are shown attending school on Christmas Eve, which had been a practice throughout the mid-1900s.
- Snowlems: As a snowman brought to life by a magic hat, Frosty himself is an archetypical example.
- 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.
- Strawman Ball: The narrator directly voices who has ownership of the hat once Professor Hinkle leaves the schoolyard.Narrator: Now, of course, the hat did belong to Frosty and the children. That part must be made very clear. Therefore, Hocus Pocus was entirely in the right, in what he was about to do. (Hocus runs off with the hat)
- Sudden Anatomy: Frosty has Four-Fingered Hands, but sprouts a fifth finger when he tries to count.
- Underside Ride: The magician does this on the underside of a train, in an attempt to get his hat back.
- Verbal Tic Being voiced by Billy De Wolfe, Hinkle repeats, repeats, repeats things three times and talk in a persnickety, fussy way.
- 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.Professor Hinkle: That's not fair! I mean, we evil magicians have to make a living too...
- Vocal Dissonance: In the original airing with June Foray as Karen, Paul Frees plays the other kids, which sounds quite odd.
- White-Tailed Reindeer: Santa's reindeer in have identical designs to the wild deer seen setting up a Christmas tree with the other forest animals in an earlier scene.
- Writing Lines: Santa punishes Professor Hinkle by making him write "I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty" one hundred zillion times.
- You Are Too Late: At first, it looks like Santa and Hocus didn't make it in time as Frosty had completely melted. However, as Santa puts it "Too late? Nonsense", and shows how Frosty can be brought back by a good winter breeze.