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 uvre in that it features hand-drawn animation (Courtesy of Mushi Productions) 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.
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. 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, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, was released on video, with Bill Fagerbakke as the voice of Frosty.
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 fame).
This Christmas Special provides examples of:
- 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.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Frosty himself, and later his snow-family and friends.
- Animating Artifact: Frosty's hat is what imbues him with life.
- 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!"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Karen and her friends, along with Professor Hinkle and Hocus, are not present in the sequels.
- Conspicuous CG: Jonathan Winters sits on a CGI snowflake at the start and end of Frosty Returns. This was later excised completely on later airings, instead just showing a blue background with Winters' disembodied voice.
- 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 that was in 1969, it has the 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.
- Defrosting Ice King: Happens, literally and ironically enough to Jack Frost in Frosty's Winter Wonderland when he is offered the opportunity to be the best man at Frosty's wedding to Crystal. He even mentions that he's always been the best man, since the wedding is winter-themed.
- 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.
- Distaff Counterpart: Crystal, Frosty's bride in Winter Wonderland. She even has a similar-sounding voice courtesy of Shelley Winters.
- 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!
Traffic Cop: Ah, silly snowmen. Once they come to life, they don't know nothing. [The officer does a Double Take and ends up swallowing his whistle] Come to life?!
- 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!
- Expy: Hocus Pocus seems inspired by Snoopy (or at least the non-verbal, pantomime portrayal of him in the Peanuts specials).
- Fainting: Done by a random orange-haired woman upon her sight of Frosty and the kids marching to the North Pole.
- 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."
- Green-Eyed Monster: Jack Frost's antagonism is due to the fact that he's jealous of the attention Frosty's getting.
- Happily Married: Frosty and Crystal get married in the climax of Winter Wonderland.
- 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).
- HeelFace 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.
- Jack Frost in the sequel pulls a more legitimate one when Crystal acknowledges his importance and invites him to participate in the wedding, remaining as a friend and powerful ally every time he appears again.
- 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; Andy Griffith as the narrator in Frosty's Winter Wonderland.
- iSophagus: The traffic cop swallows his whistle — which nonetheless still sounds.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Parody Commercial: In 2009 CBS made this mash-up ad combining Frosty with How I Met Your Mother.
- Really Dead Montage: Combined with a Dark Reprise after Frosty melts.
- 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!"
- Secondary Character Title: Even though Frosty is the star, the protagonist is really Karen, since it revolves around her trying to get Frosty to the North Pole.
- 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.
- 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.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.
- 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:
- Art Shifted Sequel: The animation style is different than that of the original. As is often noted, it resembles the Peanuts specials, which is handily explained by the fact that the animation was done by Bill Melendez Productions.
- Bald of Evil: Mr. Twitchell.
- But Now I Must Go: Frosty tells Holly he has to leave after saving winter, though he does keep the promise he'll be back.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Holly says this to Frosty upon meeting him outside the amusement park:Holly: When I try to speak my mouth gets all dry and my hands get all clammy. I let you down, didn't I?
- 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.
- Freak Out: By Frosty as he and Holly watch snow melt everywhere with thanks to Summer Wheeze becoming popular.
- Green Aesop: One of the main criticisms for this special.
- HeelFace Turn: After Holly and Frosty convince 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.
- Ink-Suit Actor: Jonathan Winters as the narrator, and Bryan Doyle-Murray as Mr. Twitchell.
- Only Friend: Charles is Holly's only friend at the beginning of the special.
- Piss-Take Rap: Mr. Twitchell's segment of "Let There Be Snow".
- 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.
- Right-Hand Cat: Mr. Twitchell has one.
- Secondary Character Title: Like the original special, Frosty has more of a supporting role and its Holly whos the main star here.
- Smart People Wear Glasses: Charles wears glasses and is shown to have an obsession with science.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: It's very unusual to hear Mark Mothersbaugh's Rugrats-esque music (complete with "buh buh" effects) playing underneath Bill Melendez's Peanuts-esque animation instead of something by Klasky-Csupo.
- Space Whale Aesop: "Save the environment because without snow there will be no place for magical, talking snowmen!"
- 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.