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Western Animation / Rankin Bass' Jack Frost

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In this 1979 Rankin Bass winter special, reporters from all over the USA are gathering to see Pardon-Me Pete, the groundhog that does the whole Groundhog Day thing. He sees his shadow and runs back inside, but wait! There's no sun to make any shadows! Cut to inside the burrow, where Pete talks to the camera. He decides to explain all about a little agreement he has with Jack Frost...

Jack Frost (voiced by Robert Morse) is the personification of winter, who uses his icy breath to bring ice and snow to the world. One day, as he's swooping invisibly through the town of January Junction, he overhears a conversation in which a young woman named Elisa playfully tells her family that the only person she's in love with is him.

Father Winter allows him to become human, but warns him that he has until the first day of spring to win his wife and provide her with a house, gold, and a horse, or he must return to sprite form. Jack is sent to January Junction in the human guise of Jack Snip, a tailor.

Largely unrelated to the prior Rankin-Bass version of Jack Frost, who was the Paul Frees-voiced villain in 1976's 2D animated Frosty's Winter Wonderland and returned in Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, released just a few months prior to the Jack Frost special.

Tropes present in this work include:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Kubla Kraus, Raveneau Rightfellow, Pardon-Me Pete.
  • Anachronism Stew: The main setting seems to be roughly late medieval Russia, but Sir Raveneau was serving King Arthur, who, if he ever existed, would have lived about a thousand years earlier.
  • Animals Hate Him: Kubla Kraus. No living creature can bear to be around him, so, to quote the narrator, "he had his horse Clangstomper, who ran by steam, and Fetch-Kvetch the butler, who ran by clockwork. Even the mice were artificial!"
  • Animated Armor: Kubla Kraus's army of K-nights, which are basically motorized suits.
  • Artificial Limbs: Kubla Krause's rules with a literal iron hand- his right hand, specifically. It functions just like a normal hand and resembles a gauntlet.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Overlapping with Evil Cannot Comprehend Good, Kubla Kraus is lonely and doesn't understand why he is unhappy despite having everything he demands and controlling the people and the land in his Villain Song.
  • Big Bad: Kubla Kraus is the main antagonist, being the one to terrorize January Junction and hoard its wealth for himself.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On the one hand, January Junction is saved and Elisa gets to marry her knight. On the other, Jack loses out on love, although he seems to get over it by staying with his heavenly friends. He also strikes up an arrangement with Pardon-Me Pete to fake him seeing his shadow so Pete can get more sleep and Jack has some more weeks of winter fun to play.
  • Bling of War: Sir Raveneau's golden armor.
  • Celestial Deadline: Jack Frost is only human until next spring; to become human permanently, he needs a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife before then.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Elisa and Sir Raveneau knew each other as children before Raveneau left town to become a knight. In the end they get married.
  • Clockwork Creature: Kubla Krause's castle is staffed entirely by clockwork robots of his own creation, including his horse, his butler, and his army of "Ka-knights". Even the "mice" that crawl through the walls are wind-up versions.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: Because no living thing can stand Kubla Kraus, the only thing he can talk to is his metal puppet, Dahmi.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Not really a curse, but the same sort of thing. To remain as a human, Jack needs a house, horse, bag of gold, and wife before winter ends.
  • Damsel in Distress: Happens to Elisa when Kubla Kraus becomes smitten with her and wants to make her his wife.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dahmi has moments like this. His responses to Kubla Kraus's "I Want" Song fit the bill.
    Dummy: How can you woo her? She doesn't like you!
  • Did Not Get the Girl: In the end, Elisa marries Sir Raveneau instead of Jack.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Near the beginning of the special, Jack overhears Elisa tell her father that she loves Jack Frost. As Pardon Me Pete explains, Elisa was clearly referring to the ice patterns Jack makes, but Jack assumed that she meant him specifically.
  • Dude Magnet: Elisa has the affections of not only Jack, but also Kubla Kraus and Sir Raveneau.
  • Failure Hero: As a human, Jack spectacularly fails in his attempts to oppose Kraus, until a stroke of luck in the end. Oh, right, he does tell Raveneau to ride faster at one point.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Elisa and Sir Raveneau fall in love over the winter while she nurses him back to health from the injuries he sustained during her rescue.
  • Foil: Both Jack and Kubla Krause are lonely people (well, beings in the former case) with immense amounts of power who fall in love with a girl who doesn't reciprocate their romantic feelings. Kubla abuses his temporal power to try and take her, but the prospect of abusing his own magical power never crosses Jack's mind and he gracefully lets her go her own way in the end.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Jack Frost clearly is still a magic spirit at the beginning of the short which seems to take place in The '60s, so it's a given that he won't achieve his goal of becoming human permanently.
  • Foreshadowing: When Elisa's mother urges her to find a husband, Elisa playfully says that she's waiting until her "knight in golden armor" comes along. When Sir Raveneau Rightfellow comes back to the village, he's literally a knight in golden armor, and sure enough, he becomes Elisa's husband in the end.
  • Frictionless Ice: In the real world, falling down a hill and landing on a suddenly frozen lake surface would probably hurt a lot; but when Elisa does it, she just glides across the lake on her bottom, laughing.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Played straight with Elisa, who is surrounded by woodland animals when she goes skating.
  • Funny Background Event: When Raveneau first shows up, Holly is clearly smitten, to Jack's mild annoyance.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Implied to exist somewhere in the setting as Kubla Kraus has an army of steampunk/clockwork robots and servants.
  • Gender Flip: The main plot is very similar to Hans Christian Andersen's "The Little Mermaid": a water elemental falls in love with a human after rescuing them from drowning and becomes human in order to win their love. Added to that, the love interest never realizes the truth, and marries a noble who they believe was the one who saved their life. To further cement this, the elemental "dies" at their loved one's marriage to another, and even gives them a "kiss" goodbye. Ironically, the mermaid's ultimate fate, as a spirit unseen by humans, is how Jack starts and ends the special.
  • Go-to-Sleep Ending: Pardon-Me Pete saw his shadow at the beginning of the special. So after he tells us the whole story, it is time for him to get his six more weeks of shut-eye.
  • Graceful Loser: Upon seeing how happy Elisa is marrying Raveneau, Jack accepts his loss and leaves a parting gift of frosted flowers for Elisa.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Of a non-lethal version. Jack gives up his humanity to regain his icy powers and save January Junction.
  • An Ice Person: Jack and the others in charge of ice and snow.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: As Jack sings to Father Winter, he doesn't care about the fame he has as an immortal spirit. He wants to live like a normal human, to be able to find love and friendship.
  • Imagine Spot: Imagine song, technically. Too poor to afford Christmas gifts, the denizens of January Junction pass around a single box and pantomime their ideal gifts, even putting up a token fuss for good measure. note 
  • Immortality Begins at Twenty: Jack is an ancient entity, but looks to be in his late teens or early twenties at worst, and looks the same age when incarnated as a human.
  • "I Want" Song: Kubla Kraus, of all people gets one. He sings to his mechanical butler about how he plans to woo Elisa because she's so lovely.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Ultimately, Jack accepts that Elisa should be with Sir Raveneau, the mortal man she loves.
  • Keystone Army: Since Kubla Kraus had no living servants, all it took for Jack to depose him was first tricking his army into going over a slick mountain slope, followed by knocking him out the window so Father Winter could blow him far away from January Junction.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Sir Raveneau Rightfellow, Elisa's rescuer and eventual husband.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Jack chooses "Snip" as a surname for himself when he glances at his scissors.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Jack does this to Pardon-Me Pete, in an attempt to scare him back into his hole.
  • Lonely at the Top: Something both Jack and Kubla have in common;
    • Jack Frost may have friends among Father Winter's other sprites, but he's the only one who leaves the big cloud to go spread frost around humanity, who can neither see nor hear him. The happiness of being me / Is not what it's cracked up to be / It's lonely being one of a kind
    • Kubla Kraus may be called the King of the Cossacks and has all the money in January Junction, but no living creature can stand him. Whenever he's not terrorizing the countryside, he's all alone in his empty castle with his mechanical servants for company. As Kubla admits in his Villain Song, he feels miserable despite all of his power. I own the people and the land / So why is it I'm not happy I don't understand
  • Love at First Sight: Kubla Kraus falls in love with Elisa and wants to make her his wife the moment that he spots her from his castle.
  • Love Triangle: Technically a square, since Jack, Kubla Kraus and Raveneau all have a thing for Elisa.
  • Meaningful Name: Sir Raveneau Rightfellow for a perfectly good knight.
  • Mecha-Mooks: Kubla Kraus's clockwork army of K’nights.
  • Mechanical Horse: Kubla Krause's steam-powered horse, Clangstomper. What's more, according to Elisa's parents, he's the only horse in the village.
  • Micro Monarchy: The setting of the mortal world is a small village ruled by a dictator.
  • Mother Nature: Father Winter takes his orders from her, as he points out to Jack when Jack begs for spring not to end early.
  • Nice Guy: Despite conventions of storytelling and (unwittingly) being a rival to Jack for Elisa's affections, Sir Raveneau is by all means a kind and heroic knight.
  • Overly Long Name: Snip's alias.
    • Flat "What": Jack's reaction to hearing it for the first time.
  • Race Against the Clock: Jack Frost has until the end of winter to get a house, horse, bag of gold, and wife, for a heroic example. Also to stop the metal man army.
  • Refreshingly Normal Life-Choice: Jack Frost tells Father Winter that he wants to be human because, as the spirit of winter he's invisible to humans and can't share their fun when they appreciate his snow. He sings he wants to be an ordinary guy so he would fall in love and have a simple life, instead of being the spirit of winter, and concludes tearfully that "it's lonely being one of a kind." Touched, Father Winter agrees into turning him temporarily into a human, but adverts him that, until the first day of spring, he must have earned a wife, a home to shelter, a horse and a bag of gold, or else he will become a sprite again. Jack doesn't succeed, but eventually gets over it.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Both Jack "Snip" Frost and Sir Raveneau court Elisa, with Jack as the poor suitor trying to become rich and Sir Raveneau as a wealthy knight. Unusual for the trope however, both of them are good men and the "rich suitor" wins out.
  • Schizo Tech: The bulk of the story takes place in a medieval-esque peasant village ruled by a man with steampunk/clockpunk servants and soldiers.
  • Solid Clouds: Jack and his fellow Winter Sprites live in the clouds where they make weather for the mortal world below.
  • Villainous Crush: Kubla Kraus falls in love with Elisa, to the point that he kidnaps her with the intention of making her his wife.
  • Villain Song: "There's the Rub" Kubla Kraus sings about how alone he is.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Jack, at first; he seems to think that acquiring the requisite house, horse, and gold will be very easy.
  • Winter Royal Lady: Holly's as close as the show gets; she's a snowflake-making sprite, but on earth they disguise her as a "gypsy princess." Father Winter could be considered a male example, as he is the sovereign over all things winter.


Video Example(s):


One of a Kind

Jack Frost feels lonely with his abilities as a ghostly winter sprite and wishes he were human.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / IWantSong

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