Frosty Returns is a "sequel", or more of a follow-up, to the original Rankin/Bass Christmas special, Frosty the Snowman. This story includes no other characters from either Frosty the Snowman or Frosty's Winter Wonderland. Since Broadway Video produced this special and owned the 1969 original, this special always follows CBS's annual broadcasts of Frosty the Snowman, despite the lack of continuity between the two specials.
The special begins with a musical number showing that the Beansboro Elementary School is canceled for the day due to a seven-inch snowfall, while the adults incessantly complain about the problems snow and ice cause, and the children enjoy the opportunity for playing with it. (Later in the special, however, many of the same children are shown in school the next day rallying for the elimination of snow.)
Frosty arrives in the town of Beansboro and meets young Holly DeCarlo, a relatively lonely young girl and aspiring kid magician with only one friend, a tone-deaf, somewhat geeky character named Charles who apparently has a knack for climatology. Meanwhile, evil Mr. Twitchell is the inventor of "Summer Wheeze", an aerosol spray that makes snow instantly disappear through unexplained means. He hopes to use the product to win over the people of Beansboro so that they will "make me their king" (Twitchell does not seem to realize that the "king of the winter carnival" to which he alludes is only an honorary title and has no real power). When one of the members of the town council voices concern about the environmental impact of the untested product, Mr. Twitchell has her dropped through a trapdoor.
To Twitchell's delight, and Frosty's dismay, the town of Beansboro falls head over heels for "Summer Wheeze", delighting Twitchell but causing Frosty to be concerned, not unreasonably, about his safety. Holly gets Frosty to appear at the annual Beansboro Winter Carnival to persuade the townspeople to rethink their newfound hatred of snow. Singing about the joy of winter to the town, Frosty is unanimously declared king of the carnival, a title which Mr. Twitchell had hoped to win. Holly and Frosty, however, allow Mr. Twitchell to still wear the cape and ride the sled of the carnival king.
Despite its association with the 1969 special, Frosty Returns has a notable lack of continuity with it. For example, Frosty has a different physical appearance and continues to live even without his top hat. In the original special and its other sequels, the removal of Professor Hinkle's magic hat from Frosty's head caused him to cease being "all living" and become a regular snowman again. The hat he wears in Frosty Returns is not even the same as the one from the original, since he is shown to have gotten it from Holly.
The reason behind his living without his hat possibly may be that in an earlier sequel produced by Rankin/Bass, Frosty's Winter Wonderland, he received a kiss from Crystal which allowed him to live without his hat.
The plot of this particular special is markedly more politically aware than its predecessors and successors, alluding to climate change, environmentalism corporate enterprise, and instead of a Christmas celebration, the term "winter carnival" is used. In fact, Christmas is not mentioned at all and Charles makes mention of creating a "fertility goddess" in the snow, possibly a reference to Frey, the Scandinavian Fertility God and a deity associated with peace and prosperity during winter solstice. Santa Claus is never mentioned either.
The use of aerosol cans hints to the use of fluorocarbons, which were used as propellants for decades before their potential to deplete the ozone layer was discovered in the 1970s. However, fluorocarbons had already been banned from aerosol cans in the United States at the time the special was produced, although the stigma associated with them remained. Trucks are used in the special to spray "Summer Wheeze" around the town, alluding to the use of DDT trucks in the 1950s.
Frosty no longer has a corn cob pipe. The Frosty song, when sung, uses humming or whistling through the corn cob pipe line, thus avoiding all references to smoking.
Broadcast history and availability
Frosty Returns was made for the CBS television network in 1992, and has continued to air annually during the holiday season. Over the years, it has been released several times in the home media market. It was originally released individually on VHS, but it has since been included on most DVD releases and all Blu-ray releases of the original Frosty the Snowman, except for the 2001 DVD release by Sony Wonder and the 2018 DVD and Blu-ray releases by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.
|Michael Patrick Carter||Charles|
|Brian Doyle-Murray||Mr. Twitchell|
|Andrea Martin||Ms. Carbuncle|
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