Frosty the Snowman is an animated Christmas special that first aired on CBS on December 7, 1969 and has aired annually since then. This special, written by Romeo Muller and produced and directed by Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, is based on the holiday song of the same name that was originally written by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson and first performed by Gene Autry in the 1940s. It is Rankin/Bass's second most prominent special to be aired on broadcast channels, behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
One December afternoon, a school girl named Karen and her friends create a snowman after school. After several suggestions of what to call their snowman (including "Oatmeal" and "Christopher Columbus"), Karen decides to name him "Frosty." They later acquire a top hat discarded by inept magician Professor Hinkle. When Karen places it on top of Frosty's head, the snowman comes to life (and always says "Happy Birthday!" in response). When Hinkle learns of the magic power his hat actually possesses, he takes it back and departs, pretending that he did not see Frosty come to life. However, the professor's pet rabbit, Hocus Pocus, returns the hat to Frosty.
Frosty soon senses the temperature is rising and worries about melting. The children suggest putting him on the next train to the North Pole, where he will never melt, and they all parade into the city on the way to the train station, where Frosty has his confrontation with the traffic cop mentioned in the song's lyrics. When Karen explains that Frosty came to life and doesn't know what a traffic light or a lamp post is, the traffic cop lets Frosty go. At the train station, Frosty stows away aboard a refrigerated train car, since neither he nor the children have any money for a train ticket. As the train is about to leave the station, Karen and Hocus decide to join Frosty for the ride to keep him company. With that, Frosty, Karen, and Hocus wave goodbye to the other kids as the train takes off. Unbeknownst to them, Hinkle has also hitched a ride on the same train, intending to get his hat back.
As the train continues up north, however, Frosty notices Karen is freezing and starting to catch a cold, so they jump off the train, leaving Hinkle behind once again. Hinkle, seeing them escape, jumps off the train too, but falls down a mountain and crashes into a tree where a pile of snow falls on him. At Frosty's request, Hocus convinces some forest animals who are preparing for Christmas to build a campfire for Karen. Fearing that Karen still cannot survive for long in the cold weather, Frosty asks Hocus who might be able to help them. Hocus suggests (by pantomiming) the President of the United States and the United States Marines, before suggesting Santa Claus. Frosty agrees, and promptly takes credit for the idea himself (much to Hocus' annoyance). Hocus hops off to get Santa, but Hinkle then confronts Frosty and Karen once more and blows out Karen's campfire. Frosty and Karen are again forced to flee, this time with Karen riding on Frosty's back as he slides head-first down a hill. At the bottom of the slope, Karen and Frosty discover a greenhouse filled with Christmas poinsettias. Despite Karen's objections, Frosty steps inside the warm greenhouse with her, suggesting that he could afford to lose a little weight while she warms up. Unfortunately, Hinkle catches up to them immediately after and locks them in the greenhouse.
Hocus brings Santa Claus to the greenhouse only to find a heartbroken Karen in tears and Frosty melted on the floor due to Hinkle's cruel act. Santa explains to Karen that Frosty is made from Christmas snow, and that he can never completely disappear, only take the form of summer rain, until next December. With a gust of cold wind through the open greenhouse door, the puddle that was Frosty blows out the door and magically changes back into his inanimate snowman form. Hocus brings the magic hat outside, but Hinkle again arrives on the scene and again demands the return of his hat. He relents only when threatened with being removed from Santa's Christmas list for the rest of his life if he put so much as one finger on the hat. Santa states that if Hinkle is truly repentant for his mean attitude and harming Frosty, and if he goes home and writes "I am really sorry for what I did to Frosty" a hundred zillion times, he may find a gift in his stocking on Christmas morning, which makes Hinkle bid Frosty and Karen farewell and run home to repeatedly write his apologies, assuming he may get a new hat. Santa then places the magic hat back on top of Frosty's head and the snowman returns to life again. After celebrating, Santa takes Karen home and Frosty to the North Pole, but promises that Frosty will be back next winter.
The end credits show all the characters the next Christmas marching through the town square with Frosty in the lead, singing the "Frosty the Snowman" song. Among them is a redeemed Professor Hinkle, who is proudly wearing his new top hat. At the end of the parade, Frosty gets back into Santa's waiting sleigh and they return to the North Pole, with Frosty proclaiming, "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"
CBS has broadcast this special in the USA since its debut, even after the pre-1974 Rankin/Bass library was sold first to Broadway Media, then to Golden Books, and then to Classic Media, a successor of the British-owned Entertainment Rights company, which was purchased by Classic Media's own successor, Boomerang Media. In July 2012, Dreamworks Animation SKG purchased Classic Media, and in turn, DreamWorks Animation was later purchased by NBC Universal in April 2016. The special will be making its cable debut on Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas in December 2019.
In Canada, CBC holds the broadcasting rights.
The special was released on home video by Family Home Entertainment in 1989 and 1993, then by Sony Wonder in 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2004, by Genius Entertainment in 2007, by Vivendi Entertainment in 2010, and by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in 2018. Most of the DVD and Blu-ray releases also included Frosty Returns.
Frosty the Snowman was followed up by two more Christmas specials produced by Rankin/Bass - Frosty's Winter Wonderland in 1976, and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July in 1979. In 1992, CBS produced a new follow-up special, Frosty Returns, which has followed up their broadcasts of the original special since then, and also accompanied it on most DVD and Blu-ray releases. In 2005, Classic Media created a direct-to-video sequel titled The Legend of Frosty the Snowman.
- When Frosty was originally in production, June Foray was the voice of Karen and Paul Frees voiced some of her classmates. However, shortly before the special first aired, the kids' lines were redubbed by unknown actors (though a few of Foray's vocal noises for Karen were retained). However, Foray and Frees' original audio recordings were made available on the album Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and Frosty the Snowman: The Original Television Soundtrack Recordings. Foray recalled her experiences in the book The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass:
|“||I was called in to voice the little girl Karen. I was disappointed to learn later that my work for the Karen character was replaced by another actress. To this day I am unsure of the reason, but I still enjoy the special.||”|
- In addition to narrating the special, Jimmy Durante sang the song "Frosty the Snowman", recording it for the second time in his career. He is one of the few recording artists to release the song with both its original and modern lyrics that are more familiar today.
- From 2002 through 2005, Nickelodeon ran a parody of Frosty the Snowman during their commercial breaks at Christmastime, titled Patrick the Snowman and featuring Patrick Star from SpongeBob SquarePants in the title role. Coincidentally, Patrick's voice actor, Bill Fagerbakke, would voice Frosty himself a few years later in The Legend of Frosty the Snowman.
- On most DVD releases, when Frosty says "Great!" the animation repeats itself once.
- Since 2010, all current home media releases utilize an early "workprint" master of the special. This master omits the "Rankin/Bass Present" credit at the very beginning, as well as some other differences:
- Some of the sound effects are more in sync.
- After Frosty says "Let's have a parade!", the children's cheering of "Yay, we're going to the railroad train!" is more audible.
- The instrumental at the beginning of the special is slightly different.
- Santa has only four reindeer pulling his sleigh instead of eight.
- When Frosty says they'll have a parade and the kids are ready to march, the boy in the blue sweater is behind Karen. During the parade, the boy in the brown sweater is behind Karen.
- The edges of Frosty's hat repeatedly switch from sharp to smooth and back many times in the special.
- When Karen says "Then we've got to get you there!" The flower on Frosty's hat is on the right side instead of the left. This might not be an error, as it's considered an ambidextrous sprite effect.
- While the kids are in the snow, most of Karen's friends have short clothes on, and Karen has no pants under her jacket. In real life, it's bad to go out in short clothing.
- When Karen tries to convince Hinkle that she and the other kids saw Frosty come to life, both boys' mouths move, even though only one voice says "uh-huh, we sure did".
- Many times in the special, the petals of the flower on Frosty's hat switch from five to six and back between scenes.
- The girl in the pink dress has short sleeves with her outfit, but when she is waving goodbye to Frosty and Karen on the train, she switched to long sleeves.
- When the boy in the blue sweater suggests "Bruce" as a name for Frosty, his voice is different.
- Frosty takes his broomstick along with him during the parade and leaves it in town, but when he is revived, his broomstick suddenly appears out of nowhere.
- Frosty's mouth doesn't move when he says "I am alive!", "Besides, I've been wanting to take off a little weight anyway" and while he demonstrates moving and juggling.
|June Foray|| Teacher|
Karen (replaced during post-production)
|Billy De Wolfe||Professor Hinkle|
|Paul Frees|| Santa Claus|
- Frosty the Snowman on CBS.com
- Frosty the Snowman at the Internet Movie Database
- Frosty the Snowman at TV Tropes
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