Brown-haired boy: Aw, Frosty, we don't care what grownups say.
— Karen and her friends right before the title card
Frosty the Snowman is an animated Christmas special that first aired on CBS on December 7, 1969 and has aired annually since then. The 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, which 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, and is notably the longest-running animated television special to have consecutively aired annually on its original network.
On Christmas Eve, a girl named Karen and her friends build a snowman after school. After several suggestions of what to call their snowman (including "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 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, Hinkle's pet rabbit, Hocus Pocus, soon 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 is just coming to terms with his surroundings, the cop lets Frosty go. At the train station, Frosty stows away aboard a refrigerated boxcar, 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. Little do they know Hinkle has also hitched a ride on the 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 get 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 United States Marines and the President of the United States, before suggesting Santa Claus. Frosty agrees, and promptly takes credit for the idea himself (much to Hocus' annoyance). Hocus gets Santa, but Hinkle then confronts Frosty and Karen once more and blows out Karen's campfire. They 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, they discover a greenhouse filled with Christmas poinsettias. Despite Karen's objections, Frosty steps inside the greenhouse with her, saying that he could afford to lose a little weight. Unfortunately, Hinkle catches up to them immediately after and locks them inside.
Hocus brings Santa 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 before they can put it back on Frosty's head, Hinkle again arrives on the scene and again demands they return the hat to him. He relents only when threatened with being put on Santa's naughty list for the rest of his life if he so much as lays one finger on the brim. 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. Hinkle promptly bids Frosty and Karen farewell and runs 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, bringing the snowman 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 closing credits show all the characters the next Christmas marching through the town square with Frosty in the lead, singing the titular song. Among them is a redeemed Hinkle, who is proudly wearing his new 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 the 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 purchased Classic Media, and in turn, DreamWorks Animation was later purchased by NBC Universal in April 2016. The special made its cable debut on Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas in December 2019.
In Canada, CBC holds the broadcasting rights.
The special 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. Classic Media created a direct-to-video sequel titled The Legend of Frosty the Snowman in 2005.
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.
- When the special was originally in production, June Foray was the voice of Karen and Paul Frees voiced some of her classmates. However, shortly before it 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, 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 the special during their commercial breaks at Christmas, 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 (as well as the Freeform airings) 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.
- The line "Yeah, Frosty it is. Frosty the Snowman!" is spoken by June Foray's demo track.
- 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.
- The background music has been lowered in volume in most spots, and come half a second early in other spots.
- Certain sound effects have been removed, including part of the children's laughter at the start, the springy sound that Hocus Pocus makes when he lands on the school floor, the sound that Hocus Pocus makes when he falls out of the hat after returning it to the children, and the sounds of the squirrel that laughs at Hinkle after he crashes into a tree and is covered up in snow.
- Many times in the special, the petals of the flower on Frosty's hat switch between five and six.
- 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 there.
- 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!" and when the barber notices Frosty, the flower on Frosty's hat is on the right side instead of the left.
- When Karen tells Hinkle "But it's not yours anymore. You threw it away.", if you look closely at Karen, her legs are drawn weirdly, almost like she isn't wearing any pants. In later parts of the special however, you can clearly see that she is wearing pants (thankfully).
- In the same scene, 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".
- 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.
- Karen's scarf briefly disappears and then reappears after Hocus pulls on it to get her attention at the train station.
- Frosty takes his broomstick along with him during the parade and leaves it in town, but when he is revived, it suddenly appears out of nowhere.
- Frosty's mouth doesn't move when he says "I am alive!" and "Besides, I've been wanting to take off a little weight anyway".
- When Frosty takes Karen into the greenhouse, his nose turns white for a split second.
- When Frosty is revived, his mouth is missing, but when Hinkle comes, his mouth reappears, and the background keeps changing.
- When the camera cuts to Frosty and Karen as the ticket man is getting the tickets ready, the brim of Frosty's hat turns white for one frame. Also, his corncob pipe disappears.
- In the first shot outside the ticket window, the "Ticket" sign is missing. When the ticket man says, "No money, no ticket!" the sign appears.
- Just after Frosty says "Let's have a parade!" His mouth disappears for a split second.
- When Karen is getting on the train, one of her mittens becomes the same color as her skin tone for one frame.
|Billy De Wolfe||Professor Hinkle|
Karen (replaced during post-production)
Karen's friends (replaced during post-production)
|Suzanne Davidson (uncredited)||Karen|
|Greg Thomas (uncredited)||Karen's friends|
|Paul Frees||Santa Claus|
Karen's friends (replaced during post-production)
- Frosty the Snowman on CBS.com
- Frosty the Snowman at the Internet Movie Database
- Frosty the Snowman at TV Tropes
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