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Frosty is a seasonal icon though he doesn't always get the best movies
In 1950, Gene Autry and the Cass County Boys recorded a song by Walter "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson that has since become a classic of the season: "Frosty the Snowman".
I enjoy this song, but I kind of have to ask: How is it a Christmas song?
I don't want to sound like I'm harping on this one topic after my remarks about It's a Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn, but it's always struck me that "Frosty" isn't really a Christmas song as much as it's a winter song.
But the 1969 Rankin/Bass movie is a different thing, specifically stating that Frosty was made out of Christmas snow which apparently is much more special and 50% the fat of all other snow. Some of its sequels, however are a different matter with less of a Christmas tie.
In Frosty the Snowman. the story largely follows the plot of the classic kids' song.
After a poor performance, second-rate magician Professor Hinkle (voiced by Billy De Wolfe) throws his hat out. It's picked up by a group of kids who put it on their snowman who immediately comes to life with the voice of Jackie Vernon. Hinkle spends the rest of the day trying to get his hat back, and the kids try to help Frosty run off to the North Pole so he doesn't melt.
The story ends with a sort of Santa Ex Machina (Paul Frees).
However in Frosty's Winter Wonderland, there actually is no real amount of Christmas present. Frosty comes back as he'd promised, and the kids celebrate. However it causes serious jealousy with Jack Frost (Paul Frees) who doesn't like that Frosty is getting better press than he. The kids make Frosty a wife—Crystal (Shelley Winters)—and a snow parson (Dennis Day) and the two get married.
Then in Frosty Returns ... well ....
It's not a Rankin/Bass production and there's a very discernible difference in the production quality. It's basically a PSA for snow.
Holly (Elisabeth Moss) is practicing her magic act for the town's Winter Carnival with her friend Charles (Michael Patrick Carter). Naturally she loses track of her hat and Frosty comes to life with the voice of John Goodman. It's not so much a return of Frosty as it's a rebirth.
Anyway, local businessman Mr. Twitchell (Brian Doyle-Murray) puts out a special spray called Summer Wheeze that eliminates snow and ice with a simple spritz. The kids and frosty go on a crusade to convince everyone of the benefits of snow.
Seriously. It's a 23 minute video telling us that we shouldn't use an imaginary spray that instantly eliminates snow.
And the animation doesn't do it any favors either.
I know there are other Frosty movies, but I don't intend to talk about the whole series here. Just these three.
Now, there are a few common threads running through these movies, though mostly the first two. Clearly there's frosty and his top hat. Frosty and Winter Wonderland were produced by the same people and each feature a cheerful "Happy Birthday!" And they each have a narrator that is voiced by and strongly modeled on a recognizable celebrity: Frosty has Jimmy Durante, Winter Wonderland has Andy Griffith, and Returns has Jonathan Winters.
Sorry Winters. I know you're famous, but you're not nearly as iconic as Durante or Griffith.
But that one has bigger problems than a less-famous narrator.
For instance, the Rankin/Bass productions use recognizable, classic Christmas songs. That goes a long way toward endearing them to us. But the songs in Frosty Returns are original and not particularly catchy. They serve their purpose in the story, but that's not really saying much considering the message they're trying to convey.
Frosty the Snowman gets an 8 / 10.
Frosty's Winter Wonderland gets a respectable 7 / 10.
And Frosty Returns gets a sadly generous 4 / 10.
Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns are rated TV-G while Frosty's Winter Wonderland is unrated.
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