Third day already! Today, after visiting the colorful world of Wreck-It Ralph, we return to another Christmas staple from Rankin-Bass: Frosty the Snowman.
Special: Frosty the Snowman
Studio: Rankin-Bass Productions
Year released: 1969
AniB’s thoughts: Following Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in its annual showings on CBS is another holiday classic in Frosty the Snowman. Airing continuously since 1969, this simple yet timeless special is yet again adapted from a song that released over a decade prior, and also like Rudolph, helped make a certain snowman iconic to generations of viewers.
Frosty and Rudolph seem rather intertwined on several levels: both gained notoriety originally with famous songs; both specials have aired together on CBS for several years (in Frosty’s case, the entirety of its existence), and in 1979 the duo starred in a feature-length film from Rankin-Bass: Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. (That discussion might be for another day though). Frosty’s small-screen debut was actually in 1950 with a United Productions of America (UPA) short, but his true big-time appearance came 5 years after Rudolph’s, in 1969.
Anyone who is familiar with Rankin-Bass’s productions (or maybe read Day 1 on Rudolph) will know the studio’s Christmas specials were generally known for their puppets through a process known as “Animagic.” Frosty, therefore was a bit of departure, opting instead for traditional 2-D animation that was meant to evoke the images of a Christmas postcard- a directive that came from Rankin Jr. and Bass themselves.
Indeed, the style is evident when you look at what was created on-screen; even now the visuals evoke a simple nostalgia that gives Frosty a fairy-tale kind of feel to it. The animation is simple and uncomplicated; one could argue nowadays it it could even be considered “cheap-looking,” but despite that, Rankin and Bass did achieve the effect that they hoped to have. And fittingly, the simple animation belies a simple, family friendly tale that has cemented itself firmly in the center of beloved Christmas stories. That old silk hat had some magic, all right…
From my own personal point of view, it’s a fine special and a good one to get in the spirit of the season, though I was always a Rudolph man myself. Despite its simplicity, it’s something that can evoke a nostalgic smile on those who grew up with it, and its staying power on CBS for decades speaks volumes to the impact it’s had.
Like Rudolph, grading a classic Christmas special is a strange endeavor. It’s timeless and really yet again beyond the pale of any one critic’s sort of assertions, but I will run the numbers again, in brief.
Animation: Simple, hand-drawn 2-D animation. As I talked about, it was designed to evoke the image of a Christmas card, but what I didn’t mention was that it was principally animated in Japan. Between Rudolph and Frosty, it’s actually pretty surprising how it was all done overseas…so again, is Frosty the Snowman actually anime? A curious question, but probably not one relevant to the grading at hand. 3.5/5 points.
Characters: Very simple. You’ve got Frosty, the kids, principally Karen, the girl who’s in the picture for this review, an evil magician who’s really more of a bumbler in Professor Hinkle, Hocus Pocus, his one-time trick rabbit turned companion of Frosty, and then Santa himself. There’s not much to say as no one really has much depth here, but Frosty is instantly warm and relatable (ironic, as he’s a snowman) and it gets the job done. This might normally be a much lower score, but Frosty has that “classic” effect here. 3.5/5 points.
Story: It’s a telling of the story from the lyrics of “Frosty the Snowman.” Basically, it boils down to “Frosty came to life one day, and then he had to skip town after playing with the children so he wouldn’t melt.” Once again (as I keep saying), simple, but enjoyable. 2.75/5 points.
Themes: This is about friendship, a little bit of Christmas magic and to always have hope. Other than that, this really isn’t “morality: the film.” 2.5/5 points.
Don’t Insult the Viewers: Christmas classics have the intangibles of classic shows and famous characters, mixed with iconic songs in a family friendly format. Big winner here. 5/5 points.
Overall: 17.25/25 (69%): This might seem a bit low, but the value of a Christmas classic can’t really be expressed in numbers adequately. Frosty the Snowman continues to be a stalwart of the December programming schedule on CBS, and the resounding success of this production also led to a variety of Frosty sequels and spinoffs. Get a cup of hot cocoa and maybe this will evoke some feelings of the season and fuzzy nostalgia all in one.
Like what you see? Love Frosty the Snowman? Leave a comment!