Monday, December 5, 2011

Frosty the Snowman

Since it's December and all that, and the television is currently assaulting me with holiday special after holiday special, I might as well do the same on my own blog. Like October and its deadly array of Halloween specials, I'm going to shell out nothing but Christmas specials. This is going to be the equivalent of me stringing up Christmas lights and inflating giant, annoying-looking Santa Clauses on my lawn, and the best part is, since there's way more Christmas specials than there are Halloween specials (which makes sense, since Christmas is the hugest holiday of the year), I have no way of running out of steam at the end of the month like I sort of did this year.

And what a better way to start off on the topic of Christmas specials with one of the most well-known Christmas specials of all, Frosty the Snowman.

Produced by Rankin/Bass, aka the people who cranked out a bazillion other really memorable Christmas specials that crop up on cable whenever December strikes, Frosty the Snowman is a fondly remembered special that ranks on many people's favorite holiday specials' list, partly because the animators took the easy way out and created something that already had its plot laid out in the form of a song. Oddly, when I brought this topic up around my fellow peers, the answer was always the same. They remembered liking it, but no one could ever give me a single description of any scene that happened in the film. Everyone just remembered a singing snowman, a magic hat, and kids that would dance around their hideous animated golem. I mean, geez, the special runs at a full thirty minutes. There has to be something.

So thus, I began my mystical journey. I desperately want to figure out just what exactly is so special about this special. Like a Tim Burton-designed skeleton, I'm going to desperately try to figure out the meaning of Christmas by performing experiments on this beloved children's classic.

Without further ado...

Frosty the Snowman

December 7, 1969

Availability: On Blu-Ray

The instant I fire this puppy up, I am bombarded with the spirit of Christmas. Waves of nostalgia hit my prone, defenseless body and I can't help but smile as I hear the classic music from my childhood. Rankin/Bass just has that effect on me.

...but the moment our narrator shows up and I start to see the actual quality this special is going to bring me, instantly the cartoon shows some age. Because when our Brooklyn native of a narrator talks, you can clearly see that his mouth is on a separate cel, giving him the illusion that he is not a man, but rather a magically animated ventriloquist dummy. I like to imagine that, nine years after this special was over, he starred in a horror film with Anthony Hopkins.

And I might as well point this out. The narrator is Jimmy Durante. If you don't know who he is, then maybe you should put down the Michael Bay movies and watch some black and white films, you philistine.
...or just watch any Looney Tunes cartoon that references a man with a big nose that says ha-cha-cha, since even the classics love their pop-culture references.

"I will kill you in your sleep."
But back to the cartoon. Jimmy Durante the giant ventriloquist dummy is talking about how, during this time of year, there's this magical snow that performs behavior-altering miracles because it's the first snow of the season. Why does it do this? Because shut up, it's Christmas, that's why.

We watch as this shower of magical Santa juice turns everybody merry, and is even able to make dogs friendly towards the mailman and for beleagured fathers to suddenly be able to put up with their crappy families, it's just that magical. And what makes this snow even doubly awesome is because it's the snow that's falling right before a school lets out for Christmas break. I'm pretty sure the weather doesn't care about the public school system, but okay, I'll buy it, creepy reanimated dummy. Just don't hurt me or those poor innocent kids.

That chin.
Inside the very retro-looking school house and classroom completely devoid of any decor, we hear from the plump, aging teacher that will never appear again that she's hired a magician with a very pretentious-sounding name to entertain for their dreary Christmas party. Because if there's something that makes me think of Christmas parties, it's absolutely no Christmas decorations and no food, and the only entertainment is a magician that isn't even very good at his job. Suicide rates must be criminally high at this school. 

That's a pretty short dress for snowy weather, teacher.
The moment the magician (who doesn't even try to hide the fact that he's going to be our villain, because magicians are just evil in cartoons) appears on-screen, we hear from our omnipresent, all-seeing Jimmy Durante that Professor Hinkle is a horrible magician. I'm pretty sure we, the audience, are perfectly capable of figuring that out on our own just by watching the animation, because the moment he says that, Hinkle totally craps up without a parachute by flinging stereotypical magic props around and having all of his tricks malfunction on him. Shows just how much this teacher appreciates her students if this is the best she could do. But I guess we needed a narrator to say he's horrible for us to truly get it.

...and is it me, or is this scene kind of mean-spirited? The very first thing we see and learn about this character is that he absolutely sucks at his job even though he really wants to succeed, his own rabbit won't obey him and treats him like a joke, and people heartlessly laugh at his failure. He doesn't act like a jerk during this scene so it comes off as "Hey, look at this loser! Laugh!". That's dark.

The only reason he's still smiling is because he overdosed on antidepressants before performing.
So basically this entire scene is Hinkle sucking, the children laughing and booing at him, and me wondering just where the hell the teacher even hired this inept guy in the first place. I mean, seriously, if The Batman has a freakin' ventriloquist directory that can describe when a ventriloquist goes insane and starts robbing people, you'd think this town would at least have magician referrals. I know the Internet didn't exist at this point of time, but I'm positive there'd at least be one other magician in the phone book. Geez, lady, research your performers!

Finally, in a fit of frustration, Hinkle just gives up and throws his hat away from him while shouting about how useless it is (so the teacher just stood there and let a man have angry outbursts and throw things in front of her students?), his rabbit runs off with it, and the kids later trample him in their rush to leave school. Some Christmas party, am I right? I wouldn't be surprised if these kids later turn to drugs.

So if he's Professor Hinkle, does that mean he teaches at a local university and performs this job as a hobby?
When the kids leave the school and a man's broken dreams behind, we get one of the weirdest batches of adlibbing I have ever heard in a cartoon. Oh sure, it's a bunch of happy looking generic kid designs making with the happy-go-lucky and frolicking to their heart's content, but without any direction, the child actors say the stupidest things, stuff that no one would ever say in real life. One kid honest to god says "It's cold and snowy!", and another kid says, in response, "Yeah, the best kind of snow too!". What kind of kids would talk like this?

I do love how, while the kids vomit word salad all over the place, one of the kids just kind of coasts along in the foreground on a sled, somehow disobeying both the laws of inertia and the laws of physics. Truly this is a Christmas classic!
How you can tell that this was animated in a place that doesn't snow: None of the kids are wearing pants.
So the munchkins revel in this powdery gift from above, appear decently if a little bit generically cute, and continue belting out real awesome lines like "I like snow!", "Feels good!", and "Yay, snow!". But after about two seconds, they grow tired of this and the kids finally decide that they're going to build a snowman as they effortlessly roll a ball of snow taller than them into the scene without any sign that any of them were working on it previously. Geez, kids! It takes me a while to get a decent snowman ball half that size and you can just make an Indiana Jones prop appear out of thin air?

And someone get that little girl some pants! Her earmuffs and mittens aren't going to do her any good if her dress is at waist length.
"Hi, Karen! We both have the same character model but with different colorations!"
And apparently making a snowman with actual arms and legs (no, seriously, how the hell would that snowman hold up without any support?) is a really easy task for these children, because we go from a single ball of snow to Frosty in just a couple seconds, thanks to the wonders of 60's editing. Also, how would that broom and stovepipe combo make any sense? Who sweeps while they smoke?

I will give the kids some credit, even though I'm still having trouble figuring out how his limbs would stay in place. That is one awesome, if slightly naked, snowman. I'm a little jealous now, because whenever my family went up into the mountains for the holidays, my snowmen would end up looking like misshapen, lumpy messes that contain just as much dirt as snow. I'm sure if I brought one of them to life, they'd scream wordlessly and thrash about in ungodly agony until the sun puts them out of their misery.

The kid in the middle is putting the carrot on.
The flock of short, terrifying-looking children with powers no mortal is meant to wield debate with themselves on what they can name their hideous mockery of a human being. The names they throw around are really dumb, to say the least, and I'm saying that after one of them said "It's cold and snowy!". One kid wants to name their effigy Oatmeal, while another wants to name him Christopher Columbus. This was made in a way simpler time, because if this scene popped up nowadays, you'd get options like Michael Jackson, Edward Cullen, Pikachu, or Batman, and the snowman would be decked out with way cooler accessories than just a mere stovepipe hat and broom.

...and now I kind of wish I lived in a place that gets snow, because now I want to make a snowman with a Batman mask and utility belt. It won't be the snowman my household needed, but the snowman that it deserved.
Geez, kids. You're not adopting a new pet. It's a freaking snowman. This is not a big decision you have to make!
Finally, one girl, who will definitely be important to this special later on the way she shoves herself in front of the others, has way more lines than the rest of them, and is the only one with a given name, finally suggests that they name their snowman Frosty. I love the way she crosses her arms and adopts this smug look on her face when the rest of the kids think that's so original that they jump up and down and cheer. Egotistical little asshole, isn't she? Truly the name Frosty is a name so clever that no one else ever thought to name their snowman that!
The children in this community are easily amused.
In fact, they're so happy about their snowman that they're going to link hands and sing Frosty the Snowman, a song so beloved and known in their hearts that all of the kids are able to recite the lyrics perfectly, even the smaller, stupider ones that suggested Christopher Columbus and Oatmeal. This scene, the way they praise their giant snow statue with his black, lifeless eyes made out of coal, gets frighteningly close to the kids having a religious ceremony. I'm pretty sure they're breaking one of the Ten Commandments by worshiping this terrifying snow idol that stands, eternally smiling at his subjects.

...wait, the Frosty the Snowman song actually exists in a universe where there is an actual Frosty? That means the kids know what's going to happen. Somehow that makes this scene even worse.

Awww, they started their own cult and everything. That's so cute.
And, since they're missing the old silk hat they found (because the place where they found the broom and the pipe didn't carry hats), we get to see our inept loser of a magician chase down his hat and, through a series of really contrived coincidences involving a disobeying rabbit and a stray wind, the kids take it and they give it to their snowman.

Uh, then it's not "the old silk hat they found" anymore. Now it's "the old silk hat they stole". There's a big difference.
"I'm going to steal something from that guy I laughed and booed at! Aren't I precious?"
If you're at all familiar with the song or just Christmas specials in general, you should know what happens next. The old silk hat with the incredibly girly flower somehow brings Frosty to life, because even though the magician was horrible at what he does, his articles of clothing somehow contain magic that's able to perform miracles. Why does the hat bring Frosty to life? Because shut up, it's Christmas, that's why.

And, now that the terrifying monster has sentience and the ability to move, he shouts "Happy birthday!" because, technically, he did just get born. So does that make all of the children his parents?

I feel bad saying this, but this scene is creepy. Maybe it's the look on Frosty's face when he says "Happy birthday". Or maybe it's the fact that I can't help but wonder if the magic hat also gave him like snow joints and snow organs so that he'd be a working organism capable of performing complex tasks. Would smashing Frosty's head reveal that he has a brain made out of snow? Does he have water flowing through a snow circulatory system? The fact that his mouth is red, meaning that he has tissue with blood in there, only raises further questions.
"Children. Children are what we require."
Everyone is understandably shocked and scared about this turn of events because hey, a goddamn snowman just came to life and started talking in front of them. That's a pretty frightening sight. I wouldn't be surprised if one of the kids in the back starting filling his pants with urine out of sheer terror of the giant frost demon that came to life and started making a mockery of the laws of nature.

What makes this even worse is the fact that Frosty only says a couple lines before a wind blows the hat off his head and he changes back to a normal snowman, essentially losing the soul he just received. So basically they see Frosty get born and then die right in front of them, all in a span of about ten seconds. If that doesn't lead to intense mental scarring, I'm not sure what will.

This can only end in tears.
After Frosty dies and the hat flies right back to its rightful owner, the magician then wants his hat back because it really is magic, leading me to wonder just how unsafe it is to wear a magic-leaking hat on your head and what mutations that would cause. This turn of events causes Ultra Annoying Little Bratty Brat Brat (aka Karen) to say to Profession Hinkle that the hat is not his anymore because he threw it away. Uh, that's pretty debatable, kid. When he said that the hat was no good, it was because he was emotionally distraught, and the only reason you got the hat in the first place is because it was stolen by his rabbit and later caught in a stray wind.

And where did Hinkle even get the hat anyways? He seems reasonably surprised that his hat is magic, as if he too has grown to accept the fact that he's a failure. Did he make the hat, or did he buy it at a magic shop, preferably one of those creepy, isolated, horror movie magic shops that contains eldritch tomes and possessed dolls? Because if he bought it, he can just point the kids in that direction and get them out of his hair.
"Kid, you've opened a spiritual portal to unfriendly entities. I'm taking this hat away
before you summon something murderous."
Hinkle's response to Karen trying to claim his debatably abandoned property? He says "Don't talk back to your elders" while Karen's dress shrinks to unbelievable, almost risque lengths. In Embarrassing Name's defense, this is a pretty valid complaint. Why does he owe something to snot-nosed brats that clearly don't respect him? Don't satisfy their strange, snow-worshiping religion, Hinkle! It's well within your rights!

"If you ask for the hat again, the rabbit dies."
The kids want the man to hand back the hat he bought to their snowman they just built, because, in their logic, since it brought Frosty to life and it made him talk, he deserves that hat and it's now his hat. This cartoon just got all weirdly existential all of a sudden. So is this a thinly veiled propaganda film involving Personhood Laws?

Kind of related, but this movie kind of reminds me of how much I absolutely hate children characters in this era of cartoons, because geez, these kids are ganging up on him with their bland adorableness. I mean, sure, Hinkle's a jerk and the wind did just kill a sentient being, but you know what? He said that "this hat belongs in the garbage" line in a fit of frustration after the children were booing at him, everybody in the classroom was laughing at him, and his own rabbit couldn't respect him. Just because they've got cute little big-headed designs and one of them said "Oatmeal!" doesn't mean they're right.

Rest assured, Hinkle Finkle Tinkle is going to pull some incredibly dickish stunts to make us go on the children's side, but right now, my support is for him. And I'm not sure what that says about me when I watch a Christmas special and I'm rooting for the bad guy. I'm so getting coal in my stocking.

In my defense, who wouldn't root for a man with a mustache that fabulous?
So Hinkle walks off, his hat firmly clutched in his gloved grasp in fear that the children might get desperate and try to mug him, and when he's gone, Frosty's minions say that they still believe in him and they knew he came to life. Karen even rushes up to the now lifeless snowman and hugs him in a way that she shoves her exposed flesh into his groin area. This scene is kind of surreal, seeing these kids plead to an obviously lifeless object they built themselves and telling it that they believe in him. They do realize that Frosty can't hear them, right?

...and just what kind of soul is transferred to Frosty when that hat's on his head anyways? Is it a pre-existing soul and he's really the reincarnation of either Michael Keaton or a serial killer? Or can that hat just spontaneously generate life? Since it's a Christmas special, the only explanation we're going to get is either "Jesus", "Santa Claus", "Happiness", "Love", or "Christmas spirit", so don't expect them to actually explain the inner workings of Frosty in fine detail.

It'd be kind of funny if, in her rush to hug Frosty, she accidentally knocks him over and destroys him.
And then, we get the title sequence!

...wait, huh!? Oh, okay, so the title sequence is in the middle of the cartoon, without any rhyme and reason to its insertion. Smart thinking there, Rankin/Bass.

But as long as it has snowflakes and a credit to Jimmy Durante, I'll be okay with it.

And there we go.
So we're back with the living doll, no doubt animated by the same magic that was contained in Hinkle's article of clothing, and we find out that our omniscient narrator likes to play favorites with the characters in his own story. The very first thing he says when we return from the awkwardly placed title sequence is that the hat does in fact belong to Frosty and the children, not Hinkle, and "this point must be made very clear".

Uh, no, Jimmy Durante. If I see someone lose a hat in a blizzard and I pick it up, that doesn't make it mine, no matter what black magic it contains and what miracles it performs. I know I'm harping on this one plot point ad nauseum, but I've had quite a few of my belongings stolen from me just because I left them in an art class, and this line of thinking sounds dreadfully close to the "Finders, Keepers" philosophy. The kids may be cute, but they were thieves, Frosty is stolen property, and if they took this case to court, the judge and jury would be on Hinkle's side. End of story.

I wonder if Jimmy Durante had a creepy, awkwardly colored face muzzle in real life.
And then the narrator even continues with his biased narration and says that Hocus Pocus (the rabbit, who is obviously supposed to be the breakout character everybody loves, the way the camera focuses on him all the time) was fully in the right for stealing his master's hat and giving it to the kids. You know, cartoon, maybe there's a reason why this magician is such an asshole.

Also, I like how the children can be found still standing around, staring sadly at Frosty, none of them even moving a muscle. Hinkle Pinkle had time to casually saunter around town and look around in some shops, so these kids were staring longingly at their hideous deity for at least an hour or so. And in shorts, no less. Where the hell are the parents?
This is clearly a time before handheld videogames.
So they get the hat back from the traitorous lapine and Frosty is once again alive, or at least the closest thing this shambling frozen monster can get to being alive. This is probably going to be a long special for me, because Frosty is just unpleasant to me, the way he's well aware of the fact that he just got born a couple seconds ago and that he's speaking his first words. I don't care if he's all giggly about it. Such a thing just should not be.

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
And then he runs a set of diagnostics to figure out if he's really living. His list includes really weird things like talking, juggling, sweeping, and counting to ten, all while shaking his big snow-filled ass. Hey, Frosty? You do realize that there are people who, thanks to illnesses or physical disabilities, can't do these things, and you were ballsy enough to say that now they don't qualify as alive. Ableist asshole of a snow-golem.

...and vampires and some zombies can talk, juggle, sweep, and count to ten. Doesn't mean they're alive. Frosty could be a member of the undead and we just don't know it until he starts to infect the children with his ice zombie virus and Karen's skin starts transforming into snow.

So if Frosty has a mouth and an ass, does that mean he can digest food and go to the bathroom like a normal person?
Then he cackles with evil, malicious glee and says that this is a wonderful thing to happen to a nice guy like him. You know, because he was such a nice guy before, when he was just a soulless pile of snow collecting dirt and child urine in the schoolyard.

...does Frosty even have a soul right now? They never come out and say "soul", but it's downright terrifying to think that this creature can talk, move around, and think, but only contains emptiness within his frozen heart.

"All knees will bow for Frosty. The world shall be mine!"
And then we get yet another rendition of Frosty the Snowman (the special's soundtrack is basically "Frosty the Snowman" over and over and over and over and over again), with the kids once again linking hands and singing, only this time, instead of their snowman just sitting there, Frosty gets to dance around in place because he needs to fulfill the "he began to dance around" quota in the song. This is the most recognizable part in the entire special, because this is the scene that would often make its way in the commercials in order to advertise the fun times the children will have if they watch this special chock full of failed magicians and juvenile thieves.

I'm not sure why this is the piece of animation that they use, to be honest, because this is one of the more disjointed and ugly pieces of animation in this special, with Frosty caught in a weird, jerky looping piece of animation while the kids basically slide around the screen like wide-eyed amoebas. But just look at their smiles! They're having such a good time in their low-budget production!

Meanwhile, all of their parents are wondering where they are, since school let out four hours ago.
But then, the cartoon instantly takes a turn for dark and gruesome territory when Frosty's mood turns sour and he starts to suffer from a terrible heat stroke. Apparently, while they were happily dancing, their town suffered through a massive fifty degree heat spike, because you see a thermometer go from completely empty to filled with red in a couple seconds. Understandably, since Frosty's body is made out of snow, he's feeling a bit discomfort as bits of his body slough off of him in the form of water droplets.

...or, because he's so fat and can't kick his smoking habit, even dancing in place has completely winded him and he's about ready to have a heart attack. Either one works.

"Kids, Uncle Frosty needs to lay down. All that singing was bad for my blood pressure."
So we now have our plot in our previously plotless glurge-filled swill. The enchanted goblins don't want their magical talking friend to die, so they're going to take him to the North Pole, the only place he won't melt. That's right, a bunch of gradeschoolers feel like its their mission to take their animated snow golem to uncharted wilderness full of bears and wolves just so he can continue sinning against nature, all because they had a great dance session with him earlier and they watched him juggle.

...I'm pretty sure the North Pole is not the only place where he won't melt. There's plenty of other places on Earth where it's cold all year round. Or hell, just find a decently-sized meat locker in town. That way he can stay local and continuing delighting his cultist followers way into the summer months.

And how come they have to do this now? There's still plenty of snow on the ground! It's the day before Christmas, for crying out loud! He can stay in town for at least a whole month until you have to move him anywhere!
"You want to take me to the North Pole? You're kidding, right?"
Since Frosty is a total idiot, he decides that the children's plan to get to a train station works in his favor, so instead of using logic and realizing that a big talking snowman would scare the crap out of people and go to the train station in a stealthy, Solid Snake-esque manner, he's going to have a big huge random parade with all of his loyal child soldiers and march through downtown as if announcing his glorious control over the next generation of townsfolk in this doomed city. Frosty's kind of a jerk, I've noticed.

I also wonder how Frosty feels when he's walking around and stepping in snowman guts.

Accept Frosty into your hearts as your Lord and Savior, or else he'll murder your children.
Understandably, this leads to a bunch of sight gags where various people going about their everyday lives see a giant snow abnormality and react in either fear, disgust, or shock. At one point, some woman is so terrified by the blizzard-filled ogre of doom that she actually passes out (and later dies, because the force of her hitting the ground definitely smashed her skull) and flings her mirror in a way that it just sort of floats in front of a background prop.

And guess what, even though half the town is horrified, no one actually does anything about it. No one tries to save the children, and no one breaks out a shotgun or a pitchfork in a brave attempt to slay the demon. Everybody's just terrified to the point where they just accept that those kids are goners.

Yes, when I see a walking snowman, I too like to grab my ass and fall to the floor.
Luckily, a policeman is there to finally decide that this is getting really freaking weird and tries and fails to stop the madness. Unfortunately, he does it while sporting an Irish accent, because if there's one thing children's cartoons need, it's racial insensitivity and stereotyping.

How does the parade of snow worshipers deal with this? By walking away after confusing the policeman with an existential debate on whether snowman could possibly know about traffic lights if they were just born today. I hate to imagine what would happen in this town if there was a real crime.

"We have indecent exposure laws in this town, you know!"
With that little annoyance out of the way (the policeman only exists because the song mentions one yelling stop), they finally make it to the train station. And, through a very odd scene, we hear from a ticket guy that it'll be three thousand dollars to make it to the North Pole by train on account of all of the stops they have to hit. Since that's a lot of money on a fifth grader's salary, the little girl politely says that she doesn't have any money, which causes the ticket guy to just freak the hell out, as if being poor is more shocking than being accompanied by a giant talking pile of snow. Comedy?

They never actually get their tickets, but I guess that's a good thing, because the last thing I need to sit through is a little girl and a snowman spending several days on trains, making transfers and having to endure screaming babies and people with colds. And just think of the comments they'd get from the other passengers. I wonder if it's considered racist if you make snow puns in a snowman's direction.

Also, I think they copied this scene in Don Bluth's Anastasia.

The girl is sad that they couldn't cheat their way out of a three thousand dollar ticket and says that she doesn't want Frosty to melt. In fact, she's so sad that she hugs Frosty and, at one point, buries her face in his crotch. Hey, great idea, kid. Thanks to your body heat, now Frosty's snowballs are going to melt twice as fast.

"Aw yeah, that's the stuff."
But Hocus has an idea, meaning that our two main characters are not as smart as an animal that regularly eats its own poop. Instead of buying a ticket, why not just stow away on a train without the authorities knowing? They don't even have to pay anymore! Hooray for breaking the law!

As you can imagine, this is a town filled with kids that are not going to make something of themselves when they get older. I'm pretty sure when Karen is sixteen, she'll be in a youth detention center for to her compulsive kleptomania, buying moonshine from Oatmeal Kid.

...wait, train that's heading to the North Pole? I'm pretty sure there was a book and later a motion capture film starring Tom Hanks with that same subject.

So no one on that train sees the giant moving snowman heading in their direction...
Frosty ends up stowing away in a refrigerated boxcar full of ice cream and cake, because Frosty is a bit of a fatass, and the little girl even stows away with him, because it isn't a Christmas special without reckless child endangerment. Karen even gets to say the best line in the entire special, informing Frosty "I'm sure my mother won't mind, as long as I'm back for supper" when he questions the logic of a little girl in a tiny skirt riding in a giant economy-sized fridge until she gets to the North Pole.

Remember this girl's face, viewers. She is definitely going to appear on the back of your milk carton if she's okay with taking train rides with complete strangers, especially if they're strangers that like to run around naked while surrounded with children.

Incidentally, I'm sure those grocers enjoyed having people sit on their products for an extended period of time.
And it was Frosty's best birthday ever.
By the way, guess who happens to be also stowed away on the train, while chanting "Think nasty" nonstop to himself? Why, it's Professor Wrinkle Hinkle, and his clothes look a good deal more torn and damaged since we last saw him. Not sure how he tore his clothes; I guess while he was having his mental breakdown off-screen, he thought his body was crawling with spiders and tried to fight them off. basically, these kids drove this man to insanity. Thank you, movie. I love this kind of plot development in my light-hearted Christmas specials, just as much as I love to see elves misuse their love of dentistry to alter a yeti's behavior through teeth-pulling.

"They will drown in their own blood!"
Frosty the Snowman is on his way to the north pole (which, by the way, is just ice over an ocean, meaning a conventional train to this place is impossible), but unfortunately, we learn from the narrator that a refrigerated box car is not a nice place to travel if you're a little girl with no pants on. Yes, our next plot point, after all of the singing, dancing, marching around, and ice cream, is Karen nearly dying of hypothermia. I bet you weren't expecting that! Why do Christmas specials involving magical snowman always end up so inexplicably dark?

...although I should look on the bright side. At least this special will never beat The Snowman (the 1982 British classic) in terms of sheer soul-melting depression.

"Maybe child endangerment and kidnapping wasn't such a smart idea..."
This leads to Frosty honest to god ditching the train before it can reach its destination and walking through uncharted, wild animal-filled wilderness while carrying a dying girl in his arms, subconsciously knowing that his lack of body heat is slowly killing his friend and that this is all his fault for letting her come with him in the first place.

Between this and Hinkle just totally losing his marbles, I'm going to come right out and say that this is an incredibly dark cartoon for something that begins with kids dancing and singing around a snowman. I remember seeing this as a kid, but I honestly never remembered this part. And, judging by the content, I probably had intentionally blocked this scene from my memory as a coping mechanism. I just remember Frosty being a jolly happy soul, not hypothermia and Frosty coming to grips with the fact that he accidentally murdered his closest friend! Where is this in the song!?

You could say he's a cold-blooded killer.
Oh, and Hinkle Twinkle Zinkle nearly breaks every bone in his miserable, unloved body in his rush to get off the train when Frosty gets off. Hah hah, poor insane lonely man who can never succeed in life! You deserve it for getting laughed at, losing your hat, and getting it stolen by little kids!

And how the everliving hell did he manage to survive riding upside down underneath a train with no protection from the elements for several hours without looking the least bit fazed by the experience, while Karen's at death's door? Magicians are tough, man.

All he wants for Christmas is a neck brace and a replacement hip.
The cartoon, realizing how depressing it got all of a sudden, decides to give us a really random plot point in the form of woodland creatures so sentient that they can decorate trees in time for Christmas. Because kids won't feel so sad if they're distracted by cute, adorable squirrels doing people things!

...not buying it, cartoon. I'm sorry, but just because they're this close to the North Pole doesn't mean that squirrels, owls, and deer would suddenly adorn random trees with ornaments and tinsel.

And where the hell did they even get the decorations anyways?

Even squirrels celebrate the birth of Jesus.
But this isn't just a random plot point for the sake of cuteness; these animals are also going to be life-savers. Thanks to Hocus Pocus being able to communicate that a little girl is freezing to death through charades, the woodland creatures build a fire. Somehow I was able to readily accept the giant sentient snowman that knows what a thermometer is but not a traffic light, but watching a deer get up on two legs and hold a giant stick for two squirrels to rub is too weird even for me. If animals are this smart in this universe, then does that mean they have rights just like the humans have rights? I'm sure PETA in the Frostyverse would have way more of an argument for their cause if the squirrels can decorate trees and then fashion a campfire. Can the cows in this universe do cute little charades and decorate Christmas trees before the slaughterhouse workers cut their throats and butcher their bodies?

So they can stand on their hind legs, decorate a tree, buy Christmas ornaments,
and build a campfire, and yet none of them learned English. What.
So Karen is okay now (at least she's as okay as a person sitting on the snow close to the North Pole would be), but Frosty is concerned. She needs to go back home and Frosty needs to go to the North Pole (although he could just stay in the evergreen forest that gets snow all year round, just sayin'), but he's just one snowman against the world. He clearly needs help.

Frosty then consults Hocus (because the rabbit followed them for some odd reason) on who they should get to help them with this predicament, and they brainstorm through a couple ideas like a creative team trying to figure out what their next product is going to be, all while the story just kind of chugs to a stop. I like how the plot point now is "Frosty screwed up so badly that he endangered one of his friends and he needs someone else to help fix his mess for him". Own up to your failure, Frosty!

You know what this special needs? Karen trapped in the woods for weeks and
having to rely on her survival skills in order to keep herself alive.
But then they come up with a great idea. That's it! Santa Claus! He can help save Karen from the radically irresponsible manchild of a snowman!

...yeah, out of nowhere, the cartoon is like "Oh, Santa Claus! Oh course!" as if the writers wrote themselves into a corner and needed a deux ex machina to help save the day. But what do you expect? It's a Christmas special. Woodland creatures are decorating trees, kids can just board a train to the North Pole, adults are absolutely useless save for the bad guy, and a giant snowman is having a complex conversation with a magician's traitor rabbit while showing off the fact that he has incredibly articulate digits on his snowy hands. By now, Santa Claus coming out of nowhere is to be expected.

"I'm a giant snowman. Your argument is invalid."
Night falls (and I bet Karen's parents are filing the police reports even as we speak), and Frosty "keeps a silent vigil" according to Jimmy Durante, but somehow that doesn't stop Hinkle, now a deranged shell of a man from the looks of his body posture and ripped up clothing, to blow out the campfire (man, Hinkle's got some superhuman lungs in his possession!) and to demand the hat from Frosty while spasming and twitching like he's going through an epileptic fit. Pray for this poor man. He's not getting the medication that he needs.

I realize I sound like I'm sympathizing with Hinkle here, but it's really unsettling how he went from just being a jerk and a loser to being totally flipping deranged. He was clearly driven to this point of insanity (just compare this Hinkle to the Hinkle at the beginning of this special; the difference in sanity is almost palpable), and he's not going to leave until he has Frosty's icy blood staining his white magician's gloves.

In fairness to Hinkle, his worst enemy is a giant snowman. That'd make anyone a little nutty.
Luckily, Frosty and Karen manage to get away from the deranged murderous man because, according to the narrator, since Frosty's made out of snow, he's the fastest body-boarder in existence, and Karen can just quickly ride him to safety. the hell does that make sense, Jimmy Durante? You can't just pull random powers out of thin air and expect me to be okay with it just because snow was involved! That's like saying that I'll be able to glide effortlessly down a hill made out of meat and bones because I'm made out of meat and bones. Also, eww.

By the way, you can tell that this special was animated by people who never touched snow in real life. Holding a snowball in your bare hands for too long hurts. I can't imagine the frostbite Karen's receiving on her bare legs when she's riding Frosty like that.

We're walking in the air
We're floating in the moonlit sky
They end up at a county nursery, because guess what, there are plant nurseries out in the middle of the frozen wilderness right next to the North Pole now. Thank goodness for inexplicable coincidences! Since Karen is still kind of freezing to death (although in an earlier scene, she was well enough to walk around and shout things at Hinkle), so Frosty carries Karen to the greenhouse where they're keeping all of the plants warm. He even walks inside even though he's fully aware that he'd melt.

This sounds like a bold move from Terrifying Living Snow Creature, like he's being all noble and sacrificial in the name of his friend, until you realize that just earlier, we saw him stay far away from a campfire. Frosty knows heat is bad and there were plenty of ways to get Karen in the greenhouse without actually walking in himself. So really, instead of looking like an awesome friend, he just looks inconsistent, like the writers needed a good reason to kill him off (spoiler alert) without resorting to something violent like Hinkle using a flamethrower. Even though Hinkle with a flamethrower would instantly make this special my favorite thing in the world.

...and why is that greenhouse unlocked? The narrator mentions poinsettias, so it seems really strange that the person growing those very profitable and very fragile crops would leave the greenhouse unlocked, allowing some asshole to come and steal his livelihood. People are too trusting in the North Pole.

Oh yeah, there's no way this could go wrong.
Of course, that leads to Hinkle trapping them inside (and he somehow managed to catch up with them even though, just earlier, Frosty the Snowman was the fastest body-boarder in existence and put a lot of distance between them, meaning that Hinkle knows how to freaking teleport) and telling Frosty that he can just collect the hat from his melted remains. Nice of him to turn to murder at the drop of a hat, no pun intended. It's obviously been a long day for Hinkle.

I love the faces this man pulls, by the way. If you watch this special closely, you can actually pinpoint the very moment his sanity crumbles into a thousand pieces, the very moment where he's suddenly okay with killing a sentient being out of pure spite. Hinkle McSprinkle's just one catchy villain name and a city away from metamorphosing into a full-blown supervillain and having either Superman or Wonder Woman take turns punching him in the face. We have seen his origin story, after all.

Don't worry, Hinkle. I've heard Arkham's lovely this time of year.
While this is happening, The Big Jolly Red Man himself touches down on the wooded area filled with insanely intelligent animals and catches up with Hocus, who's quick to tell Santa just what kind of crap's been going down in this forest. Hocus can't talk, but don't worry, because according to the narrator, Santa "as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit".


Santa, as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit.

Santa, as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit.

Pardon my French, but WHAT. Why would Santa need to know how to speak rabbit? That's like the weirdest power you could ever give to anyone ever!  Did he take a Rabbit Language class during college after making a dare with the Tooth Fairy? Or does he need to know that language on account he's a good friend of the Easter Bunny and wants to look like a better business partner? What the everflipping hell, Rankin/Bass? There's deux ex machina and then there's this!

Santa Claus also knows ventriloquism, speed-knitting, underwater demolition, genetic engineering,
is able to beat Metal Gear Solid 4 with his feet, and can burp "Hungry Like the Wolf".
Oddly, even though we're dealing with Santa effing Claus, the same man who can visit several million homes within a single night, they were too late. This might be the scene everyone remembers from this short, because nothing is a bigger punch to the gut than seeing Karen bawling her eyes out while kneeling in front of the giant puddle that used to be her friend, a giant puddle that used to be a character that this entire special revolved around.

And here's a cheery thought. Karen got to watch her friend slowly melt in front of her eyes. She got to see every last suffering moment take place in front of her and she got to hear every last dying scream Frosty belted out while every part of his body was reduced to water. I wonder when the moment was that Frosty left this world. Was it when his head melted, or did she get to see his heart fail and then see his lifeless corpse hit the floor and then turn to slush? Either way, she's going to be in therapy for the next 50 years.

"It was his last day until retirement!"
This really dark, depressing scene then instantly loses its impact when we get a very cheesy, very dated flashback, where we see all the fun times we had with Frosty in the pool of his melted remains while set to a slow version of Frosty the Snowman sung by Jimmy Durante. No offense, cartoon, but I have a decent memory. I can recall the scene where he juggles and dances around with the kids on my own. I really don't need this scene when the special's only twenty minutes long.

Frosty the Snowman, killed in Vietnam.
Santa, seeing the crying child, tries to cheer Karen up by saying that even though there are different seasons and it may rain during spring or be really hot during the summer, since Frosty is made out of Christmas snow, he can never truly disappear. In short, Saint Nickolas is a bit of a liar and is saying that Christmas snow never disappears even though it melts and is gone for three seasons. It's one of those awkward scenes where you sit there and wonder if you're supposed to be charmed by this when none of the words are making sense. It's a Grade A Generic Christmas Spirit Speech and it never tries to be anything better.

And if you make a Frosty out of completely different snow, would he retain the same personality or would he be a completely different Frosty? Is there a certain type of snow that can make a jerk snowman as opposed to a kinder, gentler one?

"You know, I probably could've helped you out when you were in the forest, nearly dying of hypothermia,
but there was no way to wrap a generic speech about Christmas around that experience."
And, right after he says that, we get a deux ex machina in the form of Santa being Santa and being able to use magic whenever he wishes, for he flings open the door and a stray wind suddenly makes a Frosty the Snowman appear out of nowhere. Why does a wind just magically build a snowman? Because shut up, it's Christmas, that's why.

I might as well bring this up. If Karen's friend is dying from the heat and that greenhouse is made out of glass, then why didn't she try to break a way out? Frosty's made out of snow; a little bit of glass shards aren't going to hurt him. Way to fold under pressure like a cheap suit there, Karen.

Santa Ex Machina!
Since we still have some loose ends to tie up, Hinkle the Rip Van Winkle then shows up, even though the Clausman is now there and has just demonstrated that he possesses magic abilities that can potentially maim or otherwise kill a dippy little mortal such as himself. Professor Schizoid even has a nerve to say "I want that hat and I want it now" to freaking Santa Claus even though everyone here knows that he committed murder. Despite the killing earlier, I can't bring myself to fully hate this guy. He has such a great descent into insanity. If at one point in your film, you have a man crawling on all fours in front of Santa while slobbering like a mental patient, then clearly you have a classic in the making.

I love the look on Santa's face. He knows this man is unwell.
Considering serial killers often receive coal in their stockings, Santa is quick to lay down the law, saying that if Hinkle lays a finger on that hat, he'll never get another Christmas present from Santa for as long as he lives. This instantly shocks this character back into relative sanity, effectively bringing his character arc to a close, but really? That's the best Santa can do for a threat? Why not try turning him over to the police, you fat, jolly asshole!

So, in other words, Hinkle has been receiving gifts from Santa way into his forties, when I've stopped receiving gifts since I was 18. And I never even tried to kill anyone. How is this fair?

"So we're not going to take the man willing to commit murder to prison?"
"Nah, not giving him any gifts seems like a way more fitting punishment."
But, just to be fair, Mr. Claus then decides that he'll forgive Hinkle and give him a new hat if he writes "I'm sorry for what I did to Frosty" a hundred zillion times. Hinkle totally falls for it, even though that's not a real number measurement, and even runs off into the night while declaring that he has a lot of writing to do in order to get his hat. What a dick move on Santa's part, taking advantage of that man's weakened sense of reality like that, but to be fair, he did successfully kill a sentient being earlier.

Oh, and at one point during this scene, an empty can actually pops in existence just in time for Hinkle to kick it in pure sadness. Gotta love a world that willing to provide props for physical humor.

"Don't make me do to you what I did to Chanukah and Kwanzaa."
So Frosty is alive once more, he now lives at the North Pole, and Santa even takes Karen back home in time for supper and...

...he leaves her on top of an ice-covered roof, on a house that looks at least three stories tall, meaning that if she slips and falls, she could easily break her neck and die. Wow, Santa's a bit of an asshole in this special.

And then her family discovers her lifeless, broken body on the front porch on Christmas morning.
And that's honestly how it ends. With a little girl stuck on a three story house in the middle of the night with no way to get down while she contacts hypothermia again due to be stranded outside. This is seriously how Rankin/Bass concludes this special.

Oh, and Hinkle's good now, I guess, because during the credits, we see him walking around town with a brand new hat. Fastest change of heart ever.

"No one even cares that I locked some girl up in a greenhouse at the North Pole!"
So, Merry Christmas? I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about this ending.

Oh, and I just want to point this out. Here is the list of crimes the main characters commit this special:

Karen: Theft, freighthopping, trespassing.
Frosty: Theft, freighthopping, trespassing, child endangerment, emotional and physical child abuse, jaywalking, child kidnapping, reckless endangerment, criminal battery (his cold body wasn't helping Karen's hypothermia), indecent exposure, contempt of cop.
Hinkle: Freighthopping, murder (debatable, considering Frosty could be argued that he's not really a person).

Okay, one crime stands out above the rest (Hinkle was totally the one doing the most villainous act) but I'm kind of pissed off that Frosty doesn't receive any punishment at all from the big man himself. So basically you can endanger the life of a child and get away with it, just as long as you have a song named after you, but god forbid you melt a snowman or else children everywhere will hate your guts. What a delightful Christmas classic.

The Moral of this Cartoon
Committing murder is not the best way to get your magic hat back.

And if a snowman suggests that you stow away on a train to the North Pole with him, for the love of god, please say no.

Final Verdict

This didn't age too well, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.

I think this is one of those films that kind of picks up speed once it gets actual conflict. When it's just kids frolicking in the snow and being bummed out that their snowman can't talk anymore, it's kind of boring, but somehow the hypothermia and the insane evil magician gives it that punch it really needs. It's decently filled with enough Christmas cheer and it certainly is cute, so it has that going for it too.

But compared to the other Rankin/Bass specials, this isn't particularly memorable. Frosty the Snowman is better remembered as a holiday icon than he is as an actual character, and watching this, I can totally see why that is. I just know that Rankin/Bass can do better holiday specials. The animation isn't anything to write home about (although again, this is from the 60's), there's an entire group of children but only one of them actually exists as a character, and Hinkle is never really threatening. Even in the climax, I was never openly concerned for Frosty and Karen.

Plus I know this was made in a different time, but I kind of wish that someone would acknowledge the fact that Frosty was recklessly irresponsible when it came to Karen. It could've been a nice little dimension to Frosty's character that he tries to do things with good intentions but ends up ruining things, but no one says anything about it beyond "Oh, a kid's freezing to death".

But at the same time, I really like the simplistic designs. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the character designs were done by a veteran artist of MAD Magazine, and he really knows how to make appealing designs. Not the most fluid stuff, and the choices in clothing really make no sense, but the poses and the characters really read and everything's delightfully cartoony.

Still, this is one of their weaker specials. Please don't kill me when I say this, but this is a special I'm not going to be seeing every Christmas. Rankin/Bass can do better, there were better holiday specials before it, and there are certainly better holiday specials out now.

But hey, it's good for a nostalgia rush at least.