Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 28

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. We are down to the final three. What feature awaits us today?

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

           Frosty the Snowman is the final Rankin-Bass special that is a part of this project. It is unique from the others that we have looked at in that it is not stop motion animated but is instead traditional two-dimensional hand drawn animation. This special is another holiday season staple and airs frequently on whatever name ABC Family is going by now (Freeform, I think). I am certain that I have seen this special numerous times in the past, but I don’t think I have seen it within the last decade or so. I certainly don’t have too many vivid memories of it other than Frosty saying “Happy Birthday” every time he is brought to life by the hat. I’ll be interested to see if it all comes flooding back to me as I give it a watch. Also, I’ll be curious as to whether or not I find the hand drawn animation preferable to the stop motion or the other way around.


           True to Rankin-Bass form, we are introduced to our narrator almost immediately. This time there is no clever character created to fill the narrator role, though calling Santa’s donkey a clever character is a stretch. The story is told to us by an animated Jimmy Durante. It begins on the last day of school before Christmas. The children are understandably impatient due to the proximity of the holiday and the fact that the first snow of the season is falling outside. As both a treat and a distraction the kid’s teacher has invited Professor Hinkle, a terrible magician to perform for them. He act goes predictably awry and he throws his top hat away in disgust. It is then that class ends. The children go outside and build a snowman that they christen Frosty. Professor Hinkle’s former hat blows on to Frosty and he comes to life. Realizing that his hat is actually magic, Hinkle takes it back over the protests of the children.

As we learned in Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, mustaches equal evil.

           As Hinkle is walking through town with is reclaimed hat, his rabbit Hocus Pocus swaps it for a wreath and brings the hat back to the children. Frosty is returned to life and begins playing with the kids. Unfortunately, the weather is starting warm and Frost can feel himself melting. The kids decide that he needs to go some place where he will never melt like the North Pole. After being unable to purchase him a ticket there, the kids put him on a refrigerated box car that is bound northward. One of the children, Karen, goes north with him. This proves to be a problem for, while Frosty is safe in the car, Karen is freezing and loses consciousness. As a result, Frosty and Hocus leave the train and carry Karen into the woods to be cared for by the woodland creatures.
           The forest animals make a fire for Karen and soon she is feeling better. Frosty stays on the periphery so as to not melt. They decide to wait with the forest animals until Santa arrives to deliver gifts and see if he can bring Frosty to the North Pole. However, Hinkle has not given up his pursuit and soon ambushes Frosty and Karen. Frosty is adept at belly sledding and they use this to escape from Hinkle.

I can't help but think that this is only making Karen's battle against hypothermia more difficult

           Because they were forced to leave the fire, Karen is again getting too cold. Luckily, their escape brought them right to a greenhouse growing poinsettias for the Christmas season. Frosty decides to go into the greenhouse with Karen for just a bit. Hinkle arrives at this point and shuts and bars the greenhouse door figuring that he can get his hat back once Frosty is melted. Just then, Santa finally arrives in the forest and Hocus, who stayed behind, fills him in. They go to the greenhouse but it is too late. Frosty is melted. Karen is distraught but Santa explains that since Frosty is made from Christmas snow he can never truly be destroyed as a December wind will turn water back to snow. At this, Santa throws open the greenhouse door and Frosty reforms outside. Santa informs Hinkle that he had better let Frosty keep the hat or Hinkle will forever be on the naughty list. Frosty goes to the North Pole with Santa but returns to visit Karen and the other children every year.

The special doesn't wait long before bringing Frosty back, but this image is still pretty dark.

Final Thoughts

           Frosty the Snowman is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from a Rankin-Bass special throughout this project, at least story-wise. It is constructed the same as any of the ones I watched this year. It is easily better than Nestor but likely ranks somewhere below either Rudolph or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town. As for the animation style, it is quite distinct. The character designs are striking and stylized and the lush color palette and shading really makes them pop. The frame rate is sometimes suspect, however. Though beautiful in design the animation is often jerky during any scene featuring a lot of quick action. One thing that boggles my mind about this special is the sound design. The sound effect choices are often laughably bad. The absolute worst Hanna-Barbera style sounds are prominently on display. This special is cute and the art work alone makes it worth seeing every now and then, but it is not the strongest of the Rankin-Bass Christmas catalog. Although, it does have a fairly short run time. So, it would be good if you need a Christmas fix but have limited time to squeeze one in. There are only two more features left in this marathon. Share in the accomplishment with me by joining me back here for day 29.

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