a very special christmas special: “Frosty The Snowman” (1970)

14 Dec

Every Christmas special I’ve reviewed here, I’ve been able to find something to like.  Even Alf’s Special Christmas, which bothered me on several levels – I can appreciate what they were trying to do, even though it was completely wrong.   But, see, Alf’s Special Christmas was wrong in the same way that the restaurant screwing up your order is wrong – like if you ordered pizza with pepperoni, and got green peppers instead.   I don’t like green peppers, but green peppers are at least edible.  But there are some things that are just wrong, like, ordering a pizza with pepperoni and instead getting a broken lightbulb and a used syringe.

There’s no other way around it – I do not like Frosty The Snowman.  I’m not proud of this, because so many other people love ol’ Frosty and that hat of his.   I love Rudolph and The Year Without A Santa Claus and The Little Drummer Boy and all the other Rankin/Bass classics.  I’ll sit through A Garfield Christmas even though I don’t like Garfield anymore, just because his old TV cartoons aren’t bad.  I’ll watch The Star Wars Christmas Special all the way through and moan and groan like everyone else but I will get through it.

After watching Frosty The Snowman, I was shocked to learn that it was only a half an hour long.

I don’t know what it is about Frosty.  Maybe it’s the fact that the story has no meat to it whatsoever.  Maybe it’s the fact that the “Frosty The Snowman” song is just annoying and cloying.   Maybe it’s the fact that the animation is terrible.  And not charmingly terrible, either.  But – ok – I sat down and watched this thing, and here’s 10 things I noticed.  Take ’em or leave ’em.  If you love ol’ Frosty, feel free to send hate mail.  I stand by my position: Frosty The Snowman is bloody awful.

Watch it – if you must – and read my 10 things – below the cut.

Ten Horrible Things About Frosty The Snowman

1) The hat. First of all, it’s all well and good that Christmas snow is magical.  It’s not a bad set up, considering what happens later.  But, as we’ll also see later, it’s probably the ONLY thing they gave any thought to.  The rest of the story is just lazy story-telling.  There’s an awful magician who sucks at his job, and the teacher hired him to entertain the class the day before Christmas break because, well, she’s freaking done with these little brats.  Fine.  Teachers the world over have relied on this kind of thing the day before break because they’re just as sick of you as you are of them.  Except HIS HAT IS ACTUALLY MAGIC.  Even though he spends all day long playing with his magic stuff and practicing his awful magic act, he doesn’t seem to notice until right now that the hat is actually magic.   Perhaps they could have said “it’s only magic when the pure of heart touch it” or “only when it comes into contact with Christmas snow”.  But no.  It’s Not Magic one day and then it lands on Frosty’s head and oh look It’s Magic!

2) The stupid kids Karen hangs around with. “We built a snowman! What should we name him?”  Well, one girl offers “CWUSTUFUH CUHWUBUS!” which, if you rewind the tape enough times, eventually translates as “Christopher Columbus.”  Then another kid offers “Oatmeal!” as a good name.  Making fun of the mentally challenged is not cool.

3) The stupid magician. He’s a talentless magician.  He loses his hat.  Turns out the hat is magic.  He wants it back.  That’s his character.  That’s it. That’s the whole character brief. Also, he’s a villain purely because he has bad skin and a big nose.   I mean, it’s his damn hat in the first place – by all rights it should be his, and Karen’s the villain for not giving it back to him.   He’s only here because they needed a bad guy.

4) The stupid dialogue. Oh don’t tell me it’s just a kids movie and they had to dumb it down.  There are moments in Rudolph that are still really clever today – Herbie’s desire to be a dentist, for instance, and Cornelius’s bluster.  Charlie Brown Christmas has some really profound stuff about the meaning of Christmas.  Even something like A Garfield Christmas has the titular cat saying “Christmas isn’t about the giving, or the getting… it’s the loving,” which is a pretty bold statement considering how self-centered that cat is.

Then there’s Frosty.  Two examples spring to mind: First, here’s how the stupid magician explains his point of view.  “If that hat’s magic – I want it back!”  Probably the most blatant example of expository dialogue ever heard this side of George Lucas.

Second: the train conductor tells Karen and Frosty that it’ll be $3000 or so dollars to get to the North Pole.  Karen says “But we don’t have any money!”  The conductor replies “No MONEY??? (sounds of confused ping-poing noises while he has a seizure or something)”  That’s the joke.  The whole joke is that this train conductor wants to be paid for his trouble.   Groan.

5) The stupid greenhouse: Ok.  We’re at the North Pole.  We have to hide from the incredibly obvious villian.  Let’s hide in the one structure we see this whole time – a greenhouse for growing poinsettas.  Why?  Because we have to melt the snowman somehow, so Karen can cry, and so he can be brought back to life, because Christmas snow is magical, so there.   We could come up with a good reason for Frosty to melt really quickly – perhaps he has to rescue Karen from a burning building – but that would take effort.

6) The stupid unmotivated relationship between Karen and Frosty. That’s the other thing.  Why does Karen love Frosty so much?  He’s a moron, he’s a pain to travel with because he can only live in climates that are really uncomfortable for little Karen with her little coat, sure he saves her life but he’s the one who put her into danger in the first place… any normal kid would be like “there ya go, Frosty, hop onto this refrigerator car, off to the North Pole. Don’t forget to write!”  But, no, she just loooves this stupid snowman for reasons completely alien to us.  The most shameless thing in the whole lazy movie is the part where she cries over his puddle, and we see flashbacks of all the great times her and Frosty had… within the last fifteen minutes.  Wow.  Fifteen minutes ago.  Seems like it was only yesterday.

7) The stupid refrigerator car. Why are they carrying ice cream and popsicles and frozen cakes… to the North Pole?  Are they really trying to sell popsicles to the Eskimoes?  Cuz isn’t that, like, a thing?

8a) Stupid Karen. Oh my God, you guys – i’m gonna wear a really short skirt in the freaking wintertime and then get on board a refrigerator car and go to the North Pole!  I’m sure I’ll be just fine, you know, healthwise!

8b) Stupid Network, Replacing Karen’s Voice: The original voice for Karen was June Foray, one of the greatest voice actresses of all time (she played Rocky in Rocky and Bullwinkle and hundreds of other parts) so beloved of everyone in the animation industry that they named their Lifetime Achievement award after her.   Then, for reasons unknown to anyone, they replaced her voice with someone else’s.  While the woman who does Karen’s voice now is perfectly fine, considering… that just sucks.

9) The stupid racism. There aren’t any black, asian, or ethnic people in town at all, except for the easilly bamboozled Irish cop.  Frosty leads a parade of white kids through the streets of town, of course – maybe it’s just me, but whenever I see a bunch of people who are *all* the same ethnic group marching around, I get nervous.

10) After all that, people still love it. It’s a damn tradition.  Despite being a lazy, weak story with crappy animation, forgettable characters, and only one song that just repeats over and over and over again until you want to stick pinecones in your ears… they still show it every single year.   I would really love for someone to convince me why I should like this one, because I just plain don’t.  Please, for the love of God, someone defend this piece of artless trash.

I’ll be here all winter.

Oh, and if you ever wanted proof that the world is awful and there’s no justice:  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer only aired once this year, back in November.  Frosty, and its insipid fake-sequel Frosty Returns, aired last Saturday AND will re-air this Friday on CBS.   Twice.  Twice in one year, with the Frosty.  For heavens sake.


4 responses to “a very special christmas special: “Frosty The Snowman” (1970)

  1. Jenn S

    December 14, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    i’m with you…i hate the frosty movie…it’s more cloying than entertaining!

  2. Bill D.

    December 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

    I can’t say Frosty is my least favorite of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials, because man do I hate that Little Drummer Boy one. And most of their sequels to the originals are pretty dire. Especially that “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” thing, but Rudolph and Baby New Year, and the one where they build Frosty a bride, those are pretty rough, too. But as for the original Frosty, I don’t mind it so much. The animation is weak – really wish they had stuck with the stop motion here – and the story makes NO sense whatsoever, but it has a weird charm to it. Mostly I think I like Professor Hinkle and Hocus Pocus.

    Frosty Returns, though… oof. I do loves me the Charlie Brown Special people when they’re making Charlie Brown Specials, but they’re entirely wrong for this gig. And I almost always like Jonathan Winters, but he’s clearly just here for the paycheck. But worst of all, Frosty keeps losing his hat! A bunch of times! AND NOTHING HAPPENS. At least keep *that* consistent, of all things!

    • geekusa

      December 16, 2010 at 11:57 am

      The problem might be the Frosty The Snowman song itself. This is a song, essentially, about kids playing pretend, and all we know is that, when you put the hat on Frosty, he “begins to dance around.” There actually is a verse in there about the traffic cop, who shows up in the cartoon, but once he’s done marching through town and starts to melt, the story ends with a “he’ll be back again someday.” There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, but we know *nothing* about how the protagonist feels and the only antagonist is the sun, and the Sun makes a crappy villain unless you’re playing that one level of Super Mario 3. You know, the one in the desert. With the cyclones.

      The point is, that’s not a song you can do much with – they barely managed to fill the half-hour as it is. Unless you make something like the ITV/PBS special “The Snowman”, where the antagonist is more ephemeral (time + heat = a handy metaphor for the end of childhood), and you can fill it with lots of interesting visual stuff because you have animators who know what they’re doing… you can’t do a lot with “Frosty”, thematically.

      If you look at the lyrics of the Rudolph song, *there’s* a story that has some bite – Rudy’s obviously an outcast who proves his worth. It’s the triumph of the individual – every single sympathetic character in that story, Santa included, is someone who’s not entirely happy with their place in that world, and they set out to change it by, basically, being themselves. The theme of the song is “don’t listen to the haters – you have something special to share with the world,” and that’s basically the point of the movie, too. “Frosty” should either have been ten minutes long, and *just* about a snowman who comes to life and only has one day to have fun (Frosty: The High Cost Of Living, anyone?), or an hour long telefilm that fills in the gaps and gives us a reason to care. As it stands, it’s just dumb and I hate it.

  3. ubermilf

    November 28, 2011 at 10:46 am

    This is one of the most apt pieces of criticism I’ve ever read. Poor Jimmy Durante; must his we remember him as being part of this mess?

    I also hate that insufferable encephalitic little twerp Tweety Bird. That is unrelated to your post, but I had to unburden myself.


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