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Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 Rankin/Bass Christmas Special, telling the story of how a snowman was brought to life by a magic top hat. Frosty the Snowman is unusual among The Rankin/Bass œuvre in that it features hand-drawn animation, instead of R/B's usual "Animagic" Stop Motion puppet process.
The script is by Rankin/Bass's favorite writer, Romeo Muller, and as usual built around a classic holiday tune, though the usual additional original songs by Maury Laws and Jules Bass are conspicuously missing.
It is notable that in the audio album version of this special, June Foray voices Karen, and indeed all the children's parts, whereas the televised version uses the voices of actual (uncredited) children.
A television sequel entitled Frosty's Winter Wonderland was produced in 1976 and another, the Crossover Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, with Jackie Vernon reprising the part of Frosty, in 1979. A non-Rankin/Bass sequel, Frosty Returns, with John Goodman as the title character and Jonathan Winters as the narrator, was made in 1992; it was not generally well-received. In this one, the plot focuses around a secular "Winter Carnival" holiday and features an evil businessman named Mr. Twitchell that goes around spraying "Summer Wheeze" an aerosol that gets rid of snow. Apparently, the entire town hates snow. The entire film is about Frosty and a new girl named Holly singing about how good snow is. If you haven't guessed, it's an environmentally-themed short. Then in 2005, another special, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, was released on video, with Bill Fagerbakke as the voice of Frosty.
- Affectionate Parody: Has one in the Web Original animated short series Snowy
- Anachronism Stew: The clothing of the animated characters seems to cover the entire period from the 1910s to The Sixties.
- Animate Inanimate Object: Frosty himself.
- Ascended Extra: Jack Frost, the jerkass-turned-ally from Winter Wonderland would eventually star in his own Christmas Special, Jack Frost, where he's a lovestruck Cloudcuckoolander.
- Brick Joke: In the first special, a kid suggests "Oatmeal" as a name for Frosty. In the sequel, the same kid suggests "Corn Flakes" as a name for Frosty's wife.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Professor Hinkle. "Think nasty, think nasty, think nasty! Muahahahaha!"
- Christmas Special
- Continuity Nod: In the sequels.
- Dark Reprise: When Frosty melts.
- Dastardly Whiplash: Professor Hinkle is very close to this type of villain, at least in appearance. He's far less competent than either Dick Dastardly or Snidely Whiplash, and that's saying something.
- Eleventy-Zillion: Santa orders Hinkle to write, "I am very sorry for what I did to Frosty," a hundred zillion times. (And then maybe, just maybe, he'll find something in his stocking the next morning).
- And apparently he's successful in writing it a hundred zillion times by the next morning, because the next time we see him, he's got a new hat!
- Face Heel Turn: In the sequel, Jack Frost is the villain and unlike the clumsy Professor Hinkle, Jack is a serious threat against Frosty and the kids. Fortunately, Jack realizes he's being a dick for no good reasons and performs a Heel Face Turn, remaining as a friend and powerful ally every time he appeared again.
- Friend to All Living Things: Santa, "who, as you know, speaks a fluent rabbit."
- Genre Savvy: Professor Hinkle displays how much of this he is when confronted by Santa at the climax (specifically, Hinkle was at least smart enough to recognize how the viewers currently see him at that point):
Professor Hinkle: [kicks a can while undergoing a Villainous BSOD] It's not fair! We evil magicians have to make a living, too...
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: "With a corn-cob pipe" -- which Frosty never actually seems to smoke -- perhaps because he can't even strike a match, let alone "build a fire."
- Green-Eyed Monster: Jack Frost's antagonism is due to the fact that he's jealous of the attention Frosty's getting.
- The Grinch: Hinkle, of course.
- Heel Face Turn: Professor Hinkle, though only when threatened by Santa, and he still describes himself as an "evil magician" during this sequence (though that may just have been because he was Genre Savvy enough to realize just how low he had sunk and was only making a correct observation of how the average viewer would view him after what he had put Frosty through).
- Jack Frost in the sequel pulls a more legitimate one.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Paul Frees, voice of Santa Claus, as well as assorted other minor characters, is probably best remembered as Boris Badenov from Rocky and Bullwinkle (his partner, Natasha (June Foray), portrays the children's teacher). Frees is also the "Ghost Host" from Disney's Haunted Mansion rides.
- Ink Suit Actor: Jimmy Durante as the narrator and Billy DeWolfe as Professor Hinkle.
- ISophagus: The traffic cop swallows his whistle -- which nonetheless still sounds.
- Jerkass: When Hinkle comes upon Karen in the woods, he immediately blows out her campfire for no particular reason. Seeing as she needed it to not freeze to death, this is pretty despicable.
- Love Imbues Life: In the sequel, the kids build Crystal, a (non sentient) snow wife for Frosty, who receives the gift of life out of the love Frosty immediately felt for her. Later, a gust of wind snatches away Frosty's Hat (turning him back into a non sentient snowman) but Crystal's love allowed him to become alive again without the need of his magic hat.
- Magicians Are Wizards: Averted, in that Hinkle can not only not work real magic, but is lousy even at the stage variety. His hat, however...
- Narrator: Jimmy Durante in the original, Andy Griffith in Winter Wonderland.
- Nice Hat: The Hat, of course.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Hocus Pocus the rabbit.
- The Other Darrin: Karen was voiced by June Foray in the original airing; later and most current versions have another, uncredited actress, whose identity is unknown, doing the voice.
- Parody Commercial: In 2009 CBS made this mash-up ad combining Frosty with How I Met Your Mother.
- Snowlems: Frosty himself.
- The Speechless: Hocus Pocus, though he hasn't a single line, goes near to stealing the whole show.
- Sudden Anatomy: Frosty has Four-Fingered Hands, but sprouts a fifth finger when he tries to count.
- Underside Ride: The magician does this on the underside of a train, in an attempt to get his hat back.
- Villainous BSOD: Professor Hinkle goes through a brief one at the climax until Santa gives him a shot at redemption, which he immediately and hurriedly takes up.
Professor Hinkle: It's not fair! We evil magicians have to make a living, too...