The cheery sounds of holiday music stations are in full swing. One of the more upbeat tunes chronicles the life of Frosty the Snowman. Although Frosty has seen several iterations, we’ll focus on the most well-known versions, 1969’s “Frosty the Snowman” and 1992’s “Frosty Returns.”
“Frosty the Snowman” essentially recaps the tale of the amiable snowman. Professor Hinkle (Billy De Wolfe), a bumbling magician, botches a performance for school children. He ominously tosses his top hat aside, which the kids find later while playing in the snow. It’s the perfect garnish for the snowman they construct. True to the legend, once the hat is placed upon his head, Frosty springs to life. As temperatures warm, Frosty (Jackie Vernon) explains that he must get to the North Pole to prevent melting, prompting a trek to the arctic region. Aided by a young girl, Karen (June Foray), Frosty makes the journey, all the while avoiding Hinkle who now wants his magic hat back.
Although not a true sequel to the 1969 original, “Frosty Returns” continued the Frosty saga with a goofy, corporate narrative. Beansboro Elementary School is forced to close for a snow day, much to the joy of the Beansboro children. Little Holly DeCarlo (Elizabeth Moss) is a wannabe magician, often accompanied by her friend Charles (Michael Patrick Carter). While proceeding through a magic routine, Charles’ hat blows onto a snowman that immediately jumps to life. Apparently Charles came into possession of the legendary old silk hat. Perhaps he purchased it at a thrift store, but the background isn’t important. Frosty (John Goodman) is delighted to back in action. Unfortunately, the conniving Mr. Twitchell (Brian Doyle-Murray) concocts “Summer Wheeze,” a spray to melt snow. The dire ramifications for Frosty are clear, and even the citizens of Beansboro appear hesitant to deploy a product with unclear environmental effects.
The song “Frosty the Snowman” is an undeniable classic, and the associated cartoons are similarly adorable. The 1969 “Frosty the Snowman” is narrated by Jimmy Durante, who lends a hilariously gruff albeit amicable tone to the voiceover. Presumably Durante had a few puffs on the corncob pipe. Musically, the show is memorable, and will assuredly keep you whistling after Frosty’s promise that he’ll be back one day. There’s a fun storyline with Professor Hinkle, which wasn’t part of the original Frosty lore as per the song, but it’s a nice addition.
“Frosty Returns” opts for a darker spin, with Mr. Twitchell’s “Summer Wheeze.” It’s a thought-provoking, relevant environmental theme, even though it isn’t explored deeply. The movie’s target audience most likely wouldn’t have appreciated the heady commentary, but it’s a welcome nugget for older viewers. One of the most compelling aspects of 92’s “Frosty Returns” is hearing John Goodman as the dancing Snowman. Just when you thought you’d seen John Goodman in every role, along hops the magic Frosty.
Fun and family friendly, “Frosty the Snowman” and “Frosty Returns” are holiday musts, with much-anticipated airings each year. Notably, Rankin and Bass, the creators of the ‘69 Frosty, made two other sequels: “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland” in 1976, and “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” in 1979. Andy Griffith lent his vocal talents as the narrator in the ‘76 follow up. 2005 saw “The Legend of Frosty the Snowman,” a further continuation of the Frosty story arc. With the multiple versions, the clear standouts are “Frosty the Snowman” and “Frosty Returns,” though any production with a dancing, singing, top hat-wearing snowman is welcome.