Frosty the Snowman is a 1969 American animated Christmas musical adventure comedy-drama film produced by DreamWorks Cartoon Studio and Rankin/Bass Productions and distributed by DreamWorks Pictures. It was first released theatrically on December 7, 1969, and later in December 3, 1970 aired on the CBS television network in the United States; which it remained aired until 2018. In 2019, the film will air on Freeform. The film was based on the Walter E. Rollins and Steve Nelson song of the same name. It featured the voices of Jimmy Durante as the film's narrator (Durante's final performance in a film), Billy De Wolfe, Jackie Vernon, June Foray and Christopher Plumber.
The film's story follows a group of school children who build a snowman called Frosty and place a magic hat on his head, which makes him come to life with enchanted powers. But after noticing the high hot temperature and fearing that he would melt, Frosty, along with a young girl named Karen and a rabbit named Hocus Pocus, must go to the North Pole to be safe from melting.
Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to give the film and its characters the look of a Christmas card, so Paul Coker, Jr., a greeting card and MAD magazine artist, was hired to do the character and background drawings. The animation was produced by Mushi Production in Tokyo, Japan, with Hanna-Barbera staffer Yusaku "Steve" Nakagawa and then-Mushi staffer Osamu Dezaki (who is uncredited) among the animation staff. Durante was one of the first people to record the song when it was released in 1950 (at the time the song had slightly different lyrics); he re-recorded the song for the film.
Rankin/Bass veteran writer Romeo Muller adapted and expanded the story for the film as he had done with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
One December afternoon, a school girl named Karen and her friends create a snowman after school. After several suggestions of what to call their snowman (including "Oatmeal" and "Christopher Columbus"), Karen decides to name him "Frosty". They later acquire a top hat discarded by inept magician Professor Hinkle. When Karen places it on top of Frosty's head, the snowman comes to life (and always says "Happy Birthday!" in response). When Hinkle learns of the magic power his hat actually possesses, he takes it back and departs, pretending that he did not see Frosty come to life. However, the professor's pet rabbit, Hocus Pocus, returns the hat to Frosty.
Frosty soon senses the temperature is rising and worries about melting. The children suggest putting him on the next train to the North Pole, where he will never melt, and they all parade into the city on the way to the train station, where Frosty has his confrontation with the traffic cop mentioned in the song's lyrics. When Karen explains that Frosty came to life and doesn't know what a traffic light or a lamp post is, the traffic cop lets Frosty go, but gets shocked shorty after realizing Frosty is a snowman. Meanwhile, Hinkle got kicked out from a TV station after ferociously realizing his hat is taken again and went off to find it, while Frosty and the kids stops to meet a littlest girl who tells them that she lost her pet cat, Fluffy-Wuffy. Karen asks the little girl for the direction to the train station in which the girl points them to the station which is at the the other side of her apparent, before Frosty and the gang thank her and leave. While proceeding through the town, Frosty and the kids stops at the local zoo, which is closed in winter time, as the just then, a monkey steals Frosty's hat away, which lead him to changes back to normal. Hocus Pocus chases the monkey through the town's mall, where the monkey picks a banana peel from the hat and throws to the ground where Hocus is slip away to a toy shop where lands with cash. Hocus winds up a toy race car and continues to chase the monkey around the mall, until the two crashes a model which hold a top hat, which is the same as Frosty's hat. Hocus mistakenly takes the top hat and returns to Frosty where he puts in on his head, which nothing happens. The monkey still has Frosty's hat until a zoo catcher catches the monkey and returns the hat to the kids, which Karen then places it onto Frosty to come alive again. At the train station, Frosty stows away aboard a refrigerated train car, since neither he or the children have any money for a train ticket. As the train is about to leave the station, Karen and Hocus decide to join Frosty for the ride to keep him company. With that, Frosty, Karen, and Hocus wave goodbye to the other kids as the train takes off. Unbeknownst to them, Hinkle has also hitched a ride on the same train, intending to get his hat back.
As the train continues up north, however, Frosty notices Karen is freezing and starting to catch a cold, so they jump off the train, leaving Hinkle behind once again. Hinkle, seeing them escape, jumps off the train too, but falls down a mountain and crashes into a tree where a pile of snow falls on him. At Frosty's request, Hocus convinces some forest animals who are preparing for Christmas to build a campfire for Karen. Fearing that Karen still cannot survive for long in the cold weather, Frosty asks Hocus who might be able to help them. Hocus suggests (by pantomiming) the President of the United States and the United States Marines, before suggesting Santa Claus. Frosty agrees, and promptly takes credit for the idea himself (much to Hocus' annoyance). Hocus hops off to get Santa, but Hinkle then confronts Frosty and Karen once more and blows out Karen's campfire. Frosty and Karen are again forced to flee, this time with Karen riding on Frosty's back as he slides head-first down a hill.
After escaping from Hinkle, Frosty and Karen come to a kingdom populated by mice, who get ambushed by three soilder-like cats. Karen tries to save the mice from the cats, but suddenly gets trapped inside one of the sacks, before the three cats, mistaking her as a large mouse, kidnap her as Frosty views on helplessly. At the kingdom's castle, the cats' leader Majesty Meow, the King of Cats, takes over and, along with his cat minions, celebrates the success of their take over, until the three cats enter with the sack and unleashes out Karen, which provokes all the cats gasp in shock. Until Majesty Meow schemes that they can use her to perform for them on a show. So at the castle's theater hall, as Majesty Meow's captain of the guard throws Karen on stage, Karen refuses to perform the cats. However, Majesty Meow activates his Power Crown to mesmerize her, and forces her to dance and play a tambourine, while singing "I Need Some Help", to perform for the cats. As her song ends, the cats cheer while Karen then awakens from her hypnotic mind. As one of Majesty Meow's minions is sent on stage, with a saw and a box, to ask her to get inside of the box before doing his box-sawing act, the terrified Karen refuses and escapes, until comes across Frosty, who comes to the rescue and grabs Karen before taking off. Unfortunately, both got caught in the net after trying to escape and been sent to the dungeon by Majesty Meow's three guards.
Meanwhile, Hocus Pocus finally locates Santa's toy workshop at the North Pole, where he messages Santa Claus for help, which Santa agrees and the duo sets off on the reindeer sleigh, as back to the castle's dungeon where Karen is released for her next performance as she's taken away by Majesty Meow, leaving Frosty inside the cell to melt. But as the third cat guard continues to keep on guard duty in front of the cell before fallen asleep, Frosty tricks the guard by reading palm saying him about his future dream. Excited, the third cat guard unlocks the cell, with his claw (since earlier that he swallows the key) before stepping inside and forces Frosty to tell his future, but Frosty shuts and locks the cell to trap him and then escapes to save Karen. At the theater hall, Majesty Meow hypnotizes Karen again to force her to step inside the box before the cat minion starts to saw box to restart the act they left earlier. But as the cat almost cutting a box in half, Frosty frights the cats away by making loud barking noise before grabbing Karen, all fine, and heads out from the stage to escape from the castle (after avoiding the third cat who already escaped from the dungeon cell by using his claw to unlock himself out, which Frosty should've known before).
As the two finally escape outside far away from the castle, Frosty uses a snowball to splat Karen to wake her up from her hypnotic mind. But the two hide behind a tree and quietly spy on Majesty Meow and his minions searching for them. Frosty tricks the cats by sending them to a place where they think they could find some big mice before taking both Frosty and Karen back to the castle, in which the place that Frosty sends Majesty Meow and the cats in is actually a local dog pound. As the result, the pound dogs chases the cats away.
As Frosty and Karen rushes back to the kingdom to free the mice from the captivity by the cats, King Mouse, his royal family, and the rest already did escape, thanks to the King Mouse's mind by trying out the locks' code. He then thanks Frosty and Karen to ban the cats away by saving his kingdom in peace. Frosty asks the mice to build a fire to warm up Karen, who's still cold, but the mice tell them that they have a fear of fire, but remind them that their furs help them to keep them warm during the cold season. So the sadden Frosty and Karen turns leave the kingdom after saying goodbye to the mice, and continues on to find any warm place for Karen. Karen and Frosty then discover a greenhouse filled with Christmas poinsettias. Despite Karen's objections, Frosty steps inside the warm greenhouse with her, suggesting that he could afford to lose a little weight while she warms up. Unfortunately, Hinkle catches up to them immediately after and locks them in the greenhouse.
Hocus brings Santa Claus and the mice to the greenhouse only to find Karen in tears and Frosty melted on the floor due to Hinkle's cruel act. Santa explains to Karen that Frosty is made from Christmas snow, and that he can never completely disappear, only take the form of summer rain, until next December. With a gust of cold wind through the open greenhouse door, the puddle that was Frosty blows out the door and magically changes back into his typical snowman form. Before Santa can put the finishing touch on Frosty and bring him back to life, as Hocus arrives with the hat, Hinkle again arrives on the scene and again demands the return of his hat. He relents only when threatened with being removed from Santa's Christmas list for the rest of his life if he put so much as one finger on the hat. Santa states that if Hinkle is truly repentant for his mean attitude and harming Frosty, and if he goes home and writes "I am really sorry for what I did to Frosty" a hundred zillion times, he may find a gift in his stocking on Christmas morning, which makes Hinkle bid Frosty and Karen farewell and runs home to repeatedly write his apologies, assuming he may get a new hat.
Before Santa can place the hat back on top of Frosty's head, Majesty Meow snatches it and puts it on his head, replacing his crown, which the magic turns him into an giant. Then the cat re-kidnaps Karen and runs away, which leads Hocus wents on a chase. As Majesty Meow gets away, Karen over-hears Majesty by saying that he's glad he's no longer a little girl's cat. Karen explains to Majesty about the girl, but Majesty, disgusted, refuse to listen her truth as he shut her up by using his hypnotic power with Frosty's hat, but until, Hocus hops at the top and attacks Majesty Meow, removing the hat and rescuing Karen, which she snaps out from the hypnotic power. Hocus then gets the forest animals to attacking Majesty Meow, catapult him far away while he swears revenge in the future, until lands on the ground where Majasty's owner, the same little girl that Frosty and Karen met, hugs him and takes him home. Finally, Santa places the hat back on Frosty's head, causing the snowman returns to life again. After celebrating, Santa takes Karen home and Frosty to the North Pole, but promises that Frosty will be back next winter. The film ends with Frosty proclaiming, "I'll be back on Christmas Day!"
- Frosty the Snowman - an anthropomorphic snowman who came to life by the magic hat.
- Karen - a sweet and kind-hearted eight-year-old little girl who is Frosty's beloved friend.
- Hocus Pocus - a mute white rabbit who formerly a pet of Professor Hinkle who is Frosty's helping minion.
- Professor Hinkle - formerly the main antagonist, who is a inept magician who attempts to retrieve his hat from Frosty.
- Majesty Meow - the main antagonist who attempts to rule the Mouse Kingdom. Before, he was known as Fluffy-Wuffy by his owner who is a nameless little girl.
- Santa Claus
- Jackie Vernon as Frosty the Snowman
- June Foray as Karen, the kids, old lady, Majesty Meow's owner, Queen Mouse and the Teacher
- Jimmy Durante as the Narrator
- Billy De Wolfe as Professor Hinkle
- Christopher Plumber as Majesty Meow/Fluffy-Wuffy
- Paul Frees as Traffic cop, ticket man, King Cat's Captain, King Mouse and Santa Claus
- Mel Blanc as Cat Guard#3, Elves, Cat#3 and 4
- Dick Shawn as Cat Guard#1
- George S. Irving as Cat Guard#2
- Sid Raymond as Cat#3 and 5
- Jack Mercer as Cat#1, Elf
- Suzanne Davidson as Karen (later television airing; uncredited)
- Frosty the Snowman (sung by Jimmy Durante and an children's chorus)
- Frosty the Snowman (Reprise 1) (sung by Jimmy Durante and an children's chorus)
- It's So Great To Be a Living Thing (sung by Frosty the Snowman, voiced by Jackie Vernon)
- Frosty the Snowman (Reprise 2) (sung by Jimmy Durante and an children's chorus)
- Where Is My Hat? (sung by Professor Hinkle, voiced by Billy De Wolfe)
- King of the Cats (sung by the Cats and Majesty Meow, voiced by Mel Blanc, Dick Shawn, George S. Irving, Paul Fress, Jack Mercer, Sid Raymond and Christopher Plumber; used later in the Tom and Jerry direct-to-video film Tom and Jerry: A Nutcracker Tale, which was used under permission)
- I Need Some Help (sung by Karen, voiced by June Foray)
- We are the Santa's Elves (sung by the elves, voiced by Mel Blanc; taken from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
- Frosty the Snowman (Sad Reprise) (sung by Jimmy Durante)
- Frosty the Snowman (Reprise 3) (sung by an children's chorus)
- Frosty the Snowman (Final) (sung by Jimmy Durante and an children's chorus)
The film was re-released on December 1, 1978 as part of “General Electric’s Holiday Double Feature”, accompanied with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964).
In the United States, CBS held the television rights to the film (under license from the current copyright holder, Universal Studios), and aired it annually with the CBS-produced TV spiecal sequel Frosty Returns through the 2018 season, made its long run (49 years) on the same network, longer than any other currently airing an animated Christmas film. The CBC holds broadcast rights in Canada. The film also airs on Freeform in some territories, and will begin airing on that network in the U.S. beginning in 2019. The telecast rights to the 1976 sequel Frosty's Winter Wonderland are held by AMC as part of its “Best Christmas Ever” block. CBS would later commission its own "sequel" of sorts, Frosty Returns.
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town and Frosty the Snowman: The Original Soundtrack Recordings (2002)
Released by Rhino on October 1, 2002, the entire audio portion of Frosty the Snowman is available on CD along with the entire audio portion of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the Rankin/Bass film produced in 1970. This edition contains the full dialogue and song audio of both films.
The track listing is as follows:
- Medley: Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town...Be Prepared To Pay 25:18
- Medley: Put One Foot In Front Of The Other...Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (finale) 24:55
- Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Beginning) 13:45
- Frosty The Snowman Theme & Narration (Conclusion) 11:48
- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (Soundtrack Version) 1:50
- Frosty The Snowman (Soundtrack Version) 1:04
Joey Kangaroo Tells the Story of Frosty the Snowman (2015)
On November 2015, also released by Rhino, a children's audioook, featuring Dreamtoons character Joey Kangaroo as the narrator and also contains an audio portion of original dialogue and song audio in the film.
Frosty returned in several sequels:
- The Return of Frosty the Snowman – A canceled sequel was brought up by DreamWorks Pictures and with its partnership with Rankin/Bass before it got canceled after General Electric acquired the rights to the 1969 film.
- Frosty's Winter Wonderland – This 1976 sequel by Rankin/Bass was also written by Romeo Muller. Narration is provided by Andy Griffith (Durante had suffered a stroke that had forced his retirement in 1972 and eventually killed him). Jackie Vernon once again reprised his role as the voice of Frosty. Animation is produced by Topcraft in Japan. Unlike the original, the sequel takes place later in the winter season and is based upon the 1934 song "Winter Wonderland;" it features Frosty's pursuit of a wife and efforts to preserve him into the springtime. As the special takes place in the late winter, it makes no mention of Christmas (the original song likewise did not mention Christmas).
- Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July – This 1979 Rankin/Bass feature-length sequel was filmed in "Animagic" stop-motion animation in the style of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Rudolph's Shiny New Year. While the Frosty specials were 30 minutes long, and the Rudolph specials were 60 minutes, this ambitious special was feature length, at 97 minutes long (120 minutes on television, including commercials). Vernon once again played the role of Frosty, in his last time for Rankin/Bass playing the voice of Frosty. This film features Frosty and his family as supporting characters. This is the only other Frosty cartoon to mention Christmas or Santa Claus in addition to the 1969 original.
- Frosty Returns – This 1992 half-hour special is not truly a sequel to the 1969 classic, as it was produced not by Rankin/Bass but by CBS. The characters, setting, voices and animation (by Bill Melendez) are vastly different. Despite this, it is shown with the original special every year on CBS and was even included as a bonus on its DVD release.John Goodman provides the voice of Frosty in this special, and Jonathan Winters serves as narrator. Frosty's appearance is physically different, his personality and humor have changed, and he has the ability to live without his top hat, in direct contrast with the original and its other sequels. Also in contrast to the original specials, the special avoids all mention of Christmas (despite the special portraying the beginning of winter) and has an environmentalist theme, as Frosty works to stop a corporate executive whose product wipes out snow packs with one spray.
- The Legend of Frosty the Snowman – This 2005 straight-to-video film was produced by Classic Media, the previous rights holder for the original film, and the remainder of the pre-1974 Rankin/Bass library. This movie has been bundled with the original 1969 film and the CBS TV sequel, and has also aired on Cartoon Network. The appearance of Frosty resembles much more the DreamWorks/Rankin/Bass character design from the film, and Professor Hinkle returns in two cameo appearances – shown in a picture and flashback. Frosty is voiced by Bill Fagerbakke, best known as the voice of Patrick Star on SpongeBob SquarePants. Like Frosty Returns and Frosty's Winter Wonderland, it also never mentions anything to do with Christmas whatsoever.
- Frosty the Snowman 2 – A direct-to-DVD film which is the film's official sequel, being produced by DreamWorks Animation, since the studio's re-acquisition to the film upon acquiring Classic Media since 2012. The film reuses the original plot concept from The Return of Frosty the Snowman.
Like the other three Rankin/Bass films, the DreamWorks logos were never shown on its pre-2012 video releases of the film due to licensing.
VHS and LaserDisc
Family Home Entertainment released Frosty the Snowman on VHS as part of the Christmas Classics Series in 1989 and 1993, with multiple re-prints throughout the 1990s. It was paired with The Little Drummer Boy on LaserDisc in 1992. Upon its 1989 and 1993 releases, the special was also bundled in box sets with the other Rankin/Bass Christmas films and specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, the 1973 Chuck Jones holiday special, A Very Merry Cricket and the sequel Frosty Returns which aired on CBS in 1992. In 1998, Sony Wonder and Golden Books Family Entertainment released the special on VHS, and also paired it with these other Rankin/Bass Christmas specials including Cricket on the Hearth in the separate Holiday Classics Collection box sets.
DVD and Blu-ray
The film was also released on DVD by Sony Wonder and Classic Media in 2002 and 2004, and by Genius Entertainment in 2007. Gaiam Vivendi Entertainment released it on DVD and Blu-ray on October 12, 2010, and on the DVD/Blu-ray combo pack on November 6, 2012. Most DVD releases also include Frosty Returns. On September 8, 2015, DreamWorks Studios (re-acquiring the film under the merger with Classic Media since 2012) and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (which served as DreamWorks' distributor until 2017) released both the film and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town in a 45th Anniversary Collector's Edition on Blu-ray and DVD in addition to the 50th Anniversary release of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 2014. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released a Deluxe Edition of the film, along with other DreamWorks Animation films on Blu-ray and DVD in 2018.
- The most beloved song come to life into a cartoon feature, where there's something magical that is bound to happened by of touch of the Christmas snow.