Original Mono For Frosty The Snowman
Coming off the success of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964, Rankin-Bass became something of the go-to company for holiday specials aimed at children in the 1960s and 1970s. Known for their trademark Animagic brand of stop-motion puppetry, they also produced traditionally animated Christmas specials.
Rankin-Bass’s indelible legacy and lasting cultural impact were cemented forever when Frosty The Snowman first aired on CBS in 1969. The 30-minute animated special quickly became an annual television staple for millions of American children, joining the company’s earlier Rudolph special as part of the American Christmas tradition.
Frosty the Snowman has become a permanent fixture around Christmas time. The iconic character has been heavily merchandised like other great brands widely beloved by children and adults alike. There may or may not be a six-foot inflatable of the friendly snowman in my front-yard each year during the Christmas season. It’s amazing that a cartoon produced in the late 1960s remains a huge draw even today. The special continues to garner high ratings each year when CBS plays it during December.
Frosty the Snowman is a simple child’s story told with wit, humor, and love
Frosty the Snowman is a simple child’s story told with wit, humor, and love
Based on the huge Christmas hit song made famous by Gene Autry, Frosty The Snowman’s heartwarming storytelling and lovable characters make it a perfect slice of childhood fun and nostalgia. Sung and told by performer Jimmy Durante, we learn the story of the snowman that comes to life when a young girl places a magical hat on him. Karen quickly becomes Frosty’s friend, helping him find a more comfortable place for a snowman prone to melting away.
Memorably voiced by comedian Jackie Vernon, Frosty can’t stand the rising temperatures and decides on a journey to the North Pole, where Santa lives. It’s a simple child’s story told with wit, humor, and love. Frosty, Karen and their rabbit friend Hocus Pocus are on the run from the evil Professor Hinkle as they all make their way north on a train.
The Rankin-Bass team truly made another all-time Christmas classic with Frosty The Snowman. Writer Romeo Muller had also written the Rudolph special and worked his magic once again within the constraints of television aimed at school children, creating a moving story with a couple of unforgettable moments. Composer Maury Laws provides an integral part of the cartoon, the popular soundtrack.
The distinctive designs from noted artist Paul Coker Jr. stand out from the animation of the day. Producers and directors Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted the special to look like a Christmas card, thus hiring the most famous Hallmark artist of the period to design the characters and backgrounds.
Universal presents Frosty the Snowman at the expected 1.33:1 aspect ratio at 1080P resolution, in line with earlier Blu-ray releases. The main feature runs an uncut 25:44 minutes on a BD-50! That leads to an impressive AVC encode well into the 30s that perfectly renders the older cel animation and its grain structure. A Universal logo pads the normal running time. The 1969 animated special looks fairly crisp and clean in HD, though well behind the animated theatrical fare of its day. This was a television special and its production values were decent, not spectacular.
Rudolph definitely received improved video quality in Universal’s The Original Christmas Specials Collection. It’s harder to definitively say that Frosty The Snowman looks better than prior Blu-ray versions. Some filtering has been used on the film scan. It’s not terribly detrimental to the cel animation’s integrity, but animation videophiles will notice the cleaned-up cels.
There is remarkably little dirt or debris on the print, the elements have been well-preserved and kept in fine condition. Primary colors are highlighted, especially red. The color red really pops in this transfer. It’s not a radical tweak to the color timing. If anything, white looks a bit flat. The contrast and black levels are fairly high for classic cel animation, though less impressive than the fully restored Looney Tunes shorts.
Inspired by Paul Coker Jr’s distinctive art, Frosty The Snowman has a distinct aesthetic for classic cel animation with line thickness that changes for certain characters. The program was actually animated in Japan by Mushi Production, also responsible for Astro Boy. Rankin-Bass were always looking for foreign studios that could do quality work on the cheap when making their specials. It’s a testament to their craftsmanship that the special continues to delight children to this day.
This Frosty the Snowman release has the original post-1970 mono audio for the first time on Blu-ray. It also includes a decent 5.1 remix used on the prior Classic Media releases. The rare, original audio with June Foray voicing Karen is still nowhere to be found. Her recording was used when Frosty The Snowman first aired in 1969 and was replaced at some point in the 1970s by a child voicing Karen.
While the 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack is superficially more impressive, a ton of noise reduction has been applied to remove hiss, sucking out some of the richer harmonics and dynamics in the recording. By comparison, the original 2.0 DTS audio in mono has been left untouched and unprocessed. It has more life, even if the recording sounds a tad rougher in the upper frequencies. Cartoon purists should hear the mono audio, while more casual viewers may prefer the glossier 5.1 remix with a bigger soundstage.
Music helps make Frosty The Snowman more than just another Christmas cartoon. Comedian Jimmy Durante was a popular performer in the 1940s and sold millions of records, even if his music is largely forgotten today. His gravel-voiced rendition of the titular song is an inspired take on the hit made famous by Gene Autry. He re-recorded the song for this special, having released an earlier cover.
Optional English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles play in a white font. French and Spanish mono dubs play in 2.0 DTS.
This isn’t Frosty The Snowman’s first go-around on Blu-ray. Classic Media issued Frosty back in 2010, then as a 45th Anniversary collector’s edition, while Universal handles it this time. Universal has released a solo deluxe edition and Frosty The Snowman as part of The Original Christmas Specials Collection set. The latter two discs are identical, hence this review works for both versions. The Original Christmas Specials Collection is a 4-disc Blu-ray set packaged in a keepcase inside a slipcase.
This Universal release lacks Frosty Returns, a fairly poor 1992 cartoon with no actual ties to the classic Rankin-Bass production. Classic Media included Frosty Returns on their latter Frosty Blu-rays. Frosty The Snowman’s actual sequel, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, has never been included with Frosty the Snowman on home video because it’s controlled by Warner Bros. Frosty’s Winter Wonderland has only seen DVD and digital video.
This new 2018 edition from Universal is missing the three largely inconsequential featurettes found on Classic Media’s 45th Anniversary collector’s edition. They were aimed at children for the most part and their absence isn’t a big loss.
If you are looking for the original audio recording with legendary voice actress June Foray voicing Karen, that is still missing in action. We know the audio exists because Rhino issued it on CD many years ago, but it has never turned up on DVD or Blu-ray.
The Animagic World of Rankin/Bass (47:00 in HD) – This fantastic new documentary on the beloved animation company is absolutely worth the price of buying Frosty The Snowman over again. Everyone from animation expert Jerry Beck, to director Jon Favreau, and many other active Hollywood filmmakers involved with animation, discuss the impact and legacy of Rankin-Bass. They cover writer Romeo Muller, Maury Laws, and other people behind the scenes that helped produce their wonderful holiday specials. It’s a fascinating snapshot and overview of the company’s lasting legacy. On a side note, well-known Rankin-Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt was left out of this documentary for whatever reason by the producers. It’s a shame he wasn’t included, but he’s now gone around the Internet all over social media trashing this release. This is a great look at Rankin-Bass even without his presence.
Audio Commentary – Respected animation historian Mark Evanier fluidly goes over the special. He covers each voice actor involved and neat tidbits unknown to the general public. It’s a fine, informative discussion.
Original Pencil Test (01:04 in HD) – An original, audio-less clip which has the raw, rough drawing made for Jimmy Durante’s character in Frosty. It has limited movement and was meant as a prototype for the animators.
Full disclosure: This Blu-ray release was provided to us for review by the label. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit our about us page to learn more about DoBlu’s editorial policies.
Frosty The Snowman: Deluxe Edition
The beloved children’s animated special Frosty the Snowman looks and sounds better than ever in this new deluxe edition.
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