For those of you who did not read Rudolph… the song “Frosty the Snowman” was a frequent childhood lullaby of mine. What can I say… I have weird parents. Anyway, hearing that every night, it was a cinch that this is one of my favorite Christmas specials. But beyond the bedtime thing, this short cartoon contains great (silent) humor, the one Jimmy Durante song I like, plus what’s probably one of the darkest moments in any Christmas special. What could make a morbid kid like me happier?
The special opens with the worst school Christmas party ever… Professor Hinkle’s magic show. Just about the worst magician in the world, Hinkle cannot perform the simplest magic trick, and his rabbit, Hocus Pocus, gets away. In frustration he throws his hat away, but it turns out to be magic and brings the students’ snowman, Frosty, to life. Realizing its potential, he reclaims the hat, although Hocus helps the children get it and bring Frosty back to life.
However, it’s already too warm for Frosty to stay for very long, so the kids decide to send him to the North Pole. Ultimately Frosty, a girl named Karen, and the rabbit hop into a refrigerated boxcar on a northbound train, with Prof. Hinkle in hot pursuit.
This is where the special really kicks into high gear. Hocus provides a lot of great humor with his outrageous gestures and expressions that somehow Frosty, Karen, and Santa Claus are able to decipher. How anyone could decipher “the President of the United States” from his walking and finger shaking act is beyond me. Bully for Frosty.
Hinkle proves to be an equally funny and menacing villain, while the innocent Frosty, Karen, and the slightly more cynical Hocus Pocus make up good foils. “Give me that hat or else!” Hinkle demands at one point. Genuinely puzzled, Frosty asks, “Or else, what?” “Well, don’t bug me with details!” But two minutes later, give or take, he initiates the dark part of the special by locking Frosty and Karen in a greenhouse.
When we next see Frosty… he’s a puddle with a sobbing Karen by his side. Hinkle is hiding just outside the door. Think about that for a minute. Karen had to watch Frosty melt while Hinkle was lying in wait outside to grab the hat. Damn.
Luckily Santa Claus is there to be comforting, magical, stern, and, ultimately, forgiving. The quick reclamation of the good mood doesn’t even seem like a cheat. It’s Christmas, and pretty much anything can happen then. And it’s nice to see it play out here.