As most of us see snow everywhere we look today, let’s go back in time a bit. Back in the early 1990’s, Disney Channel had a number of so-called “holiday specials” that they would air during January and February regardless of the yuletide season being over. They only had a handful of these, but there was a reason behind their perceived madness: the specials in question were Rankin/Bass’s Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Jack Frost…and neither of which really had much to do with Christmas. In fact, in the case of Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, it had nothing to do with the birthday of Jesus, with the Andy Griffith-narrated tale taking place during “the snowy season.”
My point in saying all of this is to justify why I am allowed to talk about The Legend of Frosty the Snowman, in that it, like the various other Frosty “sequels,” doesn’t take place at Christmastime. This includes Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, the insane crossover movie Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, and the non-Rankin/Bass produced Frosty Returns (which, as I noted in a previous article, still gets annual network TV airings for some reason). Another thing it doesn’t have, just like all of the other “sequels,” is no sense whatsoever of franchise continuity. Even the good folks at Rankin/Bass screw their own timeline up, with Frosty losing the need for his hat in order to survive in Wonderland but becoming bound to it again without any explanation in Christmas in July. Then there was Returns, which didn’t even try to connect itself to the original, and finally The Legend of Frosty the Snowman…which is by far the strangest and most obscure installment in the series. And I don’t mean that lightly.
Released on DVD in 2005 and airing on Cartoon Network the same year, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman was produced by Sony’s Classic Media Studios, and it’s hard to figure out why it got made, much less how. Perhaps they looked at the sales returns for the straight-to-video Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys in 2001, which apparently did well despite being a laughably cheap production, with terrible animation and a silly storyline. Perhaps Cartoon Network was looking for something else to be able to show around the holidays. Or maybe someone thought there was still some money to be milked from the lovably silly snowman. In any case, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman somehow exists, even though its central concept is so out there that it’s a miracle anyone involved thought it could possibly be a good idea.
If you haven’t seen the movie (and there’s an extremely good chance you haven’t, since it’s fallen into a pop culture black hole over time), let me attempt to explain the plot to you: it’s literally Frosty the Snowman meets 1984. In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up. There’s a small American town with a cheerful mayor (Tom Kenny, who is way better here than the film deserves for him to be) who has imposed Orwellian laws on all of its citizens for…reasons. Why he’s doing it is never explained. why he has that kind of political power is never touched upon, and why the town’s residents have gone along with his stupid rules is never addressed. Children are forbidden to make wishes, walk to school in a military march, always go to home before a curfew, and do everything their overly obedient parents tell them to. Frosty the Snowman somehow inserts himself into a story that should have nothing to do with him by deciding he has to liberate the town by making himself a symbol of chaos and mischief. Again, not making any of this up. Frosty literally becomes the equivalent of V from V for Vendetta here, except that he doesn’t kill anyone, but his goals are still the same. Also, a magical comic book which can predict the future is involved.
Where do we even begin with this? I haven’t even gotten to the weirder stuff here, which involves a completely backwards backstory for the mayor which makes him the son of the magician from the first special (but gives him a different name, making things even more confusing). According to the magical comic book (sighs), the mayor used his father’s hat to create Frosty (which didn’t happen in the original, but hey, it’s not like the guys who made this could’ve watched it for themselves to avoid such plot holes or anything), but it was then stolen by his jealous rival and locked away in a cellar, causing the mayor to question his own sanity. And all of this is interwoven with Frosty starting a cult which leads to a revolution within the town.
“The secret society of Frosty the Snowman had begun,” Burt Reynolds is forced to say as the film’s narrator, and he frequently sounds as though he’d rather be doing a Dukes of Hazard sequel than any of the “whimsical” rhymes he occasionally has to to go through here (I’m also pretty sure Reynolds was added to the movie at the very last minute, as a fully animated deleted scene on the DVD features a completely different actor as his character). And much like Frosty Returns, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman has a peculiarly “adult” sense of humor about it, but at least in this case a few laughs are earned, largely thanks to the always dependable Tom Kenny. Speaking of SpongeBob’s voice, Frosty here is played by Bill Fagerbakke, but he’s essentially doing his Patrick voice from start to finish, and like John Goodman in Frosty Returns, he’s making no effort to attempt to sound like the late Jackie Vernon.
Still, the oddest thing about the movie is its subject matter, in that I’m not sure what exactly the film is trying to satirize. Are there really kids in America who are so regimented by supposed order that they should be encouraged to do things like petty crimes? At one point during the movie, a little girl swipes a hood ornament off of a car, and the sweeping musical score makes it the most inspirational moment involving a non-starving child stealing I’ve ever seen in a children’s film. Not that I think Frosty is actually telling its target audience that thefts are okay, but the fact that the character faces no consequences for her actions is a little notable.
At the end of the day, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman is such a “what the heck” film that it almost has to be recommended for a rental, as I’m still trying to wrap my head around how it exists. Not that its strangeness has caused for it to catch on in any way, as it wasn’t a hit on TV or on disc, though Sony still released an extremely late sequel to Rankin/Bass’s Here Comes Peter Cottontail the following year (with Sir Roger Moore as Irontail! Seriously!). But if you want to sit down and scratch your forehead in confusion for a while as you watch a snowman star in an anti-communist comedy, The Legend of Frosty the Snowman might be worth a “see it to believe it” look.