Frosty the Snowman (1969)

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You wouldn’t expect much from a short movie about the famous Christmas novelty song, but lo and behold Rankin Bass manage to pull off an impressive feat. “Frosty the Snowman” is a great short fantasy film that knows when to call it quits and is never a cloying over abundance of cute and obnoxious.

Frosty the Snowman sets down on a group of school children that are treated to a terrible magician named Professor Finkle, whose bad tricks send him off an angry path. When he accidentally leaves his top hat behind, the children of the school build a snowman, and adorning it with Finkle’s top hat make it magically come alive. With his corn cob pipe and his declaration of “Happy Birthday!” he becomes friends to young Karen and her school pals. Sadly, Finkle is made aware of the hat’s magical powers and will stop at nothing to get it back. Meanwhile Karen and her friends realize that winter will eventually end and Frosty will melt, so they flee to the North Pole to keep Frosty cold and alive.

Along the way they dodge Finkle’s attempts to steal the top hat, and use it for nefarious means. One of the best elements of Frosty is that whenever he’s revived he declares “Happy Birthday!” which is a clever commemoration of his own birth at the moment he’s brought to life. Jackie Vernon gives a timeless performance as the lovable friend made of snow who looks for Santa in the North Pole in an effort to keep himself safe, while also trying to bring Karen back home. It becomes especially urgent when Frosty realizes Karen simply can’t live in sub-zero temperatures like he can. “Frosty” is one of the many movies that brought me to tears as a kid, and it’s assuredly a classic, if only because it adds a new dimension to a fun Christmas song only Rankin Bass could have pulled off.