Cinerama: Frosty the Snowman

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Frosty the Snowman

By Mike Derderian

To experience the warmth of life you have to experience its frostiness first. Before sitting in front of a sizzling fire, watching the coals burning to pieces and counting your life’s blessings, you must remember how it feels to live in a world overcrowded with people so cold.

With many families living in Amman without even a gallon of diesel to light a retched stove, I find it inconsequential to wish you a Merry Christmas in fear that I’d be lying to you. Now, if you were a snowman with a gift to belly-whop over the icy slopes of Amman into a warm sanctuary, you won’t feel frost biting at your toes, and all I can wish for those reading my column is may you and your children bump into Frosty the Snowman for a spark of hope and a joyous Christmas.

Co-directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Junior, this 1968 Christmas classic is about the magic children experience during this time of the year, without the 2004 digital retouching that has become the hallmark of modern time animated flicks.

Frosty the Snowman, unlike this year’s animated spectacle The Polar Express, is a bit pre-historic and humble regarding the special effects used in creating its characters, scenery and action sequences if one can dub them as such. Nevertheless, it bears enough magic that can spark a child’s world into a fantasy lasting to as long as he can still believe in the Christmas mystery.

“Frosty the Snowman/ Was a jolly happy soul/With a corncob pipe and a button nose/ And two eyes made out of coal/ Frosty the Snowman/ Is a fairytale they say/ He was made of snow/ But the children know/ How he came to life one day,” is how the original Christmas song went as it gave a general description of a snowman in, case you haven’t seen one, yet.

Thanks to a mutual friend, the first time I met with cool cat was back in 1985. That friend was my uncle, who taped the 22-minute cartoon in order to keep the menace of a child I was quite and still, before, during and after Christmas morning, afternoon and evening.

It has been almost seven years since I heard Jimmy Durante narrating the story with his all but beautiful voice—the man, believe it or not, was a true Hollywood musical icon, who redefined the meaning of having a screen charisma without even having the proper set of vocal chords (If you haven’t seen him in Jumbo than you should).

Seven years since I dug out the VHS tape and watched the magic that I’ve experienced as a child and later on as an adolescent until I strayed away from the magical path every child follows. What happened? I grew up and started working.

In addition to Durante’s warm vocal performance (his last in a film) the voice talents of Billy De Wolfe, June Foray and Jackie Vernon as Frosty contributed to the film’s warmth and naivety that easily made children connect and identify themselves with the characters.

We are taken to a classroom where Karen (June Foray) and her classmates are all preoccupied by the falling snowflakes, when the headmistress announces the arrival of Professor Henckel (De Wolfe).

Henckel—who is no David Copperfield and take my word for it—tries to perform the old rabbit-in-the-hat trick for the children. Of course he is working with a very independent rabbit, probably a freelance, who refuses to show up. The teacher hence is embarrassed and the hat is thrown out into the garbage. What would you expect from a clever rabbit called Hocus Pocus! By the way, you’ll love him.

Henckel is an antagonist in performance and appearance. An element that reminds us of the old Hollywood code when malevolent characters were given a mustache, a squeaky nasal voice with a dose of bad luck and a slapstick prone persona. So you laugh at him most of the time.

Realizing that his top hat was magical, Henckel tries to snatch it back from the children, however, without the hat Frosty is good as dead so the children decide to help him. So where is the best place to hide a snowman? The North Pole of course, too bad Frosty missed the Polar Express by 36 years.

The script’s simplicity, the easy-going dialogue and the every now and then sing along theme song “Frosty the Snowman” makes it quite a treat for children.

Frosty’s merry and innocent childlike character is what made the film fun to watch in the first place. The man is not only super cool but is also super funny, “Whew! Stay in here much longer and I’ll really make a splash in the world,” says an overheated Frosty to Karen as they hide in a greenhouse seeking a hideout from Henckel and warmth for Karen.

Another aspect is the deep relationship that develops between Frosty and Karen, which places us inside a more psychological dimension: if a snowman can transmit feelings of affection, caring and love what excuses is left for us humans?

“Don’t cry, Karen, Frosty’s not gone for good. You see, he was made out of Christmas snow and Christmas snow can never disappear completely. It sometimes goes away for almost a year at a time and takes the form of spring and summer rain. But you can bet your boots that when a good, jolly December wind kisses it, it will turn into Christmas snow all over again,” announced a very deep voiced Santa Claus to Karen.  “Yes, but… He was my friend,” answered the sniveling child to Santa, who added, “Just watch.”

The thawing snow is but a temporarily departure of the magic that was. Next year, you’ll be able to play and enjoy the company of Frosty the Snowman, once snow and ice finds its way back to us, to our crowded kingdom and neighborhood in Amman. Think magically.

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