TV URBAN LEGEND: “Frosty the Snowman” was not originally a Christmas story.
One of the most famous Christmas animated TV specials is “Frosty the Snowman,” which debuted in 1969. It was by Rankin/Bass Productions, the same company that produced the classic Christmas animated special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” which debuted five years earlier. Narrated by Jimmy Durante, the special involves a magic hat that transforms a snowman, Frosty, into a living being. The magician who owned the hat wants it back now that he knows it contained actual magic, so the kids had to get together and find a way to bring Frosty to the North Pole to keep him from melting. However, once there, Frosty sacrifices himself to warm up the little girl, Karen, who took him to the North Pole. He melts, but Santa Claus explains that Frosty is made out of special Christmas snow and thus can never truly melt. Frosty then comes back to life and everyone has a Merry Christmas.
Again, as noted, the special is a Christmas classic and the soundtrack is beloved, as well, including not just the title track, but a great version of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” However, did you know that originally, “Frosty the Snowman” wasn’t about Christmas, at all?
“Frosty the Snowman” was written by Romeo Muller, the acclaimed Rankin/Bass writer who did most of their writing for them. Muller was renowned for his ability to take simple songs and then come up with a compelling story to revolve around the song. As we’ve discussed in an old TV Legends Revealed, Muller invented pretty much everything that we now think of as the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” story by himself, except for the general “Rudolph’s red nose ends up saving the day” part of the song, as really, the song (and the book that the song was based on) is pretty darn bare bones, plot-wise.
Similarly, the plot of “Frosty the Snowman,” the actual song, is also sparse in the details. The song was written in 1950 by Walter “Jack” Rollins and Steve Nelson. They wrote it for Gene Autry, especially, after Autry had such a huge hit with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the previous year.
However, unlike “Rudolph,” “Frosty the Snowman” is not necessarily a Christmas song. Nothing about Christmas is mentioned in the song’s lyrics at all. It just a generic wintertime song.
It was when Rankin/Bass decided to make it into a Christmas special that Christmas came into the story. In fact, they even changed the final line of the song for the TV special. In the original, it says at the end, “But he waved goodbye, saying, ‘Don’t you cry. I’ll be back again some day.'” On the TV special, it says, “But he waved goodbye, saying, ‘Don’t you cry. I’ll be back on Christmas day.'”
Interestingly enough, the first sequel Rankin/Bass did for “Frosty” was very specifically NOT a Christmas story, but just set in generic “Wintertime,” to tie in with the song, “Winter Wonderland.” The second sequel had Christmas in the title, but it was “Christmas in July.”
The legend is…
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