Somehow I made it through childhood without seeing the 1969 Frosty the Snowman special, so I thought I’d atone with this sequel narrated by Burt Reynolds, except The Legend of Frosty the Snowman doesn’t revisit the original at all. Aside from a magical top hat that brings Frosty to life, this film starts from scratch, and it’s a somewhat disturbing start. The movie has a Fifties aesthetic and the animation is a flipbook of atomic design, but the squeaky clean lines of the past point to a dystopian perspective on today.
The story takes place in a small town run by the mayor, Mr. Tinkerton (Tom Kenny), a cardigan wearing everyman who is the animated incarnation of Generic 50s TV Dad. He carries around his clipboard ensuring that everything runs on schedule and even licks the pavement to test its cleanliness. His nervous younger son, Tommy (Kath Soucie) could do with fewer rules and more love, but that’s lost on his dad. He, like most of the adults in Evergreen, has got more important things on his mind.
Mr. Tinkerton, Mr. Pankley (Larry Miller), the school principal, and the parents love their rules and prioritize order above all else. There are some benefits, I suppose. No one’s been sent to the detention room in ages and, seeing as the dunce cap has also fallen out of use, the students must be doing well in their classes. The kids need an overdue respite from the domineering adults, however, and they get it from an unlikely source – a magical hat that brings Frosty (Bill Fagerbakke) to life. Not only are the parents incensed that their children are now throwing snowballs and ice skating outdoors, they are also upset that a snowman is the chief architect of this mischief.
If you ask me, Frosty needs to direct his attention at the older folks. They’re the miserable ones who have fooled themselves into thinking that their warped world is a happy and perfect one. One girl’s mother is horrified that her daughter doesn’t want to princess herself up for a suitor and that she instead aspires to be an urban planner. Mr. Tinkerton and Mr. Pankley are especially horrible, and even though the former is not mean-spirited like the latter, he passively aggressively makes sure he has his way. He insists on morning inspection in his own house and when it comes to mealtime, he hosts the Tinkerton Family Dinner Quiz, which covers all areas of dining etiquette. It’s not just his children who are under the thumb of his dictatorship but also his wife, whose primary role is to ensure that Dad’s rules are followed.
And when you live in this kind of society, you’re bound to have spies in the midst. Mr. Tinkerton has craftily encouraged his sons to vie for the #1 Badge, which means the wearer gets the privilege of being his second in command. Poor Tommy, not seeing that winning the badge will cost him friends, longs for the honor so that he’ll get a few moments of recognition from his dad.
None of this is particularly Christmasy, and for my money, it’s only marginally a holiday film. There is a plot about why Mr. Tinkerton is the way he is that aims to warm the heart a little, but the core is not a festive, celebratory one. As a teacher in Hong Kong, I think the movie would have more resonance in classrooms here than in front of the fireplace on the other side of the world. So even though it’s advocating more cheer and laughter and gives a giant thumbs up to imagination and a world where everything doesn’t go as planned, I probably won’t be adding it to my perennial Christmas list.
Prod: Evan Baily, Kathy Antonsen Rocchio
Dir: Greg Sullivan
Writer: Emily Kapnek
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Bill Fagerbakke, Tom Kenny, Larry Miller, Kath Soucie, Candy Milo, Jeannie Elias, Kenn Michael, Tara Strong
Time: 66 min
Country: United States