The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

Frosty the Snowman - Notes

Lyrics & Music: Steve Nelson & Jack Rollins, 1950
Became a popular Children’s animation in 1969, with the title song sung by Jimmy Durante.

William Studwell, The Christmas Carol Reader

"Frosty the Snowman," which was written in 1950, was in several ways an imaginative echo of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which appeared the year before. Like Rudolph, Frosty was a magical new Christmas character who evoked both delight and sadness. Frosty brought much joy to the children who put the old silk hat on his head, thus bringing him to life. There also were some tears shed when Frosty began to melt away and had to leave. But his promise to return ended the tale with the anticipation of renewed friendship. Like Rudolph, his appearance was expected to be annual.

The perennial nature of Frosty has greatly aided his public acceptance and commercial success. The clever story by Walter E. "Jack" Rollins (1906-1973) and the rather good melody by Steve Edward Nelson (1907 - ) of course are the key building blocks of "Frosty's" tremendous popularity (New Yorkers Rollins and Nelson also developed another musical holiday character, "Peter Cottontail" (1949), which is the best-known Easter personality.)

Also like Rudolph, Frosty has been aggressively merchandised and has had three television specials to help sustain Frosty in the mind's eye of millions. [Since the original writing, a fourth special has been added.] In 1969, Jimmy Durante narrated an excellent cartoon version of Frosty's birth, life, and demise. Variant adventures of Frosty were presented in the 1979 program, Frosty's Winter Wonderland, presided over by Andy Griffith, and in Rudolph and Frosty [rebroadcast as Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July]. [Plus Frosty Returns] But all the borrowing between Rudolph and Frosty was no one-sided. When the most successful television program about Rudolph was put on the air in 1964, [sic] the jolly host of the show was none other than a snowman! [Burl Ives]

Frosty the Snowman: First in a series of animated television specials which are seen annually during the Christmas season (often repeated). This initial installment tells of the magical effects of the first snow of the year, especially when it falls on the day before Christmas — a Christmas Snow. Narrated and sung by Jimmy Durante, starring Billy DeWolfe as Henckle the Magician, and Jackie Vernon as Frosty. Other characters include Henckle’s rabbit Hocus Pocus; Karen, Frosty’s little friend; and Santa, who comes to the rescue! Other voices include Paul Frees and Jane Foray. Musical Director Murray Laws. Songs: ‘Frosty the Snowman.’ Written by Romeo Muller, and based on the song by Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins. Produced and directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass. 1969.

Frosty’s Winter Wonderland: Second animated television special which tells the story of how Frosty got a wife. Narrated by Andy Griffith, with Shelly Winters as Crystal Frosty, Dennis Day as the Parson, Paul Frees as Jack Frost, and Jackie Vernon as Frosty. Written by Romeo Muller, loosly based on the song by Nelson and Rollins. Produced by Rankin & Bass. Songs include ‘Frosty the Snowman’ and ‘Sleigh Bells.’ 1976.

Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July: Third in the series and last produced by Rankin-Bass. Santa must save Frosty and Rudolph from an evil wizard. Starring Red Buttons, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Alan Sues, Jackie Vernon, Shelly Winters, with Paul Frees, Billie Richards, Hal Perry, Shelby Flint, and Don Messick. Words and lyrics by Johnny Marks. Based on the song ‘Frosty the Snowman’ by Nelson and Rollins. ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, words and music by Johnny Marks; story by Robert L. May.

Characters include Winter Bolt, the cruel Monarch/King of the North; Lady Borealus, Kindly Queen of the North, Kris, the Mrs, and the Kringle Elves; the Genie of the Ice Septer; Frosty the Snowman, together with wife Crystal and children Milly and Chilly (female and male, respectively); Milton, the Flying Ice Cream Man; Lady Lorraine, a circus high-wire performer; Lily Lorraine, mother of Lady and owner of the ‘Circus by the Sea’; Sam Spangles, who wants to take over the circus; Scratcher the Evil Reindeer; Jack Frost; and Big Ben.

Songs include ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Everything I’ve Always Wanted’, ‘Everyday is Just Like Christmas’ (Merman); ‘Don’t Let the Parade Pass You By’ (Merman); ‘I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day’ (Marks version); ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’; ‘A Bed of Roses for You and Me’; ‘Now and Then Will You Think of Me’; and ‘We’re a Couple of Misfits’.

Production designed by Arthur Rankin. Jr. Screen play by Romeo Muller. Produced and directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass. 1979.

Frosty Returns: Number four in the series, with a much different look than the others (produced by a different studio). Tells the story of the Town of Beansboro, its annual Winter Carnaval at Gooseberry Park, and a Christmas Snow. Written by Oliver Goldstick and based on a story by Jim Lewis. Featuring the voice of Jonathan Winter as the Narrator, with Jan Hooks Andrea Martin, Brian Doyle-Murray, Elizabeth Moss, Michael Patrick Carter, and John Goodman as frosty the Snowman. Original music composed by Mark Mothersbaugh. Songs: "Frosty the Snowman’, ‘I know Where the Snowflakes Come From’, and ‘Sometimes When the Words Just Fail You (Let There Be Snow)’. Characters include Miss Carbunkle, the teacher; Holly, the little girl who loses her top-hat (her aka is Holly DeCarlo, Magician); Charles, her intellectual friend; Lil, Holly’s Mom; Merle, Lil’s friend; and Mr. Twitchell, CEO of Summer Wheeze, an aerosol snow remover. Produced by Eryk Casemire and Bill Melendez. Directed by Bill Melendez and Evert Brown.

William L. Simon, ed., Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook (1981)

Gene Autry, just out of high school and not yet settled into a job, tried to earn some money by working in a railway telegraph office in a little Oklahoma town. Assigned to the night shift, which was slow, he amused himself by picking on his guitar and singing a song or two. One night a stranger happened in, waited until Autry had finished his song, and then said, "Young feller, you’re wasting your time here." It was Will Rogers. By then, Autry had had enough of the telegraph business, so he took Rogers’ advice and began singing professionally. His career is now legendary – he became one of Hollywood’s brightest stars and ultimately earned his own radio and television shows. Publishing house, and even baseball team. Much of Autry’s popularity came from his recordings particularly of Christmas songs such as Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins’ "Frosty the Snow Man." Autry recorded "Frosty" in 1951, and the song proved to be a million-seller. With such a send-off, it is no wonder that Frosty joined the roster of familiar characters without whom a child’s Christmas can never be quite complete.