Rankin/Bass Production’s “Jack Frost”
Directed By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Produced By: Jules Bass & Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written By: Romeo Muller
For this review, I shall go over a brief history of the titular character, the originality of the story, and a few minor nitpicks. That having been stated, I’m going to state right out that this particular film is one of my favorite Christmas specials of the many multitudes made by Rankin/Bass Productions, the same studio that brought to life such delightful characters as Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Bilbo Baggins of the Hobbit, and, my personal favorite, Lion-O of the ThunderCats.
Jack Frost is a character theorized to have appeared as a younger, and by far kinder, variant of Old Man Winter whose responsibilities included the creation of frost on windows (particularly those of a rather fernlike design), the painting of leaves in autumn, and the nipping of one’s extremities (particularly the nose). This particular incarnation of Jack Frost has actually three different films under his belt. The first being where he initially served as antagonist and eventual best man to Frosty in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, and a form of deus ex machina of Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, before he earned a film of his own.
The story of Jack Frost is narrated to us by a character that has little to no actual involvement in the story itself, that being a groundhog by name of Pardon-Me-Pete. Jack’s story is, ironically enough, more true to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid than Disney’s own in that ol’ Jack Frost has gone and found his heart ensnared by a young beauty named Elisa. Striking a bargain with Old Man Winter, or rather Father Winter as he is named in the film, for the chance to be with the woman he loves by giving up his immortality as a winter sprite and becoming a human. However, in order for the spell to become permanent, Jack must be able to prove himself as a human being which includes his attaining a home, a horse, a sack of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring.
More on that later…
To jump right in as to what makes this one of my favorite Christmas specials produced by Rankin/Bass, this is the first, and dare I say, only Christmas special I had ever seen growing up that did not have a happy ending. You heard me right. Jack Frost, despite getting everything from the horse, to the home, to the freaking sack of gold, did not succeed in earning the affections of the girl he sought.
Why you ask? I shan’t spoil that for you but I will say that it brings a sense of realism I’ve yet to see in a Rankin/Bass, nay, any Christmas story. Sometimes… there just is no happily ever after for the hero and they have to go on doing what they do despite wanting something more out of life. I still remember the scene where Elisa is walking out the church, her bouquet in hand and husband in arm when Jack Frost swoops in and turns the roses white with frost. At her new husband’s declaration of surprise and wonder, Elisa confesses with a tear in her eye that, “An old friend just kissed the bride.”
Just typing that line gets me all choked up…
Now as I’m sure many of you are curious, yes there are some things to nitpick about this movie. It’s a Rankin/Bass Production and like many of their films, the antagonist of Jack Frost is so over the top that I can’t even type his name without giggling like a loon. The man’s only saving grace is the fact that he’s a steampunk inspired mad genius and that’s all I’ll say of that. The music… is Rankin/Bass and nothing to truly write home, or a review, about be it negative or positive.
However, there was one thing that even to this day I’ll never understand and that is the stipulations of the spell that turned Jack Frost human. It’s not really the stipulations themselves, after all there’s been many a spell that comes with such a price before, but rather how Jack Frost not only attains most of them in the span of a day but that, technically speaking, he got by way of conquering the film’s villain. That and the “horse” in the equation is, and I kid you not, an actual machine. I’m not certain how finicky such spells can be but I’m fairly certain a mechanical horse is not in fact a horse.
Overall I give Rankin/Bass Productions’ Jack Frost 3½ out of 5 stars. Despite my love for the tragic ending, the song numbers, the narration, and that mechanical inspired nut of a villain, really do dumb down the overall message of the finale.