For this particular week of Rankin/Bass reviews, I’ve just got one movie for you all, Jack Frost from 1979. (Because, frankly, I’m tuckered out after writing roughly a dozen reviews!) This is yet another Rankin/Bass Christmas special that I had never seen before, but which I had heard good things about. While it was a bit more difficult for me to find this one, I think it was worth the effort.
Although it’s implied in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979) that this is the same Jack Frost whom we see causing trouble in Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976), including trying to outright murder Frosty because he’s jealous of him, this portrayal of Jack Frost shows him in a far more sympathetic light. You see, there is an impoverished town by the name of January Junction that is terrorized by a terrible tyrant by the name of Kubla Kraus. (Considering he is voiced by Paul Frees with an accent, he sounds awfully similar to the Burgermeister from Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town….) Winter is the only time people have money because they can make ice money out of icicles, which inevitably melts once spring comes. Hence, this is why people in January Junction love Jack Frost and the cold weather he brings, including a pretty young woman named Elisa.
Well, when Elisa declares out loud that she loves Jack Frost, Jack mistakenly believes she is in love with him and not merely the chilly weather for which he is responsible. So he begs Father Winter to allow him to become human. His request is granted, but only if he can get four things by springtime. A house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife. Accompanied by two fellow magical friends, Snip and Holly, who are also disguised as humans, Jack meets Elisa and her family. He ends up learning that he can’t really have any of the things he needs because Kubla Kraus has taken everything from the people.
Now let me pause for a moment and talk about how entertaining Kubla Kraus is as a villain, despite being a truly terrible human being. For one thing, he actually suffers from the same issue as Jack, loneliness. Though, Jack is lonely because he’s invisible to humans and the only one of his kind. Kraus is lonely because, well, he’s an awful person. And so, to keep himself company, he has a robotic army of soldiers, a robotic horse, a robotic butler, and even a ventriloquist dummy with whom he has conversations. It’s pretty pathetic, really.
Well, the lonely and evil dictator one day decides he wants to marry the lovely Elisa and ends up kidnapping her. Jack and his friends, alongside Sir Ravenal, a knight with whom Elisa is truly in love, go off to rescue her. Ravenal is successful in saving Elisa from the villain’s clutches, but Jack, Snip, and Holly are captured, leaving Jack with no choice but to give up his short-lived humanity in order to regain his icy powers, after which he proceeds to freeze Kraus’s castle for weeks on end, which prevents Kraus from being able to terrorize the villagers.
When Jack finally dispatches Kraus for good, he gets a second chance at making Elisa his bride. He now has Kraus’s castle, his mechanical horse, and all of his gold, so now all he needs to remain human is to marry his one true love. And yet, as close as Jack gets to keeping his humanity, Elisa is already preparing to marry Sir Ravenal, leaving Jack Frost to return to his true form.
This entire special was pretty bittersweet in so many ways. Most notable is the fact that Jack Frost realized at the end that Elisa didn’t really love him. Another rather sad aspect of the story is the tradition the folks of January Junction practice at Christmas time. Since everyone is too poor to buy presents, they exchange empty boxes and pretend like it’s what they’ve always wanted! How depressing is that?
This was a pretty good Christmas special, and I can appreciate that it did not go in the direction I would have expected. Plus, it serves to provide a message I can only take as: don’t give up what makes you special. Jack Frost was willing to give up everything, but as he states during his song, there is no one else like him. If Jack had become human, who else would there be to take his place? Without Jack Frost, the people of January Junction wouldn’t have any icy money, and there would have been no one powerful enough to stop Kubla Kraus! Perhaps Jack’s existence is a bit lonely, but the world needs him, just as he is.
The only negative thing I can really say is the forced association with Groundhog Day, which was not necessary. I mean, notice how I summarized the entire story without mentioning this even once? Yeah, the story is narrated by the groundhog Pardon-Me-Pete, who also sings a pretty dull song called “I’ve Got a Day Named After Me”. Their whole excuse for including him was when Jack has to make the groundhog think he saw his shadow in order to prolong winter, but they could have probably still made this story work without so much time spent on that darned rodent.
So Jack Frost was yet another Rankin/Bass Christmas special that I’m glad I finally got to see. After watching a whole bunch of lackluster specials, it’s always nice to find one of their better ones. If you ever get the chance to see this one, I’d definitely recommend checking it out. For now, I’ve watched far too many Rankin/Bass specials than is probably good for me and need to take a well-earned break!
Previous Rankin/Bass Reviews (and other similar holiday specials)
- Cricket on the Hearth (1967)
- Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970)
- Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971)
- ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
- The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
- The First Easter Rabbit (1976)
- Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (1976)
- Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
- The Easter Bunny is Comin’ to Town (1977)
- Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
- The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)
- Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979)
- Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980)
- The Leprechauns’ Christmas Gold (1981)
- The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)
- A Miser Brothers’ Christmas (2008)