A (Brief) Case in the Snow

In December of 2018, our show premiered with an episode about the many versions of A Christmas Carol. It was a short episode, recorded on one microphone in Robin’s living room. We did our research an hour before recording, and there was no drink of the week. 

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Now, our episodes are longer, we each have our own mics, our research is done days ahead, and we record in a small room that we call a studio. Christmas is a crazy time for all of us, so we have decided to close out 2019 with a very special Black Case Diaries Christmas Briefcase! 

About a month ago, we asked our patrons and Instagram followers what holiday special they would like us to cover this month. They voted for Frosty the Snowman! Since it just snowed here in Ohio, we decided to head out and record this episode in the snow! 

Frosty the Snowman

In 1949, country singer Gene Autry had a number one hit at Christmas. It was a song written by Johnny Marks and based on a story called, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” 

One year later, Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson came up with a new holiday song and sent it to Gene Autry, who was hoping for another Christmas hit. Not sure if Autry would take the song, they also brought a back-up to sell him: “Here Comes Peter Cottontail!”

This song was, “Frosty the Snowman!” Autry’s version made the top 40 in 1950, but was never quite as successful as Rudolph. It did well though, as covers by Nat King Cole and Guy Lombardo soon followed. Frosty became a character on merchandise, in parades, and even in a Little Golden Book! 

I found many sources that speculated that Frosty was based on a snowman that appeared in a children’s book five years before the song. The book was, “Snowy the Traveling Snowman” by Ruth Burman. The book features a snowman with coal eyes, a silk hat, and a yellow (possibly corncob) pipe. He sings and dances with the children of the town, and at the end promises to return. One of the biggest similarities to the song is that Snowy makes the sound, “bumpity-bump bump” while Frosty’s running feet sound like, “Thumpity-thump-thump.” 

Many people also believe that the song takes place in Armonk, NY, a town that one of the songwriters, Steve Nelson, lived in. Every year, the town celebrates Frosty Day. According to the Frosty Day website, Nelson’s widow confirmed that the song was written in the town. 

Patty Fenwick, the step-granddaughter of Jack Rollins, inspired him to write the song. According to the story, when Patty was a young girl, she was excited to build the first snowman of the season. The snow melted overnight, and Patty was distraught to find that the snowman was gone. Her grandpa said to her, “please don’t cry, I promise you he will be back someday soon.” When Rollins told his songwriting partner about the story, they created Frosty the Snowman. 

The song was covered by so many artists, we’re not going to spend time naming them all! Some of them include: Jimmy Durante, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Fats Domino, Perry Como, The Jackson Five, and Loretta Lynn. 

In 1954, United Productions of America produced a three minute animated short put to the song “Frosty the Snowman.” It was directed by Robert Cannon and was filmed in black and white. UPA is also known for creating Mr. Magoo, so you might notice some animation similarities between Mr Magoo’s Christmas Carol and this short. The short is provided below!

In 1969, almost 20 years after the world first met Frosty, Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass created an animated Christmas special about the snowman. 

  • Written by Romeo Muller, the same person that adapted the story of Rudolph for the animated special
    • He was also a writer for Thundercats and the animated Hobbit
  • The characters were created by Paul Coker Jr, who was a greeting card artist and illustrator for Mad Magazine.
    • The animation style is very different from Rudolph, and Rankin & Bass reportedly wanted something that looked more like a greeting card for Frosty
  • Just like with Rudolph, the animation was produced in Japan.
  • The special starred Jimmy Durante, an actor and singer that had covered the song years earlier. He re-recorded his version for the special, since it had slightly different lyrics. 
    • The song originally had no mention of Christmas, but since they wanted it to be a Christmas special, they changed a line to “I’ll be back on Christmas Day” instead of “I’ll be back again someday”
    • Several sources claim that this was his last film performance, although he is credited in the TV movie “Howdy” in 1970.

Starring

  • We already said that Jimmy Durante starred in the special, but let’s talk about the other voices that brought Frosty the Snowman to life!
    • Jackie Vernon was a well-known stand-up comic and the voice of Frosty 
      • He voiced Frosty again in “Frosty’s Winter Wonderland” (1976) and in “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July” (1979) 
    • Film and TV actor Billy De Wolfe voiced Professor Hinkle the magician 
      • He was known for a show called Good Morning World and The Doris Day Show. 
    • Paul Frees did several voices for the special including Santa Claus
      • Frees had very many voice credits to his name, including: The Pillsbury Doughboy and Boris from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Much of his voice work was uncredited, and his voice was often used to dub over or fix recordings from other actors.
    • June Foray did the voice of Karen, along with additional voices as well
      • In later versions of the special, her voice was replaced by voices of actual children, though the credits still name her.
      • June also voiced Natasha and Rocky the Squirrel in Rocky and Bullwinkle, so she and Paul Frees probably worked together often. 

https://www.armonkfrosty.com/about-frosty

2019 Recap and THANK YOU

Before we go, let’s talk about 2019. On Twitter, we asked what your favorite episodes of ours have been. Bang Average Movie Podcast responded, letting us know that they enjoyed our cinematography and Top 10 Non-Disney animated movies episodes! Thanks so much, guys. We try to do as many different things as we can! The Cinematography episode is what we call a “concept” episode, where we talk about something that involves movies and TV, but not any specific movies or shows. The Non-Disney episode is one of our list episodes. Those are by far the hardest to do, because we always want a balanced amount of research for each movie that we talk about. That episode in particular was probably the most rewarding of the year, because we got a lot of positive feedback on it. 

What were our favorite episodes? 

  • Disney Scores
    • God this was a masterpiece of research, if I do say so myself. I generally spend hours working on each episode, but this was a whole day. At this point, we weren’t as research heavy as we are now, so I wasn’t used to it yet. I had to scour IMDB for details about each movie, making connections between names and piecing together research from multiple places. 
  • Anne of Green Gables
    • This episode came out the week of my mom’s birthday, so that was a little tough. I planned it that way, but it was still tough for me to talk about it. I cried  A LOT while editing.
  • Case Around the Campfire

What were our most difficult episodes? 

  • Veronica Mars

What are our favorite memories from the past year? 

  • The Google Home Hub
  • Siobhan’s Book 

Who did we enjoy connecting with this year?

  • Bang Average
  • Em from Verbal Diorama
  • Brett Wilson
  • Arjun from Deep Into History
  • Andy from 90s Court
  • Siobhan from Myth, Legends, and Lore
  • Always the Critic movie podcast
  • All the people that constantly include us in Follow Fridays: Toys Were Us, Re-solved Mysteries, Bodice Tipplers, Ocho Duro Parlay Hour

 

And again THANK YOU for an amazing 2019!!!

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