STUDIO: Warner Home Video                
MSRP: $19.98
RATING: Unrated
RUNNING TIME: 48 minutes    
•    Totally Cool Crafty Creations
•    Skip’s Snowy Singalong

The Pitch

You want to know how Groundhog Day came about? You’re in Luck, because Pardon-Me-Pete has a tale to tell about how he and Jack Frost created this special day.

The Humans

Actors (voice): Buddy Hackett, Robert Morse, Paul Frees, Larry Storch
Director: Arthur Rankin Jr, Jules Bass

The Nutshell

The Citizens if January Junction have it rough. They are about as poor as can be. Why are they so poor? Because of the evil ruler Kubla Krause, the nastiest Cossack in all the land takes all their money and rules with an iron fist, literally. He is so reviled that he has no friends, except for the ones that he make out of metal. But the people of the Junction get by as best they can, and they always appreciate a visit from Jack Frost.

But there is someone who appreciates the arrival of Jack more than anyone else in January Junction, and that is Elisa, the town hotty. She is so into him that she declares to her parents that she will never get married until she can get married to Jack Frost, unless of course, a knight in shining armor shows up.

The biggest problem with her marrying Jack Frost is that Jack is invisible to the townspeople, but once he finds out that Elisa loves him, he heads off to Father Winter and asks to be made human till at least spring in order to try and woo Elisa and get married. Father Winter allows Jacks wish, but Jack soon finds out that being human isn’t all its cracked up to be, especially when Kubla Krause decides on a plan to marry Elisa himself and destroy January Junction. And, as if things couldn’t get worse for Frost, a knight in shining armor just waltzed in town.

The Lowdown

I remember watching many Rankin/Bass TV specials as a kid. It didn’t seem that I could get through the holidays without at least one viewing of their two biggies; Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Clause is coming to Town. These specials, shot in “Animagic” (basically, Rankin/Bass’s fancy name for their stop motion process) both mesmerized me and freaked me out at the same time. They were basically required viewing in our house. But I don’t remember ever having seen Jack Frost.

Seeing it now, with a little different thought process than a ten year old, leads me to believe that there is one main reason why this special doesn’t hold the same high profile as the other classics of Rankin/Bass specials (besides the fact that it’s about Groundhog Day and not Christmas); it’s a bit of a downer. Poor Jack just never catches a break. At every turn, his best efforts only make things worse for him on a personal level. But it’s this light somberness that also makes Jack Frost a little meatier for kids who have grown up and are now sharing these programs with their own children, who will love it for the puppets, the songs and the sillier sides of the story.

Saying that Jack Frost is a departure from the more upbeat Rankin/Bass specials is kind of like saying that Leprechaun in the Hood is a departure from Leprechaun 4: in Space. It may be a little bit different in theme, but the formula is the same. There are a handful of songs scattered through Jack Frost, and while they may not be as catchy as “Put One Foot in Front of the Other”, they are snappy enough to enjoy. While it’s hard to top the island of misfit toys for interesting puppet design, the Metal creations of Kubla Krause are definitely cool to watch on screen, especially the iron horse that Kubla rides on and a bizarre metal puppet that acts as the evil ruler’s own Senor Wences.

I found the Rankin/Bass “Animagic” stop motion process a bit creepy to me as a child, and maybe it’s just me. I wasn’t putting covers over my head or anything; in fact, I enjoyed it as much as my sisters who were sitting right next to me in front of the tube. It just seemed a little eerie. Now older from my first viewings of these stop-motion programs by about thirty years, I can truly appreciate the work that went into Jack Frost. Sure, the sets may not be terribly detailed and the characters are a bit cookie cutter, but everything is there to pull you into the world they have created. Watching all the stop motion action on screen, be it a dancing groundhog in his hutch or Elisa flying over a waterfall on a piece of broken ice, brought numerous smiles to my face.

The Extras

The extras on Jack Frost are pretty slim indeed, especially for something labeled Remastered Deluxe Edition. It does look clean, with no scratches or dirt, but the extras are lacking. It would have been nice to get some kind of “making of” documentary. These specials are so well known now in popular culture, an exploration of their creation would have made for some interesting viewing for the parents that shelled out the cash for a DVD. 

There is a singalong that includes three tunes from the special. There is also a little thing called Totally Cool Crafty Creations, in which Flakey, Snip the snowflake maker’s helper, shows kids how to: make there own snow globe, create snowflakes out of paper and make sculptures out of Sodium polyacrylate! I only wish there was some kind of in depth documentary on how these very entertaining specials were created.

8 out of 10