Well, if a Universal Monsters team-up is called a “monster mash”, I guess you could call Rankin Bass teaming up Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman an “animagic mash”?
1979’s Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July serves as a continuation of both Frosty’s Winter Wonderland and Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (each premiered on ABC in December 1976). Which themselves were sequels to the classic Frosty the Snowman (1969) and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). While it premiered on ABC, it’s really more than just a Christmas special. It’s full-length movie that clocked in at 99 minutes. The poster above treats it like a theatrical release, and who knows, maybe it did get a theatrical run somewhere (or maybe was planned to have one).
The rights to Rankin Bass material is kinda confusing sometimes but this special is (currently) owned by Warner Bros. and it’s their 2004 DVD edition that I own. The special has been re-released on a few different holiday special box sets.
You’d think they could have come up with a better plot for this one. I mean, Rudolph and Frosty, so it’s gotta take place in the North Pole around Christmastime, right? Well… Not really.
Instead, despite the forced attempts (such as the title of the special), Christmas doesn’t really factor into this one at all. Rudolph and Frosty (along with his wife Crystal, daughter Millie and son Chilly) agree to help a friend win the heart of the woman he loves by becoming star attractions in a circus that the woman’s mother owns and operates. And this takes places somewhere by a sea. I’m guessing some coastal town in America, although the Fourth of July and America doesn’t play a big role in the special either (other than the fireworks at the end).
So it’s a very weird way to put Frosty and Rudolph together: “Hey! Let’s set it in the beach around the Fourth of July! And we’ll make them stars of a circus!” WTF?
It could’ve been something really special since not only did the original voice actors for Frosty and Rudolph return but so did Mickey Rooney as Santa Claus (who voiced him in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and The Year Without a Santa Claus).
Honestly, this whole thing is a bit of a chore to sit through. The special’s one saving grace is the evil, nasty King Winterbolt. Winterbolt used to rule the North Pole with a frozen fist until he was placed in suspended animation by Lady Boreal, the Queen of the Northern Lights. Winterbolt wakes up after a very long time to discover Santa Claus is now in charge of the North Pole and he begins to scheme to takeover Christmas, the North Pole and to put the light on on Rudolph’s red nose (literally).
Winterbolt is a great villain. Unlike a lot of Rankin Bass bad guys, he isn’t a wimpy, sniveling, bumbling and/or cowardly blowhard nor does he find redemption and become “good” at the end. He’s rotten to the core, stays that way, shows zero sympathy and then finds just punishment once his Ice Scepter is broken.
But before Winterbolt meets his grisly end, we get to see he has quite a stable of creatures at hisdisposal. In order to prevent Santa Claus from visiting Rudolph and Frosty, he uses his two pet snow dragons to create a blizzard. And what’s attached to Winterbolt’s sleigh? Not reindeer. Rein-snakes.
Ultimately, the movie falls flat. While it does make some weak attempts to draw a connection to the previous specials (there’s a duet between Rudolph & Frosty on “We’re a Couple of Misfits”), the premise for this special is just too out there to truly enjoy. I can’t help but think about what a wasted effort this was. The soundtrack is no great shakes either. Yes, there’s “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” but the original songs are not interesting at all. These guys look awesome.
Winterbolt is a very interesting character and it would be great to see some type of Rankin Bass reboot someday with Winterbolt as the big baddie (along with hisdragons and snakes, of course). I would love to see a full-on CGI or live action/CGI movie starring the holiday Rankin Bass characters with Winterbolt as the villain. Whoever owns the rights (Warner and Sony? Warner and Dreamworks?) needs to work something out!
I now leave you with this image of Scratcher the reindeer: