Let me share with you one of the lesser known animated Christmas classics: Jack Frost.
No, not that Jack Frost (though, Rise of the Guardians is one of the best children’s movies I’ve seen in a long time).
No, I am talking about the elfish, more innocent Jack Frost from Rankin-Bass:
Jack Frost is another case of classic Rankin-Bass stop motion gold.
Ok…maybe not gold, and more of a glittery snowflake. And, maybe I am not too sure it’s a
classic, but, dang, I can’t have Christmas without it.
classic, but, dang, I can’t have Christmas without it.
Truth be told, Jack Frost could be a Groundhog Day movie—which isn’t too bad an idea, seeing as I only know of one. See, the movie starts with the Groundhog Day! Groundhog celebrity, Pardon-Me Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) is preparing to go outside for his annual shadow viewing (hmmm…this would be a cool DARK and spooky story…). If Pete is frightened, there will be six more weeks of winter, per nature’s ordinances. Pete does indeed show “fright” of his shadow.
Upon his return to his groundhog's hole Pete begins to share with us that the shadow is in fact Jack Frost’s shadow, and that they cut a deal for more winter so that Jack can play, and more Pete can sleep.
Pete goes on to tell us about the time Jack decided to become human. Jack fell in love with a human girl named Elisa.
Ready? We’re about to have:
Cut to the Russian (?) town of January Junction, where there are people so oppressed, that any cash they have goes to their cruel dictator, and our villain, Kubla Kraus! He’s so bad (
how bad is he?) that he has no other living being in his castle. Everything is mechanical. His horse is steam powered, his butler is clockwork, and all his knights mechanic. Hell, even the mice are wind-up! His only company is Dummy...his puppet...that he talks too...and who seems to be his conscious.
Alright, so, in this small town lives a husband and a wife, known as "mama" and "papa," who live with their daughter, Elisa. The very same Elisa who Jack falls in love with. Elisa is a dreamer. She has a crush on her imaginary friend Jack Frost (you know, I’m starting to think everyone in January Junction is a bit crazy) and often talks about him.
While she is playing on frozen river water, Kubla—being neither observant, nor, caring—rides across the ices on his iron, steam pony. Between the weight of the horse, and the heat it exudes, the lake thaws, and Elisa is stuck on a floating chunk of ice. She then starts floating down the river towards a water fall. It is then that Jack saves Elisa by freezing the impending falls, a la his ability to whistle up a brisk snow storm, resulting in her dubbing him a hero, and stealing his heart.
Upon hearing that he is a hero, Jack immediately returns home to ask his boss, Father Winter to grant to Jack the gift of being human. His wish is granted for the winter, when, if he wishes to stay human, he must have a house for shelter, a horse to bare him, a bag of gold to sustain him, and a wife to make all his efforts worth the while. And with that, Jack is sent from his home in the winter clouds to January Junction, where he assumes the identity Jack Snip (Father Winter never said he couldn’t call himself Jack Frost though, and I feel this was a mistake).
Two of his friends from the winter kingdom join him on earth to keep him out of harm’s way—Snip the snowflake maker, and Holly who is a snow gypsy (and cute as a button).
The three winter sprites open up a tailor shop and their first customer ends up being Sir Raveneau…Elisa’s quintessential man…in golden armor. Also, Christmas comes to town, and to show you why this is a Christmas movie, here is a song that my family likes to sing (and do stop motion-esque movements/dancing to) during this time of year:
Elisa is eventually kidnapped by Kraus, and a rescue party is assembled! Her parents, Sir Raveneau, Jack, Snip and Holly head to Kraus’ castle, but, only the golden knight makes it up the mountainous terrain. He easily saves Elisa, and is back down the mountain before Jack, Snip and Holly realize what is going on. After realizing Elisa has been taken, Kubla throws Jack, Snips, and Holly in his jail, and commences an all-out assault against January Junction (He sends 10,000 K-nights [pronounced K-nights]). Jack asks to become his sprite self again so that he can divert Kraus’ plans for revenge on January Junction. Jack is granted his powers again, but, winter is coming to an end. Jack asks for winter to be prolonged, and he is told that only if the groundhog Pete is frightened by his shadow can he have 6 more weeks of winter.
So, Jack goes to scare Pete, and he is granted the time. After the six weeks; on the last day of winter, Jack is granted until noon to achieve the previously mentioned goals to stay a human. He takes over Kubla’s castle, inheriting the horse and gold with it. After his claim, Jack heads to January Junction to ask Elisa to be his wife. However, Elisa is already going to be married at noon that day to Sir Raveneau.
As the bells toll noon, Jack turns back to his true form, and frosts her bouquet in good bye.
And they lived happily ever after…
While I also like this movie because of “Just What I Always Wanted” and because of the sparkly outfits the sprites wear, it has to be that the ending isn’t your normal happy “Christmas is saved” affair.
The ending is bittersweet, but that’s one of the things I like about it. There is a lot of good that happens, to counter the bad (you know…like the Doctor said?). I enjoy that Elisa moves on from her child-like dreams (ok, yes the knight in shining armor is typical, but, in her case, the dude was real). I like that Jack worked very hard, but, like in real life, sadly, it doesn’t mean you get everything you want (even if we feel it should).
I think this is something we know, but don’t often like to acknowledge about real life. Maybe I’m looking way too into it, but that’s one of the reasons I like it.
And because Holly is adorable!!!