Sunday, July 18, 2010
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July is a feature-length Rankin/Bass Animagic movie that was originally released into theaters in the summer of 1979. It brings together many of the favorite Rankin/Bass Christmas characters from previous TV specials. For the first time, we see Frosty the Snowman in stop motion and not traditional cel animation. Although the story takes place over the Fourth of July, this film now regularly airs at Christmas time.
The wicked tyrant King Winterbolt has always had his magic power tempered by Lady Boreal, Queen of the Northern Lights. But Winterbolt is jealous of the popularity of Santa Claus and wants Santa's admirers to be his own. Winterbolt moves to jeopardize Christmas by eliminating Rudolph’s glowing red nose which allows Santa to deliver his gifts in adverse weather conditions. Winterbolt decides to take advantage of a situation that Rudolph and Frosty are already involved in.
Rudolph, Frosty, his wife Crystal and their two children as well as Santa and Mrs. Claus are all taking a summer vacation to visit the Circus By the Sea over the Fourth of July. They are there to help their friend Milton the Ice Cream Man get married to high wire walker, Lanie Loraine. But Lanie won’t marry Milton until the financial troubles of the circus are over. So Rudolph, Frosty and the gang all offer to perform at the circus to help raise the required monies. Unaware of his motives, the Frostys accept magical amulets from Winterbolt that will prevent them from melting in the July heat. However, they must return to the North Pole before the end of the fireworks display on the Fourth. Santa Claus promises to fly the Frosty family home before they melt so they too can enjoy a summer vacation.
But Winterbolt has sabotaged their vacation from the start. He sends a tornado storm to drive Santa and Mrs. Claus’s sleigh out of the sky, forcing them to never arrive at the Circus By the Sea. Winterbolt also sends a devious reindeer named Scratcher to set up Rudolph to take the blame for stealing the circus’ profits. Rudolph loses the power of his glowing nose when he takes the blame for the wrongdoing--a sacrifice made to prevent the Frosty family from melting when Santa’s sleigh doesn’t arrive in time on the Fourth.
This classic tale has a complicated story but iconic imagery as well. Both Rudolph and the Frosty family perform at the Circus By the Sea. This circus is run by Lanie’s mother, Ms. Lilly Loraine who dresses in a cowgirl outfit. This character is voiced by the unforgettable Ethel Merman. The role is certainly a nod to Merman’s outstanding Broadway role as Annie Oakley in the long-running show ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’ King Winterbolt is also a major character in this story that makes a lasting impression. He rides atop a sleigh pulled by snakes and uses snow dragons to create his crippling winter storms.
But the outstanding feature of this one-of-a-kind movie is the reunification of many of the TV characters from previous Rankin/Bass specials. This movie not only features Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer but also Frosty the Snowman, his wife Crystal, Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus, Jack Frost and the giant whale, Big Ben from ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.’ Making this reunion even better is that the characters are all voiced by their original actors as well.
And, if you think Christmas in July is obnoxious, then you'll really enjoy Merman's version of 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' the last song of this stop motion classic.