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Jack Frost: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Buy Jack Frost: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD from Amazon.com Jack Frost (1979)
Special & DVD Details

Producers/Directors: Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass / Writer: Romeo Muller

Music: Maury Laws / Lyrics: Jules Bass

Voice Cast: Buddy Hackett (Pardon-Me-Pete), Robert Morse (Jack Frost), Paul Frees (Kubla Kraus), Larry Storch (Papa), Dave Garroway (Reporter), Debra Clinger (Elisa), Don Messick (Snip), Dee Stratton (Father Winter), Sonny Melendrez (Sir Raveneau), Dina Lynn (Mama)

Songs: "Me and My Shadow", "The Christmas Song", "Jack Frost", "It's Lonely Being One of a Kind", "There's the Rub", "Just What I Always Wanted", "The Groundhog Song"

Original Air Date: December 13, 1979 / Running Time: 48 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English)
Subtitles: English (for Hearing Impaired); Not Closed Captioned
Extras Not Subtitled or Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 7, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Keepcase in Embossed, Shiny Cardboard Slipcover

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The origins of Jack Frost are uncertain. The folkloric winter personality has been traced back to Norse words, an epic Finnish poem, and a Russian fairy tale. Whatever the case, Frost's name has been making the rounds in recent cinema, being attached to a homicidal snowman (Scott MacDonald, 1996), a reincarnated father snowman (Michael Keaton, 1998), and a spiky, elfin threat to Christmas (Martin Short, 2006).
Long before those depictions and more than a dozen years after the much-maligned filming of that Russian fairy tale (1964's Morozko), stop-motion animation wizards Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass devoted one of their patented musical holiday specials to Mr. Frost.

Their hour-long Jack Frost came in 1979. By then, Rankin and Bass were well established as a television institution, having churned out at least one special nearly every year since 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer put them on the map. Rankin-Bass was not only a recognized brand (as it remains today), but like a well-oiled factory in its unwavering interests (holiday mythology), style (nearly always colorful stop-motion), format (musical comedy), and job distribution. On Frost, Rankin and Bass once again served as producers and directors from a teleplay by Romeo Muller, with Bass also writing lyrics to songs composed by Maury Laws.

Adhering to the formula, Frost enlists a recognized name to serve as singing storyteller. In this case, it's funnyman Buddy Hackett voicing Pardon-Me-Pete, the celebrity groundhog responsible for forecasting spring's arrival on Groundhog Day. From bed, Pete explains the arrangement he has with invisible winter sprite Jack Frost and then tells of the one season when Frost could be seen.

There's a bit of stalker to Jack Frost as he watches Elisa and her parents from the invisible safety of this tree branch. Just make him human already! Groundhog Pardon-Me-Pete, the Rankin/Bass equivalent of Punxsutawney Phil, is our pajama-clad narrator voiced by Buddy Hackett.

Enjoying his chill-producing gig but lamenting the loneliness in being one of a kind, Jack (voiced by Robert Morse) begs his master, Father Winter, to let him be human. Reluctantly, Father Winter agrees to grant Jack a winter of humanity with the chance to extend it indefinitely by securing a house, a horse, some gold, and a wife by the time spring arrives. Falling from the sky, Jack intentionally drops into January Junction, an impoverished town that celebrates his work by valuing "ice money" as a currency.

Jack takes shelter with a kindly Eastern European family whose pretty daughter Elisa (Debra Clinger) has long caught Jack's eye and holds a special place in her heart for his unseen magic. Like everyone else in January Junction, they are plagued by the ruler Kubla Kraus (Paul Frees), the Cossacks king who seizes every piece of real gold in sight and has mechanical creations like a controlled dummy and iron Ka-Nights as his only company in his palace atop Miserable Mountain.

Kraus graduates from oppressive tyrant to immediate threat when he kidnaps Elisa and plans la Borat to make her his wife. To help Elisa, Jack plots to thwart the king's ambitions using his ice prowess, which can only be summoned by giving up his humanity. There to witness Jack's dilemma and assist in his cover occupation as tailor Jack Snip are a couple of pals from up in the clouds: the snowflake maker Snip and holiday snowflake gypsy Holly.

Jack Frost chills out of his mouth. If Arnold Schwarzenegger's Mr. Freeze character from "Batman & Robin" were reviewing this, he'd say, "Dis ez one cool special. But it's no all-time holiday classic like 'Jingle All the Way'!" With an Eastern European accent harking back to Burgermeister Meisterburger, Paul Frees voices King of Cossacks and January Junction tyrant Kubla Kraus as well as his handheld best friend, the iron Dummy.

No doubt Jack Frost bears similarity to other Rankin-Bass specials, but I found it to be quite enjoyable on its own merits. Perhaps writer Muller deserves chief credit because it is the quirky ideas and colorful characters that most endear. Of course, the handful of songs in the familiar style are catchy and staged in fun ways. And the stop-motion work is excellently realized.

Oddly, out of the thirty-eight Rankin/Bass specials that exist to date, Jack Frost is the only one in the public domain as far as DVD rights are concerned.
At least, that's what the program's Trivia page on IMDb said up until a few days ago. That would certainly explain why the special has been made available on a number of dollar DVDs from no-name studios. This week, Warner granted this title its first major studio release in a disc that's called a Remastered Deluxe Edition.


Don't expect your typical public domain entity presentation here, because Jack Frost looks absolutely terrific in this 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer. The picture is remarkably immaculate, appropriately sharp, and unhindered by any sign that it was made for cost-conscious network television. The closest thing to a concern is that the optical credit shots are ever so slightly grainy and I noticed a few instances of possible flickering. It feels wrong to even mention them because the video here is surprisingly stellar.

A Dolby Digital 1.0 mono track is the only one offered and it too merits praise for delivering crisp dialogue, lively songs, and the occasional effect in an even, efficient, and satisfactory manner. English subtitles are also included.

It may look like HSN at first glance, but it's really DVD extra "Totally Cool Crafty Creations" with your host Francine "Flakey" Flake. Go make some winter activities of your own! Christmas tradition for Elisa and her family is to go around feigning much excitement over an empty box. Now, thanks to the magic of cyan Comic Sans, you can sing along with them.


Some may question the "Deluxe" part of the moniker based on the modest selection of bonus features found here.

The main supplement is "Totally Cool Crafty Creations" (8:30), a kid-oriented featurette that supplies straightforward instructions for making paper snowflakes, instant snow,
and -- the most elaborate project -- a homemade snow globe. If carried out, these holiday activities are sure to provide more fun than most DVD extras. Even if they're not for you, the charismatic and quirky host character (Francine "Flakey" Flake) and the use of Jack Frost clips make this worth a viewing.

"Snip's Snowy Sing-A-Long" (5:38) gives us three songs from the feature ("Jack Frost", "Just What I Always Wanted", and "The Groundhog Song") with onscreen lyrics. A bouncing snowflake and cyan Comic Sans font make this ever so slightly more special than watching the corresponding scenes with subtitles enabled. And, hey, with so much disc space to spare, why not?

The disc opens with a Wizard of Oz anti-piracy spot (already wearing out its welcome); trailers for the Remastered Deluxe Editions of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown; and a promo for "living" Warner Bros. movies on Blu-ray. Those hankering for more ads can drop by the Trailers page, where they'll find additional previews for Scooby-Doo! and the Goblin King, Fred Claus, Looney Tunes Golden Collection, Volume 6, and "The Smurfs": Season One, Volume Two.

Like most Warner menus, this DVD's are static, simple 16x9 screens, all of which are silent save for the instrumental-accompanied main menu. A scene selection menu was probably merited, but ample chapter stops are still provided all the same.

Jack Frost is equipped with a cardboard slipcover that duplicates the keepcase artwork below but adds embossing and a general sheen. There are no inserts inside the case.

When Jack Frost has a problem, he takes it up with the big guy in the sky. No, not God, just the delightfully bearded Father Winter. A prescient homage to Michael Keaton's "Jack Frost" or just a lucky coincidence? You be the judge.


While I've seen my fair share of Rankin/Bass television specials, I haven't seen enough to accurately rank Jack Frost in terms of the grand canon.
I can, however, tell you that I'm confident that this 1979 piece stands as one of the better efforts. Spirited, taut, and witty, this is something I expect to enjoy watching again. I don't think it will disappoint fans of Rankin-Bass output.

Warner's Remastered Deluxe Edition doesn't bear much in the way of bonuses, but the clean picture and hearty sound handily surpassed my expectations for a nearly 30-year-old TV program. I'm certain the DVD beats the cheap no-frills Jack Frost discs of the past. That said, the better presentation comes at a cost -- currently around 15-18 times a dollar store find. Unless you already consider the show a personal favorite, the price might be hard to justify among all the quarter's exciting new releases. Still, since this is more of a winter special than a Christmas one, you can wait a while longer and still be seasonable.

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Featuring Jack Frost: The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause | Stop-Motion: The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disc Collector's Edition)
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The Voice Cast of Jack Frost:
Buddy Hackett: The Love Bug The Little Mermaid | Robert Morse: The Boatniks | Debra Clinger: Midnight Madness
Paul Frees: The Shaggy Dog Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series | Don Messick: The Smurfs: Season 1, Volume 2

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Reviewed October 10, 2008.

Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1979 Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. and 2008 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.