Friday, April 22, 2011

Passion of the Snowman

Today is the peculiarly named "Good Friday," the day in which we remember the story of one who came into this world in a way that was magical or perhaps miraculous, attracted a band of followers, led a procession into the city to the cheers of little children, met his demise saving others, was miraculously raised from the dead and ascended into the sky promising to return.

I'm talking, of course, about:

Well, who did you think I had in mind?

Seriously, it's almost creepy how this classic "secular" cartoon parallels the Easter story. The correspondence is so close that I've used this cartoon in a Sunday school class. I often wonder if the writer consciously set out to create a "Passion of the Snowman" tale, or if he just happened into it while figuring out how to stretch a three-minute pop song into a half-hour TV show.

There's no apparent religious content to the song "Frosty," and the 1954 black-and-white cartoon from UPA (once on YouTube but, alas, since removed for copyright reasons) depicts him as more a force of nature, a sort of winter free spirit who's out to have fun and not at all bothered by the knowledge that he'll soon melt:

But the Rankin/Bass half-hour show follows the life-of-Christ story almost incident-by-incident:

...from the magical "Happy Birthday!" (and let's not even start delving into what the magic hat might symbolize)

...through the Palm Sunday procession... his sacrificial melting at the hands of Professor Hinkel... his subsequent re-freezing (with Santa Claus doing a guest appearance as God)... the final ascension, with the promise to return

Strange and heavy stuff for a secular cartoon about a talking snowman...

So, was this an intentional re-use of the Easter story? A coincidence? Perhaps the "bones" of the Passion story are so universal (maybe we all want to believe there's somebody in the world who'd sacrifice everything for us) that it just happened to work out this way. After all, it's been said that just about every novel, play or movie has some character who's identifiable as the "Christ figure." So it could be that any resemblance between Frosty and Jesus is just accident and should be taken as having no significance whatever. It's one of those things that we all must decide for ourselves.

That said, let me observe one other "secret message" in "Frosty." It's a well-known fact that cartoon characters, from Mickey Mouse to Homer Simpson, have three fingers and one thumb on their hands. True, there are a few exceptions, but it's a pretty established rule. And, as this frame from "The Simpsons" demonstrates, one exception occurs when the character is divine:

So, if three fingers means "human" and four means "divine," what do we make of this frame from "Frosty"?

Count the fingers: three (human) on the left hand (plus one thumb), but four (divine) on the right hand. Frosty is apparently both human and divine at the same time, which is of course one of the fundamental (if confusing at times) items of Christian doctrine. Hmm...

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