Judge Joel Pearce thinks that Senator McCarthy would like this holiday classic.
Jack brings holiday joy to the entire family!
Many of us remember the classic holiday Rankin/Bass features with friendly nostalgia. They would arrive on television once a year, an opportunity to snuggle together on the couch and celebrate the true meaning of the season with some of the most innocent, jolly entertainment ever made. But as I sat down to watch Jack Frost again, I asked myself whether it just might be covering up something much more sinister.
On the surface, Jack Frost is a delightful little story about its titular character, the deliverer of chills and cold who wishes for nothing more than to become human and get some good, old-fashioned loving. He is transformed into a human by Father Winter, then sets out to free a beautiful peasant girl from the shackles of the evil Kubla Krauss. The whole thing is narrated by Phil the Groundhog, who has struck up a deal with Jack Frost to keep winter long each year.
Sounds cute, doesn't it? Well, it is, but it could also be viewed as a cold-war relic of capitalist propaganda. As expected from a tale of this era, Jack Frost looks down on the inequalities of the January Junction society. It is populated primarily by peasants, who are treated horribly by their socialist overlord. They work hard, only to have the fruits of their labor taken. Jack represents America in this heavily allegorical tale, sent from the Kingdom of the Winter clouds to show the citizens of the junction a better way of life.
Unfortunately, the portrayal of the the Kingdom isn't much better. Father Winter is portrayed as a good and kind ruler, but he rains down snowy terror on other countries for much of the year, perhaps as an attempt to flood January Junction's currency market with the ice coins—clearly a bid to force their real currency into uncontrollable inflation, which has the biggest impact on the peasant class. As well, most of the grunt work in the Kingdom is done by the proletariat "snow gypsies," who probably don't even make a living wage for their monotonous labor. The good work is reserved for Holly, a more racially acceptable worker who gets higher pay for an easier job. Because of the free market economy, Snip the snowflake maker has managed to create an empire for himself, but it's also pushed him to be a hopeless workaholic, pushing himself to maintain his own pace.
Jack is sent to January Junction, but his job isn't to rescue the suffering peasants. Instead, his job is to usurp Kubla Krauss, taking his land and money in an American funded coup. He has an opportunity to redistribute the wealth, but it seems he takes it with him to the Kingdom of the Winter Clouds instead, leaving the whole country in abject poverty. While it's somewhat prophetic, it's hardly the kind of political message you want to share with your children.
I realize that I'm being ridiculous with my Marxist analysis of Jack Frost, but it does highlight the biggest problem with it: it's painfully outdated. The music numbers are bland and forgettable, the animation isn't good enough to make up for the lackluster story, and it simply doesn't have the staying power of some of the other Rankin/Bass productions. The attempt to create a new fairy tale based on Groundhog Day is kind of lame, and keeps it from the same holiday feel that so many of its peers share.
That said, Warner Bros. has done a fine job with the restoration here. The full frame transfer looks sharp and clean, with bold colors, clarity, and nary a digital flaw. It's a bit grainy at times, but that's sort of to be expected. The sound is not as strong, arriving in a mono track that sounds about the same as it always has on television. The only extras are a pair of little DVD games, which might entertain children for a few minutes.
In all, though, Jack Frost offers little other than cutesy nostalgia from a bygone era. Will young kids enjoy it now? I'm not sure, but I know that there are many holiday classics that you should introduce them to before this—capitalist propaganda or not. Jack Frost is hereby instructed to send real financial aid to January Junction.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
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