|The team of Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass brought the world more classic holiday specials than you can shake a yule log at: The Year Without a Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ to Town, The Little Drummer Boy, the several Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer specials and many more. The talented team brought their “Animagic” stop-motion process to the big screen four times between 1965 and 1979, the last of which was this return appearance of popular Rankin-Bass subjects Rudolph, Frosty and Santa.
According to legend, the former ruler of the North Pole was a wicked wizard named Winterbolt, who used his powers to drive away the forces of good. Lady Boreal, the Queen of the Northern Light, cast the frosty dictator out of the kingdom, sending him into a deep sleep. When Winterbolt awakens, there’s a new sheriff in town, and his name is Santa. Winterbolt tries to foil the jolly old man by stirring up a nasty snowstorm on Christmas Eve, but Lady Boreal bestows a magic glowing red nose on a young reindeer named Rudolph. The gift, however, comes with a catch: If Rudolph ever uses his nose for evil, the light will be extinguished forever.
His sinister plan thwarted, Winterbolt conspires to trick Rudolph into an evil act. Looking into his magic snow globe, Winterbolt sees an ice cream salesman named Milton, who keeps his frosty treats at the Pole until the big Fourth of July weekend. Milton wants to marry Lanie Loraine, the daughter of a circus owner, but the circus is too financially strapped. Winterbolt convinces Milton to ask Rudolph to put in a fundraising appearance at the circus, and the kindly reindeer consents. The wizard also convinces Frosty the Snowman and his snow family to come along for the ride, supplying them with magic freezing amulets to ward off melting.
Once the gang heads for the circus, Winterbolt calls on a jealous reindeer named Scratcher to help bring down Rudolph. Scratcher joins up with circus baddie Sam Spangles to frame Rudolph for a robbery. Rudolph can prove his innocence, but Winterbolt tells him that if he comes clean, the wicked wizard will extinguish the power of the magic amulets and the Frosty family will melt. It’s a sticky fix these two Christmas heroes have gotten themselves into, and it’s going to take some help from an even bigger Christmas hero to get them out.
The Rankin-Bass team lightened up this complex plot with its usual assortment of pleasant tunes, throwing in old holiday classics like “Frosty the Snowman,” “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Unfortunately, the summer release of Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July doomed it to a non-festive run in theaters. Apparently, ‘twasn’t the season. But time has saved this final “Animagic” feature from total obscurity, and the film has found a more permanent home as a holiday television special.