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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a surprisingly dark tale, considering that it's part of the Rudolph and Frosty pantheon. Though it features beloved holiday characters, the complex plot and the villain's evil machinations -- which, while not overtly violent, put Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa in peril -- may make this iffy for the youngest kids. That said, the cheery Christmas carols interspersed throughout the story act as a welcome contrast to the sinister plot, and the characters learn lessons in the end.
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What's the story?
RUDOLPH AND FROSTY'S CHRISTMAS IN JULY starts with the drawn-out tale of how Rudolph (voiced by Billie Mae Richards) earned his special red nose. His North Pole neighbors include Frosty (Jackie Vernon) and the cheerful snowman's expanded family -- much to the chagrin of evil King Winterbolt (Paul Frees), who wants to retake the frigid territory from Santa (Mickey Rooney). When the friends help a hapless circus led by Lilly Loraine (Ethel Merman) they unknowingly step into Winterbolt's scheme -- which will result in Frosty and his family narrowly escaping death by melting, Santa and Mrs. Claus getting caught in a funnel cloud, and, worst of all, Rudolph becoming an unwitting accomplice to a felony crime.
Is it any good?
For the most part, this '70s special is a better fit for a Halloween scare than Christmas comfort. Bringing all of the best-loved characters from Rankin and Bass's beloved holiday specials is a creative idea, but a complicated plot and scary imagery make this animated tale an iffy choice for the young audience at which it was presumably aimed. Cheerful Christmas songs -- punched up by secular hits like "Don't Let the Parade Pass You By" -- save it from being a total washout, but few kids will want to see Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph threatened with bodily harm over and over again.
The stop-motion animation and recognizable voice cast make the movie's style familiar, and the addition of Merman belting out tunes only improves it. The alternate world of Winterbolt's holiday, where the sleigh is pulled by hissing, slithering rein-snakes and the reindeer looks like he came off Skid Row, gets points for creativity.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sacrifices that Frosty and Rudolph make on each other's behalf. Have you ever given something up to help a friend or family member? What made you willing to do it? Why do you think Scratcher was so jealous of Rudolph? Families can also discuss how this special compares to others starring Rudolph and Frosty. Is it scarier? Why or why not?
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