It’s possible you are saying, who? I can say that because for the longest time that would have been my response too. But over the years I have come to really admire and respect the work of the late, great Paul Frees. Actor, composer, songwriter, voice over artist and author. But what I admire him for is his voice over work. It’s not coincidence this article is appearing now. He was a voice over artist who did dozens of characters, many of them appearing in the classic Rankin/Bass Christmas specials!
I would be here all day if I listed every role (seriously, his IMDB page is HUGE!) so I will instead list some of my favorites.
Frosty The Snowman/Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
When people remember this classic they think of Jimmy Durante or Jackie Vernon who was Frosty. But Paul Frees played three characters in this one! He was the police man, the ticket agent, and Santa Claus. Not enough? In the god awful follow up Frees plays Jack Frost!
Mr.Magoo’s Christmas Carol
Yeah I know this was not Rankin/Bass. This was not a favorite of mine but it is highly regarded by many. In this Paul Frees provided the voices for the stage director, Fezzwig, and one of the charity men.
Santa Claus is Comin to Town
I loved this growing up. The amazing this is not only does Frees play the Miesterberger, he also plays his sidekick Grimm. In one song he switched between the two! Now that takes talent.
Rudolph’s Shiny New Year
Let’s forget how I hate the story, Frees provides the voice for Santa Claus and the villain Eon the Terrible.
Rudolph & Frosty’s Christmas in July
Jack Frost, Officer Kelly, Winterbolt, Keeper of the Cave. Is that enough? If you’ve never heard of it, this was….hard to explain. It’s sort of like if you took at the Christmas specials and made an “all star” show.Â This was a full length movie, and is pretty boring in all honestly. Who wants to see a story about Rudolph and Frosty in the summer?
This is rather forgettable special, but it does get airings on ABCFamily. The funny thing is, even though Frees played Jack Frost at least three times here he does not. He does play Father Winter and Kubla Kraus
Nestor, The Long Eared Christmas Donkey
In this very religuus special Frees plays Olaf and the donkey dealer. I admit I don’t watch this very often, but it is well done and nice to see a Christmas special about Jesus.
The Stingiest Man in Town
The forgotten Rankin/Bass cartoon. Well, aside from The Little Drummer Boy which is never played for some reason and which Frees did voices for also. This was a take on A Christmas Carol and Frees played The Ghost of Christmas Present.
The Last Unicorn
I guess it’s fitting that one of the final R/B features would include Paul Frees. Here he did the voice of King Haggard’s wizard Mabruk. He also did work in the awful R/B versions of The Hobbit and Return of the King
Here are some non-Christmas roles;
Here Comes Peter Cottontail-This is a R/B Easter special featuring Casey Kasem and Danny Kaye. The story is flawed but Frees still provided voices for several characters including Santa Claus.
Lots for Disney! The Haunted Mansion in Disney World (yep!) as the ghost host. Also The Pirates of the Caribbean ride, and narrator for many Disney anthology series. He was also the original Ludwig Von Drake.
Plenty of ads! In the day he did the voice of the Pillsbury Doughboy, the 7-Up bird Fresh-Up Freddie, Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam (previously voiced by Mel Blanc, later voiced by Maurice LaMarche), Boo-Berry, and the Little Green Sprout for Green Giant vegetables.
Rocky & Bullwinkle-He played Boris among others. It just occurred to me how many people have tried to immitate his characters over the years
Knight Rider-KITT had an evil double named KARR which Frees provided the voice for.
My friends, this isn’t even half of the list. Sadly Paul Frees died in 1986, leaving behind an amazing legacy of classic characters which are enjouyed to this day.