It’s a whimsical idea, really. Some of the standard children’s fantasy characters not only are real, they know each other, and work together, and consider themselves the guardians of children’s hope. (We’ll just ignore their ignoring of religion as a possible source of children’s hope.)
Actually, there does seem to be a kind of benevolent celestial overseer—the Man in the Moon? Who communicates by means of images projected on moonshadows? (Well, this is what happens when there is no divine being in the cosmos; the substitutions are rather fanciful.)
The main character is actually Jack Frost (the voice of Chris Pine). Three hundred years ago, he was ice skating with his little sister and heroically saved her from falling into the freezing pond by drowning himself instead, but the Man in the Moon intervened, and turned him into Jack Frost, forever a skinny kid who brings icicles to whatever he touches. Though nobody can see him, he’s adept at playfully instigating snowball fights, and sled runs, and other fun stuff. He never gets cold or old himself, but sometimes he wonders why he’s not like the other kids, and why he was chosen to be Jack Frost.
Meanwhile, the bad guy emerges—yes, The Boogeyman, or Pitch, the black incarnation of fear and doubt and hopelessness. He spreads despair wherever he goes. And though he’s been quiet for a while, lately he’s been gaining strength and causing the whole world to fall into a kind of dark funk, especially the children, who begin not believing in anything charming, whimsical, fanciful or fun. Now there’s a real tragedy.
This alarms the loose alliance of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Mr. Sandman, all of whom work at spreading joy to children, but they seem to have forgotten how to have any fun themselves, or generate any spontaneously for anyone else. They recruit Jack Frost to help, even though he has a mischievous and independent streak, kind of like Peter Pan, and sometimes doesn’t cooperate very well when people expect things of him.
Let’s see: Santa Claus with a thick Russian accent, a hulking entourage of furry beasts, and swords? The Tooth Fairy as a Tinker Bell-like fairy, flitting like a hummingbird, with thousands of little minions like fireflies? Mr. Sandman as a mound of moving sand that can’t speak, but can make instant symbols to communicate? The Easter Bunny as a kind of smart-aleck big Australian jackrabbit with boomerangs? Well, why not? It’s all about being there for the kids, and giving them hope and encouragement, and that can’t be a bad thing.
Yes, many adults will stay away, because this one is animated, and it is designed for children, though the struggle with The Boogeyman may be a little dark for the youngest kids. But there’s enough for the parents to help them enjoy this creative bit of whimsy, as well.
Ronald P. Salfen is the minister at St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church in Irving, Texas.