It all started with this tweet from @DonSpeirs:
“@wilw @dduane fan project for #Kimvention2012 – What do you think the 6 Tasks of Snowman Hank were? #kimpossible #snowmanhank”
…All I can say is… it got me thinking. Too many people know that I love the Kim Possible series dearly, for a number of reasons including the relative smoothness with which the characters grow and change. And then the tweet reminded me of the Christmas episode, which is… quirky. (And which I particularly love for its self- and extra-referential qualities.)
So I sat down for several days and did some development thinking, and then wrote. (For those who’re interested in seeing some notes on how a writer goes about making a nonexistent Christmas special out of a minute and a half of video and a few lines of dialogue, they’re here.) And below you’ll now find what an animation writer in a hurry (and possibly also a few drinks gone in pre-Christmas cheer) might have turned in to a tolerant story editor at some 80’s network as the first-draft outline for “The Six Tasks of Snowman Hank.” (I more or less imagine the story editor as being Art Nadel, that prince among producers, who gave many a new animation writer his or her leg-up into the industry in the Eighties.)
I don’t often get to do the disclaimer thing, so here it is:
The Snowman Hank character originated in an episode of the Walt Disney Television Animation series Kim Possible, and therefore is the property of Disney. (But you knew that.)
This is a work of fan fiction and is copyright to Disney Enterprises Inc. if to anyone.
Everybody clear on that?
Good. Then let’s roll. …One other thing: there are songs in this. Songwriting isn’t in my skillset, so I’ve merely indicated what the songs should be like, or do to the listener. Use your imaginations.
THE SIX TASKS OF SNOWMAN HANK
We open on a snowy Rockies landscape over which towers the imposing and magical BLIZZARD MOUNTAIN. Running down the mountain slopes, Snowline Canyon ends in a sheltered spot called HANK’S CORRAL.
Here we meet SNOWMAN HANK, who for most of the year lives a somewhat solitary and sedate (if musical) life as protector of the local forest and mountain creatures. But he’s not right in the middle of his favorite time of year, and his busiest. It’s Christmas Eve, and tonight it’ll be Hank’s job to round up the magical walking fir trees of Blizzard Mountain in his corral, and then head them down to Snowline Junction — the last stop on the steam train line that runs down to Summertown at the foot of the mountain. It’s from Blizzard Mountain that all the people for miles around get their Christmas trees, and Hank knows that they depend on him to make a really important part of Christmas happen.
It’s almost time for the big Walking Tree Roundup, and Hank is practicing [THE TREE ROUNDUP SONG] one last time before it’s time to start the real thing going. But he’s interrupted in his practice by a huge ruckus outside the Corral. Within seconds a COYOTE comes tearing into the Corral in hot pursuit of a SNOWSHOE HARE. Though these two are both friends of Hank’s, they’re natural enemies, and they never miss a chance to make each other’s life miserable if they can.
Hank breaks them up in a way that suggests he’s an old hand at this. The hare, JOSH, and the coyote, LUCIUS, immediately start squabbling over who’s going to deliver the important news they’re carrying to Hank, and he has to break them up all over again. Finally the news comes out that the rustic road that runs up and down the mountainside – the one the Walking Trees use on their way down to the train depot — has been blocked by a landslide.
“So let’s go clear the way,” Hank says. Slinging his trusty guitar CHANTEUSE over his shoulder – because Hank would never go anywhere without her – he heads up the mountain along with Lucius and Josh (who keep fighting all the way). This time it takes [A ROLLICKING SONG ABOUT NOT BEATING UP ON THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU EVEN IF YOU DON’T LIKE THEM MUCH: TITLE GOES HERE] to break up their squabbling and get them on track to be of some kind of use to deal with the blocked road when they reach the trouble spot. (The trees, already eager to get going, can be seen bopping in time to the music in the background as the three friends move along. The implication is that Hank’s music is itself magical and one of the things that helps the trees move.)
Shortly they get to the place where the road is blocked by a huge heap of stones and rubble. Josh and Lucius start vying with each other in trying to get rid of the rocks, but they’re too small to do much but produce a lot of inadvertent physical comedy, and they make no real difference at all. Finally Hank uses his guitar again to play a MAGIC DANCE TUNE so bouncy and irresistible that the piled-up stones just boogie off to either side of the road and then roll down off the side of the mountain.
Josh and Lucius cheer, and Hank, pleased, reckons that he can go back home now and start getting ready for the Walking Tree Roundup. But just as he’s turning to make his way back, from further up the road someone slowly appears who none of them were expecting to see. It’s a tortoise called TERRY.
Terry’s another old friend of Hank’s, very old (though he looks fairly young) and very wise. Normally he wouldn’t be out and around at this time of year, but now he looks around with the air of someone who’s half expected what he sees. “Yup, this is about when it was supposed to happen,” Terry says.
“When what was supposed to happen?” says Josh.
“The tasks,” Terry says. “Years ‘n’ years ago, the Medicine Woman of the Blizzard Mountain Tribe told me how it’d happen. There’d be a time when the rocks start rolling, and the rivers wouldn’t flow, and the trees wouldn’t walk — and a winter would come that there wouldn’t be a spring after. Then someone’d have to do six tasks to put it all right. Looks like this was one of those tasks…”
“But there’s nothing wrong with the trees!”
“You sure about that?”
Worried, Hank starts playing Chanteuse and singing the TREE ROUNDUP SONG – even though it’s not time for it yet – and though the trees try to get up out of the ground and follow him, they aren’t able to. He’s horrified. “They can’t walk! And if they can’t walk there won’t be any Christmas trees for the kids down in Summertown!”
“So there you go,” Terry says. “Better get started on fixing this up before Christmas comes…”
Hank isn’t wild about the idea that he’s the one meant to do these mysterious tasks, but he agrees – however reluctantly – that he has to at least find out why the trees can’t walk, and solve the problem somehow. “Won’t be easy,” Terry says. “You’ve got to find what’s been lost and give up what you’ve found… make a friend, make an enemy, underneath the ground. When the rocks start rolling and the rivers won’t flow, then what can’t move will show you the way you have to go.”
All this is obscure and troubling, but Hank’s not the type to shirk a job that needs doing. “Better get on with it, then,” he mutters, and starts heading up the mountain along the newly cleared road. “But how come you never told me about this before?”
“Wasn’t the time, and anyway, you never asked,” Terry says as he slowly follows Hank and the others. “Don’t wait up for me, son, you just get going, you’ve got five more tasks to do…”
“What kind of friend are you gonna make under the ground?” Josh wonders. “Or what kind of enemy?” says Lucius. They start squabbling over which of the two clues is more important, and Hank has to separate them again. “One thing at a time, boys,” he says. “I’m more worried about the idea that some river might stop flowing. There’s only one river on Blizzard Mountain, and a lot of critters depend on it. Better go check it out…”
They make their way further up the mountain and are met by a PRAIRIE DOG named PAULA. “Snowman Hank!” she says, “thank goodness you’ve come! It’s the river!”
“Lead the way,” Hank says. Following Paula, they make their way to the nearby riverbank – and find the river frozen solid!
“Hotspring River’s frozen clean over,” Hank says as they survey the icy expanse. “Never thought I’d see the day!”
“How can this be happening?” Josh cries. “This is plumb freaky!” says Lucius.
Hank’s inclined to agree. But for the moment he unslings Chanteuse and starts to play and sing [A JOLLY BREAKING-THE-ICE SONG]. As he does, the ice starts to shatter and is gradually carried away down the watercourse. “Thanks, Hank!” Paula says. “We knew you could help!”
“Not sure I have, though,” Hank says, reslinging Chanteuse. “That river’s never frozen before, not even in the Big Snow of ’33. Whatever’s going on, it needs more looking into. Come on.” And he starts uphill.
“But where are we going?” Paula says, falling in with the others.
“You got trouble with a river, go to the source,” Hank says.
“You mean – the Haunted Caves of Blizzard Mountain?”
Everybody freaks a little at the very idea. But Hank just keeps going with a look of increasingly grim determination, and the others follow him…
Soon they’re entering an area where the trees are very high and thick and close together. “Shadowpine Forest,” Hank says. “These are the oldest trees on Blizzard Mountain.” And he sounds a little uneasy, which doesn’t help the others’ composure. “Don’t normally bother them this time of year. They’re full of old tree thoughts, they deserve their peace…” But it’s while making their way through this spooky area that they start hearing strange high voices calling.
“Ghosts!” Josh shrieks, and “Ice goblins!” Lucius yells, and both of them dive for cover (in pointedly opposite directions).
But the sound has nothing to do with goblins or ghosts. Hiding from them under the huge trees – because they’re as unnerved by Hank and his friends as Hank’s companions are by the voices – they shortly discover two CHILDREN, a brother and sister named BOB and BABS. “What’re you young un’s doing all the way up here all by yourself in this weather?” Hank says, for the snowclouds are moving in.
“We were looking for a Christmas tree,” Bob says, apparently recovering instantaneously from being encountering a talking snowman with a guitar.
“Our family doesn’t have a lot of money this Christmas,” says Babs. “Our folks said we might not be able to have a tree this year. So we thought…”
“You thought you’d come up and try to find one for yourselves,” Hank says softly.
“And then we got lost,” Bob says. “And we couldn’t find our way down again,” says Babs. “And we’re cold… and we just want to go home!” they plead in unison.
“Your folks’ll be going plumb loco looking for you,” Hank says. “We need to get you back to your family!” And he looks like he’d rather do nothing else. But all the same, he looks up the mountain. “Might not be safe for you right now, though,” he says. And as he speaks, the first flakes of snow start falling. It’s getting dark…
“We’ll take them down the mountain, Hank,” says Lucius. “I’ll help him,” says Josh.
Lucius starts bristling. “I don’t need your help, you varmint – ”
But Hank shakes his head. “Better if we all stick together,” Hank says. “Safety in numbers.” He tries to sound cheerful and confident, but the look on his face as he leads the group out of the Darkpine Forest and onward up the mountain suggests that he’s not sure how safe they’re all going to be. He starts playing and singing [A CHEERFUL WE’RE-ON-AN-ADVENTURE SONG] as they head up the mountain, and the kids and animals chime in. But Hank is worried…
The snow is falling faster now, and it’s almost night as the group reaches the place where Hot Spring River comes out of the mountainside. The river’s banks are almost completely covered with ice and the river’s stream is narrowed to a mere trickle: almost as they watch, it freezes over again.
“Thought this might happen,” Hank says. “I’ve got to go in and find out what’s going on. ‘What doesn’t move will show you the way…’” To the children he says, “Hate to say it, but I think you’d best come with: we still ought to stay together.”
“We’re not afraid,” Babs says. “Much,” Bob says.
“That’s the spirit,” Hank says. “Just keep your eyes open. We’ll sort out whatever’s wrong in there and get you back down to Summertown and your family by Christmas.”
The kids produce flashlights they’ve wisely brought with them. Everyone’s a little nervous, but Hank’s unwavering certainty that good will prevail becomes the solid center around which all of them coalesce, like the single grain of ice at the heart of a snowflake. All together, they move into the cave and vanish in the darkness…
The group makes its way deeper and deeper into the cave, weaving their way among stalagmites like stone Christmas trees and stalactites like huge stone icicles. Though they’re creepy, the caverns are also glitteringly beautiful, and even Lucius and Josh, who’ve been paranoid about ghosts, are beginning to relax a little.
At one point, however, the kids become too cold to go on, and the party pauses for a rest and to try to warm them up. There’s no point in trying to cuddle up to a snowman, and Hank knows he can’t be of any use to Babs and Bob that way: but all the other critters crowd in close, and shortly Bob and Babs are wearing a coat of live snowshoe rabbit, coyote and prairie dog fur. Hank unlimbers Chanteuse and sings [A HEARTRENDINGLY SEASONAL SONG ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF FAMILY: SOMEBODY GET SONDHEIM IN HERE, PLEASE, OR ELSE RAISE JOHNNY MARKS OR IRVING BERLIN FROM THE DEAD]. And as he sings the part about looking for a family until you find one, the critters exchange sad glances.
The kids, rested and warmed up, now jump up and are ready to carry on. Josh, though, and Lucius, have a quiet word with the snowman. “Hank… you know you have a family. You have us.”
“I know I do.” But it sounds like Hank’s not terribly sure. He gets up. “Come on, folks. We should get moving. The sooner we’ve found out what’s going on here, the sooner we can get you kids back down to your nice warm house in Summertown…”
They start moving again through the cavern and are surprised when ahead of them they hear a voice calling for help. Hank immediately follows it: the others rush headlong past him, and alarmed, Hank hurries to stop them. Which is a good thing, because in the darkness they nearly fall into a bottomless crevasse! They just manage to stop in time — though Josh and Lucius pitch over the edge together. The crisis of the moment forces them to bypass their normal sniping and help each other up and out.
Carefully the group makes its way around the edges of the crevasse to the other side. Far down the passage they can see a faint light, and between them and the light there’s the silhouette of a skinny wavering shape. To their surprise, they find it’s a snake (in a Stetson) named BOOMSLANG BILL. As they get close to him, Bart coils up and rattles and threatens them. “You consarned little varmint!” Lucius says, but he’s not willing to get too close. Neither is Josh. Paula, though, seriously annoyed at what just nearly happened to the other two, simply flings herself at Bill and sits down on him just behind the head.
He thrashes around, but can’t make any headway: Paula is substantial. “You can torture me, but I won’t talk!” he shouts.
“You better stop wiggling around or I’ll give you something to talk about, snake boy!” Paula says.
But Hank steps in. “No need to be mean to him just because we got off on the wrong foot,” he says. “So to speak. Pardner, what’d you mean by acting like you were in trouble? You nearly made us fall right down that almighty hole!”
“I was following my master’s orders! He told me to do it.”
“Your master, huh,” Hank says, grabbing the snake out from under Paula. “And just where might he be?”
The snake indicates the faint light down at the end of the tunnel, and starts shivering. “Down there…”
“That’s where it’s coldest, all right,” Josh says. All of them are feeling colder now.
“Well, I reckon he’s the one we’ve come to see,” Hank says, “so you’d better just bring us to him. You have any problems with that?”
“Yes!” Bill shouts. “Uh, actually, no,” he adds a lot more quietly.
“Good,” Hank says. “You do right by us, son, we’ll do right by you. Lead the way.”
The group heads toward the faint chilly light in the distance. Boomslang Bill is plainly confused by the treatment he’s receiving. “How come you aren’t…you know…”
“Nobody’s gonna torture anybody, snake boy,” Paula says. “We don’t operate that way. What’re you doing working for some bad guy anyway?”
“My mom said I had to,” Bill says after a moment. “She said this job would be perfect for me. Because I was so cold-blooded…” And suddenly he bursts into sobs. “I never asked to be cold-blooded!”
The critters exchange skeptical looks. “Sounds like an occupational hazard for a snake,” Josh mutters.
“That’s just the problem! I didn’t want to be venomous! But there are all these expectations – “ Bill continues to vent, while the other critters, somewhat bemused, take turns listening to him.
At the end of the tunnel they soon find a huge cavern, definitely haunted… but not in the usual way. At the center of it is a DARK, MANLIKE SHAPE on an icy throne. In the entrance to the cavern, everyone freezes at the sight.
Then Hank unslings Chanteuse and very slowly moves toward the throne. It’s a gunslinger moment: snowmen don’t wear spurs, but you can almost hear them jingling.
The shape on the throne doesn’t move, just watches Hank come. The watcher looks like Jack Frost gone bad, a Black Bart-like anti-Santa in black and icy silver Western attire. Around the crown of the black Stetson he wears is a second crown of ice, and the cavern around his throne is filled with nasty-looking four-legged ICE GOBLINS that growl and glare at the visitors.
Hank, though, stays casual and grimly calm. “Who might you be, stranger?” he says. “And what’re you doing on my mountain?”
“I’m King Zero,” says the figure lounging on the throne. “Absolute Zero… but you just call me Zero.” He chuckles. “I’m from as far away West as you can get… right out past the Sun, where there’s nothing but night. I’m what’s darker than night, and colder than any winter in the world. And as for what I’m doing here, why, I came to see you, Hank!”
“Of course. Who hasn’t heard of Snowman Hank and his famous enchanted guitar, and the magic mountain they guard? I thought I’d mosey out this way and see the man, or shall I say snowman, for myself…see if he’s all he’s cracked up to be. And now that I’ve seen your neighborhood… I think I like it here. Might just settle down… forever.”
The children and all the critters shiver with dread, and Hank plainly isn’t pleased by the prospect. “Wouldn’t have thought you’d mind, Hank,” says Zero. “You’re a snowman. Summer’s your enemy. While I’m here you can go anywhere you like, any time of year, instead of having to stay all alone up above the snowline like a prisoner.”
The “not being alone” reference plainly hits Hank where it hurts. But he shakes his head. “Some kinds of alone ain’t so bad,” Hank says. “And you moving in here would mean there’d be nothing alive on the mountain soon, or for miles around. Even the trees would die. Can’t have that.”
“Don’t rightly know that you can get rid of me, though,” says Zero. “Don’t think you have the power. And now that I’ve got you here, here you’ll stay, you and your friends.”
He gestures, and the snarling ice goblins move in from all sides, cutting off any retreat and surrounding the visitors. Zero laughs an evil laugh as the children cling to each other in terror and the animals shiver in fear. “We’ll have a long long while to get acquainted. Forevermore…”
Everyone is (understandably) thoroughly freaked out by the idea of being prisoners of the evil Zero inside the icy mountain for the rest of their lives (if not longer). But Hank is holding his nerve. “If it’s me and Chanteuse you came to see,” Hank says, “then I don’t know if it’s smart to antagonize us.” Zero turns a cruel, cold look on him. “But on the other hand,” Hank says, “if we’re so all-fired famous, then maybe you’d like to find out why.”
“A private concert?” Zero says, and smiles a wicked smile. “You interest me strangely.”
“I’ll play and sing my best for you,” Hank says. “But there’s a price to pay.”
“And what might that be?”
“You let the children and my friends go free.”
Zero considers this with nasty pleasure for a moment. “They’re not important,” he says. “Done.”
“And one more thing,” says Hank. “If you’re not afraid to have a little gamble.”
Hank ignores the threat in the word. “I bet when I sing for you, I can make you cry.”
“If I do?”
“Then you’ll take yourself right off my mountain and never come back.”
“And if I don’t, and you lose?”
Hank shivers. “Then you can stay. And when the others go, I stay too.”
All the critters and the children shout “No!” “You can’t do it, Hank!” “We need you!”
But he’s not listening. And neither is Zero. “To have Snowman Hank as my personal entertainment for all of time…” A long pause, and another of those awful smiles. “Done again. Sing your song.”
Hank lifts up Chanteuse and strikes a chord, and SINGS. And sure enough, at the end of [AN IMPOSSIBLY TENDER SONG ABOUT LOSS AND LONGING THAT WOULD MAKE EVEN A BROADCAST STANDARDS AND PRACTICES SUIT CRY], one lone tear steals down Zero’s cheek (and freezes there).
Zero is obviously furious at losing the bet, but for the moment he holds still. “And now,” Hank says, “if you’ll excuse us, we have to go — ”
“But it’s too late for you already,” Zero says, and smiles another of those wicked smiles. “Don’t you understand? It’s almost midnight on Christmas Eve, and your time’s up. Not all the tasks are done. The river… the blocked road… finding the lost… and facing me down at the heart of Blizzard Mountain… those four things you’ve done. Soon, when you take the children home as you promised, before it’s Christmas, you’ll lose what you found, and that’s the fifth task. But you still won’t have brought the trees down to Summertown. That’s task number six, the one you’ve always done easily every year until now. Not tonight, though. You’ve only got time to do one or the other before midnight. And if the trees don’t walk before Christmas Day… I can come back.”
Everyone gasps. Even Hank quails at this awful news. But after a moment he straightens up and looks at the guitar in his hands –
And throws Chanteuse to Josh, Lucius and Paula. “Take her and run for it!” he cries, snatches up Bob and Babs, one under each arm, and flees.
“Take me with you!” Boomslang Bill cries. Paula grabs him, and the whole crowd runs back the way they came through a cavern now trembling with Zero’s rage. Stalagmites totter and stalagmites rain down from the cavern ceiling, and there are near-misses and close calls, but with help from Boomslang Bart, who knows the way better than any of them, they manage to break out into the open.
Down at the mountain’s foot, the bells of Summertown strike quarter to twelve on Christmas Eve. Hank doesn’t give the rest of the group a moment’s thought: he bellyflops down in the snow. “Get on my back!” he shouts to Bob and Babs, and the moment they do, he throws himself over the nearby cliffside and starts the wildest toboggan ride down the mountain that anyone could imagine.
It’s a scary ride but also a wonderful one – for what could be better than tobogganing down a mountain in the moonlight on the back of a snowman who knows the way? Bob and Babs hang on for dear life, laughing all the way –
Until they come to the bottom of the mountain, and Summertown. In the distance, Hank can hear voices calling the kids’ names: and he sees lights moving around as their parents search for them. At the bottom of the mountain the kids jump off and run to their folks, and Hank stands and watches this, happy even though he’s also deeply troubled.
As he turns to look back up Blizzard Mountain, he spots Terry the tortoise coming slowly toward him. “Nice work, Hank!” Terry calls. “I knew you’d get it all handled. The road unblocked – the river unfrozen – the one who got it that way sorted out — those lost kids found and brought back to their folks – “
“But it doesn’t matter, Terry! Christmas in Summertown is ruined. There aren’t any trees to gather around and sing carols on Christmas Eve. No trees for the presents to be under first thing in the morning. I never did the last task. I failed!”
Terry tsks at him and leads him back down around the last curve in the mountain road. “Hank my boy… does this look like failure to you?”
Hank turns and stares… for hundreds of trees are making their way down the mountain, and the children and adults of Summertown are rushing out to greet them. The Walking Tree Roundup is under way without him! Leading the way are Lucius (carrying Chanteuse on his back) and Paula and Josh (helping steady the guitar on either side), while the guitar triumphantly plays the Walking Tree Roundup song by herself! Scrambling along after them are a horde of Josh’s snowshoe rabbit relatives, helping act as informal traffic cops to guide the trees to the families waiting for them. Everyone sings and dances around the trees as they walk to where they’re needed, settling themselves down in front of people’s houses to be decorated out in the open.
A crowd of Summertown’s kids, led by Bob and Babs, rush to Hank and dance around him, too, singing, “To the people far and near, Snowman Hank brought holiday cheer!”
Hank is dumbfounded. “But I didn’t do it – “
“Of course you did, you big snow-brained galoot,” Terry says. “Maybe not directly. But you helped them make it happen!” He laughs. “Who said you had to do all the tasks? You gotta learn to delegate, son.”
“I guess I do!” Hank laughs, as Josh and Lucius and all the others run over to him with Chanteuse. “How’d you get down to the Corral so fast? And then down here?”
“Same way you did,” Lucius says.
“You rode my guitar down Blizzard Mountain?”
Hank grabs Chanteuse from them: she twangs happily as Hank gets his mittens on her and spins her around to make sure that she’s okay. Boomslang Bill promptly falls out of her, headfirst into the snow. “I helped steer!” Bill shouts, somewhat muffled by the snow and his hat.
Terry chuckles. “Anyway, Hank, you should know that Christmas always comes if you make room for it! You made the room… by being willing to set aside what made you happy for what someone else needed more. And it’s more than that…”
“You’re right.” And Hank breaks into the first verse of the song that lies at the core of the story, while his friends gather around and join in the singing.
“It’s not the turkey and the stuffing,
“Or the gifts around the tree:
“It’s a warm and fuzzy feeling
“That begins with you and me!
“Put away those petty problems
“And embrace your fellow man;
“Then join the celebration
“All across this wonderful land!
“Have a ringlin’, jinglin’,
“Have a Hopalong, singalong, happy holiday!
“And when the snow starts falling,
“We’ll voice a hearty cheer
“For the rootin-est, tootin-est, high-falutin-est
“Favorite time of year!”
We now start the second verse (somebody else can write this, I’m sure) which will continue over the end titles. But first the camera pans back up to the top of Blizzard Mountain, where Zero is standing outside the cavern entrance, looking down at the light and happy activity. For a moment he frowns. Then as a shred of the song floats up to him, his face relaxes, and he rubs one black-gauntleted finger over the spot where that tear froze, and sniffs once or twice… and smiles. “Oh well,” he says under his breath to his minions, “They say Greenland is nice this time of year.”
And he vanishes, leaving us to watch the celebrations down at the foot of the mountain as the adults and children of Summertown, some strangely assorted animals, and a singing snowman, all join together to welcome Christmas….
(For some notes on how this outline was written, click here.)