Rudolph is a character created for the story Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The story was written by Robert L. May in 1939 as part of his employment with Montgomery Ward; it is owned by The Rudolph Company, L.P. and has been sold in numerous forms, most notably a song written by Johnny Marks. Although the story and the song are not public domain, Rudolph himself has become a figure of Christmas folklore.
The Rankin/Bass version
In the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special, just as the song suggests, Rudolph is born with an unusually shiny red nose. His father Donner, ashamed of this unusual trait, places a fake nose on Rudolph's nose, but it later falls off. When his nose is revealed at the reindeer games, the other reindeer laugh at him and call him names, and the coach, Comet, bans him from the games. His girlfriend, Clarice, is the only other reindeer who does not laugh at his nose.
Feeling ashamed about his nose, Rudolph decides to run away from his home. He later befriends Hermey, an elf outcast who wanted to be a dentist, and a miner named Yukon Cornelius. After narrowly avoiding being caught by the Abominable Snowmonster of the North, they arrive at the Island of Misfit Toys, a place where all of the unwanted toys go. While spending the night there, Rudolph decides he does not want his nose to endanger his friends anymore and runs away.
A few months later, Rudolph, now a fully-grown reindeer, finally decides to return to his home, despite still being ridiculed by his fellow bucks, and finds out that his parents and Clarice have been looking for him. He searches for them, eventually saving them from the Abominable Snowmonster. After they return to Santa's workshop, Rudolph learns that Santa Claus's annual Christmas Eve flight will have to be canceled because of the terrible weather conditions. However, Santa asks Rudolph to use his nose to light the way and lead his team. Thus, Christmas is saved and Rudolph is praised as a hero instead of a misfit.
Rudolph makes a brief cameo in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, immediately following the introduction of the original eight reindeer. As a continuity nod, S. D. Kluger points out to his audience that Rudolph does not have a role in the story he's telling, since his backstory is another story altogether.
Rudolph returned in two sequels, Rudolph's Shiny New Year and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year, which takes place almost immediately after the events of the original special, Rudolph is told by Father Time that the Baby New Year, Happy, has gone missing because everyone laughed at the sight of his oversized ears. Having put up with similar teasing about his nose in the first special, Rudolph says that he knows how Happy felt. Accompanied by Big Ben, Rudolph ventures to the Archipelago of Last Years, since Happy has presumably gone to one of those islands. In his travels, he is eventually joined by One Million B.C., 1023, and 1776. After Happy is captured by a giant vulture named Aeon the Terrible and brought to the Island of No Name, Rudolph finds Happy and shares his own story with him, encouraging the Baby New Year to overcome his problem.
By the time of Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July, Rudolph has become great friends with Frosty the Snowman and his family, so much that Frosty and Crystal's twin children, Chilly and Milly, look up to him as their adoptive uncle. The film notably also provides a more detailed backstory for Rudolph's nose, explaining that the Lady Borealis made it shine as a defense against the evil Winterbolt, and that its power lasts only as long as Rudolph uses his gift for good. During the events of the film, Rudolph, along with Frosty and his family (who are wearing amulets that prevent them from melting in the hot weather, provided by Winterbolt pretending to be a nice person), appear as guest stars at the Sea Side Circus at the Beach's Fourth of July show, in order to save the circus from being shut down. However, Winterbolt employs an evil reindeer named Scratcher, taking advantage of Rudolph's kindness, to steal the circus's money. Upon finding out, Rudolph agrees to take the blame after making a deal with Winterbolt, to extend the powers of the amulets Frosty's family is wearing. Because of this evil act, Rudolph's nose stops glowing. However, after Rudolph manages to retrieve Frosty's magic hat from Winterbolt, his nose regains its glow. In the end, after Winterbolt is vanquished and Jack Frost arrives to save the melted Frosty family, Rudolph decides to temporarily stay with the circus until they've gotten out of their debt.
Rudolph later starred in another sequel to the Rankin/Bass Rudolph, titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys.
Rudolph in other media
Theatrical cartoon short
Rudolph's first screen appearance came in 1944, in the form of a cartoon short produced by Max Fleischer for the Jam Handy Corporation, that was more faithful to May's original story than Marks' song (which had not yet been written). It was reissued in 1948 with the song added.
In this version, Rudolph is a normal reindeer who is teased and taunted by his peers because of his shiny red nose. Though he doesn't show it outside, when he goes to sleep, he is shown to be emotionally hurt by those words. When Santa arrives in his room, Rudolph attempts to hide his nose from him, only to learn that Santa wants him to use his nose to help guide him through the treacherous fog. Because of this, he is declared a hero and becomes a part of Santa's team.
On December 16, 2009, Mike Nelson featured this version in a live Rifftrax Christmas show in San Diego, California which was broadcast to select theaters in the United States.
In 1958, Golden Books published an illustrated storybook, adapted by Barbara Shook Hazen and illustrated by Richard Scarry. The book is similar in story to the Max Fleischer cartoon short. Although it is one of the more memorable versions of the story in book form, it is apparently no longer in print. However, a revised Golden Books version of the storybook has since been issued.
|Christmas Comes to PacLand||1982|
|We Wish You a Merry Christmas||1992|
|A Pinky and the Brain Christmas||1995|
|Charlie Adler||Earthworm Jim: "For Whom the Jingle Bell Tolls"||1996||Resents the lack of respect that Santa gave him and believes that Santa deserved to get kidnapped.|
|Johnny Bravo: "Twas the Night"||1997||Is busy battling The Grinch's henchmen.|
|Cassandra Halloran||Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas||1997||This young supermodel is dressed up as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and appears during the songs "Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas", "Go Santa Go", and "Jeff's Christmas Tune".|
|Eric Pospisil (young Rudolph); Kathleen Barr (older Rudolph)||Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie||1998||Unlike the Rankin/Bass version, Rudolph is the son of Blitzen in this film.|
|Futurama: "A Tale of Two Santas"||1999||A robotic Rudolph with a explosive nose.|
|Brandy and Mr. Whiskers: "On Whiskers, On Lola, On Cheryl and Meryl"||2004|
|Grey DeLisle||T.U.F.F. Puppy: "A Doomed Christmas"||2011|
|Regular Show: "The Christmas Special"||2012|
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