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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin/Bass)

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Title-rudolph
Directed by: Kizo Nagashima
Larry Roemer
Written by: Robert L. May (original story)
Romeo Muller (screenplay)
Release date: December 6, 1964
Running time: 55 minutes
Rating: TV-G
Available on: VHS
Laserdisc
DVD
Blu-ray

Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer is a long-running Christmas television special produced in stop-motion animation by Rankin/Bass, and the company's first Christmas special. It originally aired on NBC on December 6, 1964, and is now the world's longest-running and highest-rated television special of all time. It is based on the song of the same name by Johnny Marks, which in turn was based on the 1939 poem of the same title, written by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May, who was an advertising copywriter for Montgomery Ward. Marks also wrote the music and lyrics for the songs in this special, and the background soundtrack includes two more songs he made famous - "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree".

Synopsis

SPOILER: Plot details or story follow.
Song-JingleJingleJingle

Sam the Snowman narrates the story of Rudolph, the son of Donner, Santa Claus's lead reindeer. As the story begins, Donner and his wife are surprised to find that their newborn fawn's unusually red nose is capable of glowing. When Santa visits their cave to meet the fawn and sees the glowing nose, he warns Donner that Rudolph will not be able to pull the sleigh if he keeps carrying this trait for the rest of his life. Consequently, Donner tries to conceal Rudolph's nose with a fake nose made of dirt. Meanwhile, an elf named Hermey has his own problems - he wishes to be a dentist instead of a toymaker. The elf foreman, outraged at Hermey's persistent disruption with his dentistry studies, scolds him and tries to get him to obey, but he refuses to change his interests.

Rudolph meets Clarice

Rudoph, wearing his false nose, with Clarice.

A year later, Rudolph's parents take him to participate in the Reindeer Games, where he and all of the other young bucks are trained to fly and pull Santa's sleigh when they get older. Donner still tries to hide the nature of Rudolph's nose with the cover, which causes his voice to sound as if he had a permanent cold. Despite this, two deer befriend him - a little buck named Fireball, and a beautiful doe named Clarice, who thinks Rudolph is cute. But during some horseplay, Fireball inadvertently pops the cover off of Rudolph's nose. After seeing his glowing nose, the other reindeer, including Fireball, start ridiculing him, and Comet, the coach, bans Rudolph from the Reindeer Games as a result. Clarice is the only one who still likes him and tries to comfort him, but their musings are interrupted by her father, who forbids her from being around Rudolph.

Rudolph meets Hermey

Rudolph meets Hermey.

Feeling outcast and heartbroken, Rudolph runs away into the forest, where he meets Hermey. The two bond after they discover they each have something that makes them unique. After deciding to be "independent" together, they set out to seek "Fame and Fortune." After the song ends, however, the Abominable Snowmonster of the North, a carnivorous monster who hates Christmas and feeds on reindeer, begins chasing them, but they manage to escape him.

Rudolph and friends meet King Moonracer

Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius meet King Moonracer.

The next day, Rudolph and Hermey meet Yukon Cornelius, a prospector who is obsessed with finding silver and gold. The Abominable Snowmonster (which Yukon refers to as "the Bumble") appears again and pursues the trio, but they manage to escape on an iceberg. Eventually, they arrive on the Island of Misfit Toys, an island home for unloved toys ruled by a winged lion named King Moonracer. Because they are misfits but not toys, he allows them to spend the night on his island. However, Rudolph leaves on his own, having realized that his nose is a danger to his friends.

A few months later, Rudolph grows into a handsome young buck. He decides to return home, despite still being ridiculed by the other reindeer. When he arrives back in his cave, he finds out that his parents are not there. He learns from Santa that they left to go looking for him after he ran away, and Clarice went with them. Rudolph begins searching for them just as a terrible blizzard begins, and he soon finds them being held captive by the Abominable Snowmonster. He attempts to rescue them but is knocked unconscious. Fortunately, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius arrive and hatch a rescue plan. Luring the monster out of the cave, the pair knock the Snowmonster unconscious, and Hermey extracts his teeth. Rudolph awakens, but the also-awakened beast tries to block them from escaping. Yukon chases the now-toothless Snowmonster to a cliff, eventually knocking himself, his sled team, and the monster over the edge.

Bumble puts star on tree

The now-reformed Abominable Snowmonster puts the star on the tree.

Mourning the apparent death of their friend, the others return home, where they tell everyone what happened, after which Rudolph and Hermey stop being ridiculed. Santa promises Rudolph that he will find homes for all the Misfit Toys, the Elf Foreman agrees to let Hermey open his own dentist's office next week, and even Donner apologizes to Rudolph for being critical about his nose. Just then, Yukon and his dogsled team, who survived falling off the cliff, make a grand entrance with the tamed Snowmonster. Yukon informs everyone that the monster has reformed his evil ways and has come seeking a job. The monster shows them that he is able to place a star on top of a Christmas tree without the use of a stepladder, and everyone decides to keep him around.

Song-Rudolph

On Christmas Eve, Santa receives a report saying that the snowstorm will not subside, so he decides he'll have to cancel his annual Christmas Eve flight. While announcing the bad news to the elves and reindeer, however, Santa is caught by Rudolph's gleaming nose and, realizing that its light could cut through the storm, asks him to lead his sleigh, which he agrees to. After making the preparations, Rudolph leads the sleigh to the Island of Misfit Toys, and Santa takes them along the flight, where they are dropped off to their respective homes. With Rudolph leading the sleigh, it turns out to be a merry Christmas after all.

Spoilers end here.

Songs

Soundtrack

RudolphSoundtrackCover

The cover to the soundtrack album.

A soundtrack album was released in 1964 by Decca Records. The album was available in mono (DL 4815) and stereo (DL 74815), and featured all of the songs from the special. Because General Electric was the sponsor from 1964 through 1966, this album was issued as a premium gift with a purchase of any GE item. The album was later reissued in 1973 on MCA 15003; it remains in print on CD to this day.

Production notes

  • The original network airings of the special were sponsored by General Electric; three special GE commercials featuring the elves from the special were produced and aired alongside the show.
  • The original pre-production work for the special did not include the character of Sam the Snowman. The songs sung by Sam, such as "Silver and Gold", were originally intended for Yukon Cornelius. Larry D. Mann had even recorded all of the songs as Yukon Cornelius prior to filming. However, Ives was brought on at the last minute to give the special "full power!" that would help sell the special to the networks, so the character of Sam the narrating snowman was added to the special. Although Sam resembles Ives, he was actually designed to look like the writer of the special, Romeo Muller. Due to the last-minute addition of Sam the Snowman, several scripted scenes were abandoned and never filmed. Once such scene included Rudolph being delivered to Donner and his wife by a stork.
  • On the title card, the copyright year in Roman numerals was mismarked as MCLXIV (1164) instead of the correct MCMLXIV.
  • In 1976 a sequel to the special was produced, entitled Rudolph's Shiny New Year and a second sequel was made in 1979 entitled Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. In 2001, a fourth film in the series was released titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys; this film, starring the same characters from the original, was produced entirely with computer animation as opposed to stop-motion animation.
  • There are only six reindeer in addition to Rudolph, instead of the usual eight. It has been confirmed that there are only six reindeer because of the time that the creators had to make them, and because they were rather expensive to build.

Edits

The original 1964 airing did not include the closing scene where Santa picks up the misfit toys. That scene was added in 1965, in response to complaints that Santa was not shown fulfilling his promise to include them in his annual delivery. However, due to time constraints, some existing material had to be trimmed to make room for these new scenes in subsequent broadcasts.

  • When the special was rebroadcast in 1965, the song "We're a Couple of Misfits" was replaced with a newly-produced musical sequence entitled "Fame and Fortune." The original scene was restored in 1998, bringing "We're a Couple of Misfits" back to its original spot. "Fame and Fortune" was included as a bonus feature on Sony Wonder's 2002 DVD release of the special, but has not appeared on any subsequent video releases. Starting sometime in the 2000s, CBS's presentation of the special instead uses animation for "Fame and Fortune" synced with an edited version of "We're a Couple of Misfits".
  • Throughout the special, Yukon Cornelius is seen throwing his pick axe into the ground, taking it out and licking it. It turns out that he is checking for neither gold nor silver; Yukon was actually searching for an elusive peppermint mine. In a scene right at the end of the special, deleted to make room for the Misfit Toys' new scene, Cornelius pulled his pick from the ground, licked it and said, "Peppermint! What I've been searching for all my life! I've struck it rich! I've got me a peppermint mine! Wahoo!" The scene was restored in 1998 and has been reinstated in all the subsequent home video release except for the 2004 DVD release. However, this scene is still cut from recent televised airings.
  • The original 1964 broadcast had a completely different sequence for the end credits, in which the elf who accompanies Santa on the sleigh ride is shown dropping off gift boxes which list all the technical credits. The following year, when the Misfit Toys' new scene was added in, the credits sequence was also redone so that the elf is shown dropping off some of the Misfit Toys.
  • At some point in the 1970s, the sequence featuring the song "We Are Santa's Elves" was removed entirely, along with Donner telling his wife not to help him search for Rudolph.[1]

Broadcast history and availability

The special was broadcast on NBC from its premiere in 1964 until 1971. CBS acquired the broadcast rights to Rudolph the following year and has aired it every year since.

In 1988, Rankin-Bass sold many of the pre-1973 specials and series (including this special) to Broadway Video, headed by Lorne Michaels of Saturday Night Live fame. Broadway Video's children's division was then sold several years later to Golden Books Family Entertainment. Golden Books Family Entertainment later spun off into Classic Media, which was part of the Entertainment Rights group in the United Kingdom until 2009, when the company was bought by Classic Media's successor, Boomerang Media. In July 2012, DreamWorks Animation SKG purchased Classic Media, and currently holds those rights under the DreamWorks Classics banner.

References in other media

  • In the newspaper comic strip FoxTrot, Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, Sam, and the special's version of Santa Claus made cameos in a storyline that ran from December 16-21, 1996, in which Paige dreams of visiting the Land of Animated Christmas TV Specials.
    • A later FoxTrot strip, published on December 5, 2002, has Peter watching a new TV special featuring the Rudolph characters that was apparently written by Jason, titled Rudolph's Lord of the Rings Christmas.
  • In November 2007, the Aflac insurance company aired a commercial that featured Rudolph, having caught a cold, not wanting to miss work. All his friends say that he will not be able to pay for his expenses. Santa Claus then tells them about Aflac. Charlie-in-the Box wonders what will happen if Rudolph is not better by Christmas, but Rudolph imagines that the Aflac duck can fill in for him. A week later, Rudolph recovers, but Blitzen is sick, so the Aflac duck is filling in for him.
  • A 2011 commercial for Bing.com features the Abominable Snowmonster failing to scare elves with a weak, high-pitched roar, which leads him to search on the service for videos of scary monsters, which he imitates to form a much more menacing presence. A follow-up commercial features the Snowmonster, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius using Bing to find the perfect vacation spot, which turns out to be the Island of Misfit Toys.
  • A 2012 commercial for Windows Phone Daily features Bumble with the Misfit Toys as he is texting on his cell phone, and somehow every time he smiles or does something, the misfit toys would flee from Bumble, but after the commercial, it turns out that Dolly understands Bumble more than the other Misfit Toys.

References in other Christmas specials

  • In "A Pinky and the Brain Christmas", Pinky mentions to Brain that he wants to be a dentist instead of an elf (to which Brain replies, "You've been watching too many Christmas specials, Pinky").
  • In the Kim Possible episode "A Very Possible Christmas", upon landing at the North Pole, Ron and Drakken quote the "Land ho!"/"No kidding" dialogue that Yukon and Hermey said upon arriving at the Island of Misfit Toys.
  • In The Simpsons episode "'Tis the Fifteenth Season", Homer Simpson briefly watches a fictional stop-motion television special titled The Year Santa Got Lost, in which several of the Misfit Toys from this special are shown listening to a story told by a mailman voiced by Jimmy Stewart.

Cast

Rudolph 1
Rudolph 3
Voice actor Character
Burl Ives Sam the Snowman
Billie Mae Richards Rudolph
Paul Soles Hermey
Larry Mann Yukon Cornelius
Stan Francis Santa Claus
King Moonracer
Paul Kligman Donner
Comet the Coach
Janet Orenstein Clarice
Alfie Scopp Charlie-in-the-Box
Other elves
Carl Banas Elf Foreman
Spotted Elephant
Other toys
Corinne Conley Dolly
Others
Peg Dixon Mrs. Claus
Mrs. Donner
Others
Bernard Cowan Clarice's father
unknown Hank

References

  1. Platypus Comix's article about the special's 1979 broadcast

External links

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Rankin/Bass
Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town • "A Christmas Tree" • 'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas SnowFrosty's Winter WonderlandRudolph's Shiny New YearThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IINestor, the Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!

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