As I kid, I grew up watching the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 1964 TV Special every single year, produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. This stop motion animated feature was always put on at our house during the Christmas season. In 2014, the special celebrated it’s 50th anniversary. According to Wikipedia:
It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States, and was sponsored by General Electric under the umbrella title of The General Electric Fantasy Hour. The special was based on the Johnny Marks song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” which was itself based on the 1939 poem Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer written by Marks’ brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS, with the network unveiling a high-definition, digitally remastered version of the program in 2005. As with A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph no longer airs just once annually, but several times during the Christmas and holiday season on CBS. Unlike other specials that also air on several cable channels (including ABC Family), Rudolph only airs on CBS. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history.
If there is anything of importance I learned from this film, it was that being different, and not fitting in aren’t the most important things in the world. In fact, being different, as this film shows us, can be a great benefit. According to the Den of Geek review:
For those of you that have never seen the classic claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964) let us give you the quick and dirty plot summary:
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen,
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen.,
But do you recall?
The most famous reindeer of all?
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose,
And if you ever saw it,
You would even say it glows.
All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names;
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve,
Santa came to say,
Rudolph with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?
Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,
You’ll go down in history.
Really. That’s the movie. Of course most of the special takes place between the getting kicked out of reindeer games and that foggy Christmas Eve. After running away due to bullying he meets up with an equally unique Elf named Hermey. Hermey has no interest in making toys for Santa. Instead, he’d like to be a dentist. This is, of course, absolutely unacceptable so he too leaves. The two decide to be “independent together” and off they go on an adventure. They meet up with a gold/silver prospector named Yukon Cornelius who saves them from the Bumble. The three come upon the Island of Misfit Toys, an island filled with unique toys that haven’t found a home. They decide to spend the night but Rudolph leaves to head out on his own. He worries that his glowing nose has put his friends in danger. Rudolph decides to stop running from his problems and return home.
Unfortunately when he gets there he finds that his family and his girlfriend have been searching for him. He travels back out hoping to find them when he is attacked by the Bumble. The Bumble has also kidnapped his family and girlfriend. But right before the Bumble enjoys some venison, Hermey and Cornelius swoop in and save the day. They all return to find that Santa is about the cancel Christmas due to horrible weather. But wait, Rudolph’s nose glows! They use Rudolph to guide Santa’s sleigh. They also manage to pick up the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys and they are delivered to children who will love them. Honestly. That’s the special. But this Christmas special has turned into a classic and is a favorite among humans who have feelings. Unless you’re Sister Jude from American Horror Story. Then this special is the work of Satan.
The characters in this Christmas special really make it. We have all felt the pain of not fitting in at some point, especially those among us who are especially geeky. And what is better than finding misfits to fit in with? And Rudolph and Hermey are wonderful examples of lovable misfits. And the wonderful thing about this special is that neither of these characters changes to fit their surroundings. Their surroundings find places for them. One character that comes off as a jerk within this special is Santa. He’s mean, grumpy and just awful to Rudolph and his parents. But in the end Santa eats his words.
The sexism in this special is hilarious by today’s standards and needs to be mentioned. I’m surprised Donner didn’t just yell “woman, make me a sandwich” at Rudolph’s mom. And Clarice is just pathetic. But it’s 1964 and this is probably as good as it gets.
The music is obviously a huge part of most Christmas specials and Rudolph is no exception. Burl Ives lends his voice to the Christmas carol classics associated with this film including Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Silver and Gold. Other excellent songs in this film are The Island of Misfit Toys and Why Am I Such a Misfit. The music isn’t overwhelming and fits in nicely with the plot.
What is the greater meaning of Rudolph? We suppose it is that misfits rock and that you’ll find your place in the universe. Sometimes we just don’t know how to use our skills yet. Etc. But really, we just love this classic.