Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “wait, why are you covering Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer? Of course, people remember it.” And you know what, you’re right, who can’t go a Christmas without watching Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer just once:
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and currently distributed by Universal Television. 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 Freeform), Rudolph only airs on CBS. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the television special and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.
So, okay, everybody has at least watch Rudolph once in their lifetime so why am I even talking about this special now? Well…when you really look at this special again as I did recently….there are parts of this story that really do not make a whole lot of sense at all.
So, just like I did with Frosty Returns last year, let’s run down the plot of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer and express my thoughts.
And yes, I’m gonna warn you now, there will be nitpicking here…LOTS AND LOTS of nitpicking so, yeah, I’m gonna get that out of the way now. With that said, this is Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer:
Sam the Snowman narrates the story of Rudolph, a reindeer who is born with a glowing red nose.
Okay, first question right there, have they ever explained how Rudolph’s nose became glowing red? I mean, what happened? They’ve never fully explained what happened, they just expect us to buy into this but I’m sorry, I still have some questions here. I mean, really, what could’ve possibly happened? Did Rudolph’s mom get struck by lightning while she was giving birth? Did she accidentally eat a lightbulb off one of the…literal Christmas trees all over the North Pole, yeah, there’s Christmas trees all over the place with the decorations and all. I mean, really, why isn’t there an explanation for why Rudolph’s nose is red? All we have to go by is this ad from the 80s:
As far as I know, Heineken is what makes Rudolph’s nose red, that’s the only logical explanation there is. Anyway, back to the special…
His father, Santa’s lead reindeer Donner, feels ashamed after Santa Claus tells him that he will not allow Rudolph to be in the sleigh team with his nose (“Jingle Jingle Jingle”). Donner uses a special cover to hide Rudolph’s nose so Donner and his wife can send Rudolph to the Reindeer Games in a year’s time.
And by special cover, he manages to put dirt around his nose so that it would keep the other reindeer from seeing his red nose…how they managed to keep that hidden from the others for a whole year is beyond me. You’d think that Rudolph would’ve slipped and fell and that thing would’ve broken off revealing his real nose but nope, kept it secret for a year, that must have been some powerful dirt.
A year later, Rudolph is a yearling reindeer who is sent to take part in the Reindeer Games to learn how to fly, with Comet as his coach. Donner still tries to hide the nature of Rudolph’s nose with the cover. This causes Rudolph’s voice to sound as if he had a permanent cold. Despite this, two deer befriend Rudolph. One is a little buck named Fireball, and one unnamed buck is said to be the son of Dasher.
….and after this segment, they are never heard from again….
The other is a beautiful doe named Clarice, whose affection for Rudolph inspires him to fly higher and more artfully than all of his peers. During some horseplay, Fireball inadvertently pops the cover off of Rudolph’s nose; after seeing his glowing nose, the other young bucks, Fireball included, start ridiculing Rudolph. Comet bans Rudolph from the rest of the games as a result. Clarice is the only reindeer who still likes Rudolph and tries to comfort him (“There’s Always Tomorrow”). However, their musings are interrupted by Clarice’s father, who forbids Clarice from being around Rudolph.
And all because of a discoloration of his nose and the fact that it glows…that makes sense…
Rudolph runs off into the woods and meets up with Hermey, an elf who had been forced out of his job because he was more interested in dentistry than toymaking and singing (“We Are Santa’s Elves”). The two bond (“We’re a Couple of Misfits”) after they discover they each have something that makes them unique. After deciding to be “independent together”, they set out but encounter the Abominable Snow Monster aka the Bumble, a carnivorous monster who hates Christmas and feeds on reindeer. The two manage to escape him.
Later, they meet a prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who professes himself as the Greatest Prospector of the North but never finds any of the precious metal (“Silver and Gold”) that he seeks. The trio manages to flee to the Island of Misfit Toys, an island filled by abandoned toys with idiosyncrasies (“The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”).
The island is ruled by a winged lion named King Moonracer. Because they are misfits but not toys, King Moonracer allows them to spend one night on his island; the King asks the trio to inform Santa Claus of the toys’ plight and find homes for them in return.
And then this character is never seen again…not even joking, he’s only in one scene, gets mentioned maybe one more time before the special is all said and done and is never heard from again after this. I mean, what’s the point? What’s the purpose? Gotta pad out that hour long runtime somehow so here’s a character who will appear in one segment and never return again.
As Hermey and Yukon sleep, Rudolph leaves the island on his own, fearing that his nose is a danger to his friends.
How? They make it clear early on that the Abominable Snow Monster can’t follow water because he sinks every time he falls into the water. So, why the hell is he going back for? It would make sense if he had said, “hey, I gotta go back and make sure my family is safe” but he never says that, he just goes “hey, I’m off to go back to where people hate me so…bye, Hermey, buy Yukon Corneilus.”
A few months later, Rudolph has grown into a young stag and, still unable to find a place where he is accepted, decides to return home.
Yeah, good thinking on returning to a place where people consider you an outcast because of your nose…smart move, Rudolph, wink, wink.
When he arrives, Santa informs him that his parents and Clarice are gone, all searching for him.
And he also says that they’ve been searching for him for months, how long has this been going on for? How fast does a deer grow up and more importantly, how is it that Santa tells him this TWO DAYS BEFORE CHRISTMAS???? The laws of time and space here don’t seem to add up at all.
Rudolph searches the North Pole and finds his family and Clarice being held captive by the Abominable Snow Monster.
Who just…keeps them hostage….that’s it, he doesn’t eat them immediately, he just keeps them there and just scares them…that’s it…
Rudolph attempts to rescue them alone and he gets knocked out by the Snow Monster and again, just leaves him to die….I thought they said earlier on that this monster eats reindeer and he has FOUR reindeer captured and doesn’t even bother to eat ’em. Continuity, what’s that?
Hermey and Yukon Cornelius catch up to him. Posing as a pig…for some stupid reason…oh the heck with it, let’s move on… they manage to lure, then knock out the Bumble long enough for Hermey to remove its teeth, but after the monster awakens, Yukon, in an act of bravado, leads himself, his sled team, and the terrified monster over a cliff.
Cue the obvious oh-he’s-dead-because-there-is-no-way-at-all-he-could-possibly-come-back-after-this cliché…
The others return home, where they tell everyone their story. Rudolph and Hermey stop being ridiculed…out of the blue when you really think about it…and the lead elf finally allows Hermey to open a dentist’s office the week after Christmas. Yukon, who survived, because of course he does, makes a grand entrance with the toothless and now-reformed Bumble. Everyone decides to keep the friendly monster around because he helps the elves decorate the Christmas trees without a step-ladder.
Santa comes to the conclusion that the winter storm outside would be too much for his sleigh team to handle, so he decides to cancel the Christmas Eve flight. As he announces the decision, Rudolph’s nose begins to glow brightly, inspiring Santa to offer Rudolph the front position guiding the sleigh; Rudolph happily accepts (“A Holly Jolly Christmas”).
And this is my final big complaint of the special, the whole Christmas village has been nothing but cruel to Rudolph throughout the entire special, even by Santa, but when they finally realize that “hey, this guy’s got a red glowing light for a nose”, they’re all like “hey, Rudolph, can you help us out?” Wouldn’t it make more sense that Rudolph would be a little more hesitant about saying yes after all the backlash he got early on? The fact that he automatically says yes indicates that Rudolph is pretty much a loner for the majority of this special and the fact that somebody is asking for his help now makes him automatically say “yes, let’s do it.” Again, nitpicking here but let’s wrap this up.
Watched on by his parents and Clarice, Rudolph leads the sleigh to the Island of Misfit Toys to collect the toys, after which they are delivered to their respective homes. With Rudolph leading the sleigh, it turns out to be a merry Christmas after all.
So, yeah, there is definitely a lot of script problems with this special in the fact that they are literal plotholes and padding to expand this to an hour run time…but that doesn’t make it bad by any means.
This is essentially a product of its’ time that has had such a lasting impact because we grow to love these characters, Rudolph is a very likeable character as is most of the characters are, the animation is very nice, if choppy a bit, and it does try to expand on the story of the song although, I think the Rankin Bass team did a much better job of expanding a story of a song with Frosty The Snowman (because a traffic cop told him stop, Frosty just leaves? Yeah, the special does a better job adding story elements that make sense).
But then again, with all the nitpicking I’ve done, I can’t deny this is still a Christmas favorite that is required viewing every year, this special holds such a nostalgic feeling with everybody, it’s hard not to keep coming back to it every year. So, even with its’ plotholes and overpadding and lack of explanation, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer still holds up as one of the quintessential Christmas favorites.
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