Do You Remember? #66: Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

So, we started the month talking about the inconsistencies of the plot for Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, so why not ruin another classic special for people? Well, okay, I don’t know who would consider this a classic but it does play a lot on TV in recent years, this is Rudolph’s Shiny New Year:

File:Poster of the movie Rudolph's Shiny New Year.jpg

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year is a 1976 Christmas/New Year’s stop motion animated television special and a sequel to the 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. The special premiered on ABC on December 10, 1976.

It ran on ABC for a number of years between the 70s and 80s and then was relegated to cable airings in syndication in the late 80s and early 90s before becoming a part of The Family Channel’s 25 Days Of Christmas lineup in the late 90s and finally, returning as a yearly event on ABC starting in 2006.

Well, every year, this gets played on TV but the question is, is it any stranger than the original Rudolph special? Surprisingly…yes but at the same time, that actually kind of helps make it better than the original special…sort of…let’s look at the plot for this:

A year after delivering Christmas presents, Santa Claus receives a letter from his friend Father Time (voiced by Red Skelton) asking for help to find Happy the Baby New Year before midnight on New Year’s Eve, or else it will be December 31 forever. Santa sends Rudolph out to find him.

First thing is that in the beginning of the special, Father Time states that this took place on the same night as the night Rudolph guided Santa’s sleigh through the snowstorm and yet on Wikipedia, it says it takes place a year after…so, wait, who’s right here? Actually, it would make more sense if it took place a year after the original special because by saying it has taken place immediately after the end of the first special means that Rudolph must have had no time to relax at all after going through a snowstorm to deliver toys to all the children of the world but in the actual special, they are saying it takes place immediately afterward and already, I’m having a hard time believing it to be such the case. Anyway, continuing on…

An evil vulture called Eon the Terrible is supposed to live for exactly one Eon after which he will turn into ice and snow and disintegrate. As his particular Eon will end January 1 of the New Year, he plans to kidnap Happy to keep the year from ending and stop time, thus preventing his predestined death.

That’s….pretty…..dark….after a year on the planet, you just turn into ice and snow and disintegrate, that’s a pretty intense way to go out now, isn’t it? But at the same time, how does a vulture have a predestined death sentence that ties into the baby new year? How the hell is that suppose to work?

Father Time speculates that Happy, who ran away due to his big ears being laughed at, is hiding out in the “Archipelago of Last Years”, where the Old Years retire and rule over an island styled to resemble the year over which they ruled. Sent to assist in this journey are some agents of Father Time including General Ticker (a military clock), The Great Quarter-Past-Five (a camel with a clock in his hump), and Big Ben (a whale with a clock attached to his tail).

So, yeah, we’ve got kind of a mix of redoing the plot of the first special with Happy being seen as somewhat of a misfit because of his imperfection while also throwing in a mix of the plot from Dumbo with Happy having the big ears and him being made fun of for it…or not even that, people laugh when they see he has those big ears and Happy just wanders off like they are making fun of him when he’s literally being told by people, “hey, we’re just kidding around”, they aren’t doing it to be jerks, they just find it amusing at first.

The most interesting aspect of the entire special is the concept of the Archipelago of Last Years where you have the previous years controlling their own islands set in that particular time period, that is such a cool concept and the special does a really good job of showing off these islands with these interesting approaches to them.

Upon arrival in the Archipelagos, Rudolph first travels to the island belonging to a caveman named One Million B.C. (“O.M.” for short) (voiced by Morey Amsterdam). O.M. inhabits an island anachronistically inhabited with friendly dinosaurs and other prehistoric and long-extinct creatures. As Rudolph and his friends search for Happy (who left after his hat accidentally fell off and revealing his big ears, causing the dinosaurs to laugh), they repeatedly encounter Eon.

That’s about the gist of the special, Rudolph and his friends look for Happy and keep running into the bad guy, Eon, all throughout.

After other off-screen visits to the islands of 4000 B.C., 1492, 1893, and 1965 have been completed without success, Rudolph and O.M. head for the island of 1023 (pronounced ten-two-three), belonging to a knight named Sir 1023 (voiced by Frank Gorshin), whose island is filled with medieval trappings along with several fairy tale and Mother Goose characters. Meanwhile, Happy managed to befriend the Three Bears, but becomes saddened when he removes his hat and exposing his big ears to them, causing him to leave again.

I said, the islands were an interesting concept, I never said anything about them making any sense because yeah, how do you connect the year 1023 to fairy tale characters?

The group then travels to the island of 1776, which reflects Colonial America and is ruled over by “Sev” (AKA 1776) (voiced by Paul Frees) who resembles Benjamin Franklin. Following Happy’s seeming rejection on the Island of 1776, Eon kidnaps him and takes him to his lair on the Island of No-Name which is said to be located “due north of the North Pole”.

In other words, this journey was completely pointless and they could’ve just went north to find Eon’s lair and at some point, he would’ve brought Happy there…but then again, we wouldn’t have a special here if that were the case.

The group now leaves the Archipelego in pursuit. Catching up to Eon, they attempt to rescue the baby. However, Eon (upon being awakened by the sound of O.M. tumbling) thwarts them by sending an avalanche down on the group and trapping them inside giant snowballs. Managing to melt his way free using his nose, Rudolph climbs up to Eon’s nest where he finds Happy, who refuses to leave.

So, Rudolph’s nose also has the power of the sun too? Also, if his nose can melt snowballs, than how the hell is he able to move around the snowy North Pole without friggin’ melting it. By this special’s argument, Rudolph’s shiny red nose is the thing that’s causing global warming.

Rudolph shows Happy his nose and tells him his own story of being bullied because of his nonconformity before asking Happy to let him see his ears. Happy does so, and Rudolph, like everyone else before him, laughs at the sight. Happy once again gets upset, but Rudolph explains that the sight of Happy’s ears had made him feel so wonderful that he had to laugh out loud, just like it had done with everyone else.

So once again, the whole plot is essentially a retread of the original special except it’s Happy’s ears that are the thing that gets him made fun of and not a nose that glows like with Rudolph. And they do have a nicely animated 2D sequence with the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer song playing with the animation as well.

With this declaration, Happy shouts out with joy, but causes Eon to awaken. Rudolph quickly tells Happy to take off his hat and leave it off for good. At the sight of Happy’s large ears, Eon bursts into uncontrollable laughter which sends him tumbling down the side of the mountain and into the three remaining snowballs, freeing O.M., 1023, and Sev. Rudolph realizes that Eon is now so full of warmth and happiness that it would be impossible for him to turn to ice and snow.

So, wait a minute, he just needed to laugh in order for him to not turn into ice and snow? Show him some Eddie Murphy stand up, put Last Week Tonight on, hell, show his some of Donald Trump’s tweets, he’ll be bound to laugh at a couple of those. Or in this case, he looking at somebody’s large ears and laughing as hard as he is, just show him an Adam Sandler comedy, he’ll probably laugh at that more than anything.

With Santa’s help, they return to Father Time’s castle with Happy just in time for the beginning of the new year, which is designated “Nineteen-Wonderful”.

Shut up…Nineteen-Wonderful, get the hell out of here with that.

After the celebration, everyone wishes Happy a happy new year and Rudolph proclaims to the viewers that it may be shiny, too.

So, that was Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, how does it hold up?

Well, how do I put this? In a way, it’s a better special than the original Rudolph special but at the same time, it’s not as good as the original special.

For one thing, the animation looks a lot better here than it does in Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, they blend 2D and stop motion nicely. There’s a better plot to work off, some of the ideas that they work with is actually really cool, it’s a very simple story to work off of, the voice work is nicely done, and the music is very good.

At the same time, there are parts of this story that make no sense at all plus there’s nothing about these characters they introduce that’s memorable. I mean, you’ll remember Yukon Cornelius, you’ll remember Hermes The Elf, you’ll remember The Abominable Snow Monster, you’re not gonna remember any of these new characters they introduce.

Overall, this is just fine, there’s nothing offensively horrible about it but there’s nothing that’s great about it either, it’s comfort food, you can watch it once every year when it plays on ABC and enjoy it for what it is but it’s not something you’re gonna remember as being as great. Enjoy it for what it is and have yourself a shiny happy new year.

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