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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (television special)

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Title: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (television special)  
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Subject: 1964, The Tomfoolery Show, Burl Ives, Sexual Harassment Panda, December 1964, Romeo Muller, Larry D. Mann
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (television special)

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
File:Rudolph - 1964 ad.JPG
Promotional advertisement for the original NBC airing
Directed by Larry Roemer, Kizo Nagashima
Written by Romeo Muller, Robert May
Narrated by Burl Ives
(as Sam The Snowman)
Music by Johnny Marks
Production company Rankin/Bass
Country United States
Language English
Original channel NBC (1964–1971)
CBS (1972–Present)
Release date December 6, 1964
Running time 55 minutes
Followed by Rudolph's Shiny New Year
Official website

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States, and was sponsored by General Electric (who then acquired NBC after the 1986 acquisition of RCA)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 affiliate television stations, 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 and on several cable channels (including ABC Family). It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history, and one of only four 1960s Christmas specials still being telecast, the others being A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Frosty the Snowman.


Donner's wife gives birth to a baby fawn named Rudolph, but the two are shocked to discover that Rudolph's unusually red nose is capable of glowing. When Santa Claus visits their cave to meet the fawn and sees the glowing nose, he warns Mr. & Mrs. Donner that Rudolph will be unqualified to pull the sleigh if he continues to carry this trait for the rest of his life. Consequently, Donner tries to conceal Rudolph's nose with dirt.

A year later, Rudolph's parents take him to participate in the Reindeer Games. Here Rudolph, along with all of the other young bucks, will be trained to fly and be a part of Santa's reindeer team. While there, Rudolph meets a friendly reindeer named Fireball and they quickly become friends. The pair then sees a group of does including one named Clarice, who seems to take a romantic interest in Rudolph. Fireball then encourages Rudolph to speak with Clarice who tells him that she thinks he's cute which causes Rudolph to perform a dazzling leap into the air and fly. However, when Rudolph and Fireball engage in celebratory play, the cover pops off Rudolph's nose and unveils his "non-conformity" - scaring Fireball and ending their friendship. All of the other yearlings then make fun at Rudolph's nose and he is prohibited by Coach Comet from taking part in any more Reindeer Games. Clarice, who is not the least bit bothered by Rudolph's secret, catches up with a sulking Rudolph to try to comfort him. Soon after, Clarice's father forbids her to hang around with Rudolph, which shatters the young buck's heart and prompts him to make the decision to run away from home. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Hermey, a member of Santa's Elves who dreams of becoming a dentist rather than make toys. However, his supervisor is outraged at Hermey's persistent disruption of the assembly line with his dentistry studies. Feeling ridiculed and misunderstood, Hermey also decides to run away. Later, Rudolph meets up with Hermey and the pair decide to set off together.

Along the way, they meet a cheerfully boisterous prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who dreams of discovering silver and gold, before the trio bumps into the Abominable Snow Monster, a gigantic hairy, white, yeti-like creature who is attracted to Rudolph's nose. Escaping on an iceberg, they arrive on the Island of Misfit Toys where unwanted toys live with the island's ruler, King Moonracer, a winged lion, until he can find homes for them. The king agrees to let them stay for one night in exchange for a promise from Rudolph that as soon as he returns to the North Pole, he will ask Santa Claus to deliver the Misfit Toys to children. Later that night, while Hermey and Yukon slept, Rudolph decides to leave the island alone knowing that his nose is going to endanger his friends.

Rudolph grows older and drifts from place to place making and leaving friends as he is continually rejected for his glowing nose. Eventually deciding to go home, he returns to his cave to find that his parents, along with Clarice, have left to search for him. Rudolph then sets out to find his family and discovers that they have been captured by the Abominable Snow Monster, who plans to eat them. After a brief fight, Rudolph 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 Snow Monster unconscious and Hermey extracts his teeth. Rudolph awakens, but he and his family are blocked from their escape by the also awakened beast who blocks the entrance to the cave. Yukon Cornelius and his sled dogs chasing the now toothless Snow Monster to a cliff, jump onto the monster before the whole group falls over the edge. Mourning the assumed death of their friend, Rudolph and Hermey nonetheless decide to go home. Upon arrival, the previous misfits are no longer mocked by their peers, who instead embrace them for their differences. Much to the surprise and relief of Rudolph and Hermey, Yukon Cornelius returns with a tamed Abominable Snow Monster, whom he has taught to place a star on top of a Christmas tree. However, a huge blizzard blows in which threatens to cancel Santa's annual journey. While announcing the news to the elves and reindeer, Santa is caught by Rudolph's gleaming nose and decides that its light could cut through the storm. Santa then asks Rudolph to lead his team and Rudolph agrees. The group then sets off to deliver the presents with a quick stop to first pick up the Misfit Toys.

Cast of characters

  • Rudolph is voiced by Billie Mae Richards[1][2]
  • Santa Claus is voiced by Stan Francis
  • Santa's reindeer are all seen and mentioned by name. Three of them (all voiced by Paul Kligman) have roles:
    • Donner is Rudolph's father
    • Comet is the coach of the Reindeer Games
    • Dasher is mentioned as a father of one of the yearling bucks at the games

The TV special, with story by Romeo Muller, introduced several new characters inspired by the song's lyrics. Muller told an interviewer shortly before his death that he would have preferred to base the teleplay on May's original book, but could not find a copy.

  • Sam the Snowman - The narrator, voiced by folk singer Burl Ives, who contributes several tunes throughout the program. Among the more well-known songs from the special is Johnny Marks' "A Holly Jolly Christmas," which became a Christmas standard in its own right.
  • Hermey is voiced by Paul Soles
  • Clarice is voiced and sung by Janis Orenstein. Although real reindeer of both sexes grow antlers, neither Clarice nor any other doe in the special has antlers. Also setting them apart, the female reindeer have much lighter fur than their male counterparts.
  • Yukon Cornelius is voiced by Larry D. Mann
  • Mrs Claus
  • Mrs. Donner is Rudolph's mother
  • Elf Foreman (voiced by Carl Banas) is a portly and ill-tempered foreman and songleader of Santa's workshop. He wears a goatee styled to resemble popular songleader Mitch Miller and begins by using Lawrence Welk's famous introduction, "And-a one-a, and-a two-a, and-a three-a" before conducting the elves in the song "We Are Santa's Elves" for Santa.
  • Fireball is voiced by Alfie Scopp (who also voices the other young bucks)
  • The Abominable Snow Monster of the North (a.k.a. The Bumble)
  • Tall Elf is a minor character who appears in the "We Are Santa's Elves" and "Holly Jolly Christmas" scenes. Tall, thin and bespectacled, this character was an integral part of the stop-motion commercial and subsequent print ads produced for General Electric for the inaugural broadcast. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys, he is renamed "Hank."

The Island of Misfit Toys

The "Island of Misfit Toys", another addition to the original story, is an island sanctuary where defective and unwanted toys are sent. It is during the initial scene on the Island that Johnny Marks standard, "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year" is performed by the inhabitants. Toy versions of nearly every character from this show were produced in the 1990s. Among its inhabitants are:

  • King Moonracer is voiced by Stan Francis.
  • Charlie-In-The-Box is voiced by Alfie Scopp and is a misnamed, but otherwise seemingly normal jack-in-the-box who acts as the island's sentry.
  • Spotted Elephant is a polka dotted elephant and also is the King's footman.
  • Dolly is voiced by Corinne Conley and is a seemingly normal girl rag doll with red hair and a red gingham dress. Her misfit problem is never explained on the special, but was possibly revealed on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! news quiz show (broadcast December 8, 2007). The show revealed that Rudolph's producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., says Dolly's problem was psychological, caused from being abandoned by her mistress and suffering depression from feeling unloved.[3]
  • Other toys (all voiced by Carl Banas) include a toy bird who swims instead of flies, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a train with square wheels on its caboose, a toy boat that sinks rather than floats, a squirt gun that shoots grape jelly, an airplane that cannot fly, and a scooter with an unknown flaw.

Different versions

Original 1964 NBC broadcast edit

This version has the NBC "living color" peacock at the introduction. It includes the original end credits, where elves are seen delivering boxes which list all the technical credits. It also includes commercials which were exclusively for GE small appliances with some of the same animated elves from the main program introducing each of the products, and closing NBC network bumpers, including promos for the following week's episodes of GE College Bowl and Meet the Press, which were presumably pre-empted that Sunday for the inaugural 5:30 PM (EST) telecast. The College Bowl quiz show was also sponsored by GE.[4] The original does not include Santa traveling to the Island of Misfit Toys, but does include a scene near the end of the special in which Yukon Cornelius discovers a peppermint mine near Santa's workshop. He can be seen throughout the special tossing his pickax into the air, sniffing, then licking the end that contacts the snow or ice. Discarded in 1965 to make room for Santa traveling to the Island of Misfit toys, the audience was left to assume that Cornelius was attempting to find either silver or gold by taste alone.

1965–1997 telecasts

Viewers were so taken by the forlorn Misfit Toys that many complained Santa was not seen fulfilling his promise to include them in his annual delivery. In reaction, a new scene for subsequent rebroadcasts was produced with Santa making his first stop at the Island to pick up the toys. This is the ending that has been shown on all telecasts and video releases ever since. However, to make room, several sequences were deleted: the instrumental bridge from "We Are Santa's Elves" featuring the elf orchestra, Rudolph & Hermey's duet reprise of "We're a Couple of Misfits," additional dialogue by Burl Ives, and the "Peppermint Mine" scene resolving the fate of Yukon Cornelius. A new duet, "Fame and Fortune," was shot for the revised version and put in place of "We're a Couple of Misfits". The special's 1998 restoration saw "Misfits" returned to its original film context, while the 2004 DVD release showcases "Fame and Fortune" as a separate number.

1998–2008 CBS telecasts

The above 1965 deletions were returned to the film, but "Fame and Fortune" was not included and was replaced with the original "We're a Couple of Misfits" reprise. This telecast also deleted the "Peppermint Mine" scene (to date, it has never aired on CBS).

Starting sometime in the 2000s, CBS aired the video for "Fame and Fortune" synced with an edited version of "We're a Couple of Misfits." Beyond that, the special has been edited further due to more commercial time by being time-compressed with some musical numbers shortened.

2009-Present CBS telecasts

"Fame and Fortune" has once again been replaced with "We're a Couple of Misfits", the special itself undergoing further cuts for more commercial time.

Video releases

When Rudolph was first issued on video by previous owner Broadway Video, the 1965 rebroadcast print was used with the changes listed above under 1965-1997 telecasts. All current video prints of Rudolph by Classic Media are a compendium of the two previous telecast versions of the special. All the footage in the current versions follow the original NBC airing (without the original GE commercials) up until the "Peppermint Mine" scene, followed by the final act of the 1965 edit (with the Island of Misfit Toys finale and the 1965 alternate credits in place of the original end credit sequence). In 1998, Rudolph was released by Sony Wonder on VHS. In 2000, it was released on DVD, and on Blu-ray Disc in 2010. This edit has been made available in original color form by former rights holders Classic Media,[5] which in 2012 became the DreamWorks Classics division of DreamWorks Animation. As previously mentioned, this is also the version currently airing on CBS, albeit in edited form to accommodate more commercial time.


Main article: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (soundtrack)
  • The songs and incidental music were all written by Johnny Marks, with Maury Laws supervising. In addition to the songs previously mentioned, the score also includes the film's love theme "There's Always Tomorrow", sung by Clarice after Rudolph is kicked out of the reindeer games. Marks' holiday standard "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" appears as instrumental background music when Rudolph first arrives at the Reindeer Games. Also included in the soundtrack is an instrumental version of Marks' setting of the Christmas hymn "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day."

In 1964, an LP record of the soundtrack was released. It contained all the original songs performed as they are in the special, with the exception of Burl Ives' material, which has been re-recorded. MCA Special Products released the soundtrack on CD in June 1995. It is an exact duplication of the original LP released in 1964. Tracks 1-9 are the original soundtrack selections while tracks 10-19 are the same songs performed by a studio orchestra. The song "Fame and Fortune" is not contained on either release. On November 30, 2004 the soundtrack was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for selling over 500,000 copies.

Fate of the figures

Since those involved with the production had no idea of the value of the figures used in the production, they were not preserved. Santa and Rudolph were given to a secretary, who gave them to family members. Kevin Kriess bought Santa and Rudolph in 2005 and, because they were in such bad shape, had them restored by Screen Novelties International. The figures have been shown at conventions since then.[6]


The Rankin/Bass special, which currently airs on CBS, inspired numerous television sequels made by the same studio:

Video game

Based on this special, a Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer video game was released on November 9, 2010. The adaptation was published by Red Wagon Games for the Wii and Nintendo DS systems, and was developed by High Voltage Software and Glyphic Entertainment, respectively. The Wii version was received poorly, and garnered extremely negative reviews from sites such as IGN giving it a 1.5/10.[7]

Parodies of, and homages to Rudolph

The television special's familiarity to American audiences through its annual rebroadcasts, coupled with its primitive stop-motion animation that is easy to recreate with modern technology, has lent itself to numerous parodies over the years.

Films by Corky Quakenbush

Animator Corky Quakenbush has produced parodies of Rudolph for several American television shows:

  • In its December 16, 1995 episode, the Fox Network's comedy series Apocalypse Now.
  • A 2001 episode of That '70s Show, titles "An Eric Forman Christmas", featured a subplot where Kelso was taunted by his friends for still watching "kiddie shows" like Rudolph even though he was in high school. A dream sequence produced and directed by Quakenbush, Kelso himself appears in stop-motion form with Rudolph and Santa who encourage him to continue watching their show.
  • In December 2005, the George Lopez Show featured an animated segment in which Lopez sees a stop-motion version of himself on television in a Rudolph-style special mirroring the theme of the holiday episode.

Other parodies of Rudolph

  • In the 1993 stop-motion animated film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack looks through a book version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to find a logical answer to explain Christmas to the other citizens of Halloween Town. Later, Zero the ghost dog, has a magnificently glowing pumpkin nose, which is bright enough to break through the fog that Sally has conjured up. Jack lets Zero go to the head of his skeleton reindeer team and light the way for him.
  • On Saturday Night Live in 2001, Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse shows Sam the Snowman refusing to narrate the story because of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He then takes two children to Ground Zero at New York City, but Santa Claus convinces him to narrate the story because people need comforting stories like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Sam decided to narrate the tale, but was immediately interrupted by a special news report. Three years later, TV Funhouse would again parody Rudolph, this time referencing the Red state-blue state divide. In the segment, Santa hangs out with liberal celebrities Natalie Merchant, Margaret Cho, Al Franken, and Moby while skipping over the Red states ("screw the red states, voting for that dumbass president just because of that moral values crap. I don't want any part of them!"). Rudolph's red nose turns blue. Both episodes were directed by Chel White of Bent Image Lab.
  • In 2004 for the show's 40th anniversary, CBS produced stop motion promos for their programming line-up, done in the style of Rankin/Bass animation. Appearing as elves in the CBS promos were puppet versions of CBS stars Jeff Probst from Survivor, Ray Romano and Doris Roberts from Everybody Loves Raymond, William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger from CSI, Charlie Sheen from Two and a Half Men, Phil Simms and Greg Gumbel from The NFL on CBS, and late-night talk show host David Letterman. A new stop-motion animation featuring Rudolph and Santa meeting even more CBS network stars was also aired in 2005.
  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 made numerous references to the special in their movie hecklings such as Rudolph's line "I'm cute!! I'm cuute!! She said I'm cuuuuuutte!!!!". In episode 321, which screened Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, the MST3K cast had their own ideas for potential residents on the Island of Misfit Toys including Toaster Dolls, Patrick Swayze's Roadhouse board game, the EZ Bake Foundry, and Mr. Mashed Potato Head.

Uses in advertising

  • In 1964, Rankin & Bass produced several commercials for General Electric for the original GE-sponsored broadcast.[1]
  • In November 2007, the Aflac insurance company released a commercial that featured Rudolph with a cold who does not want to miss work. All his friends say that he will not be able to pay for his expenses. Santa then tells them about Aflac. Charlie wonders what will happen if he is not better by Christmas, but Rudolph thinks the Aflac duck can do the work. Rudolph gets better in a week, but Blitzen is sick, so the Aflac duck fills in for him.[11]
  • In 2009, Verizon began showing a commercial of the Misfit Toys with an AT&T phone. The characters wonder why it is there with all of its features but soon discover why when the phone shows a map of where it has 3G coverage (Verizon's ad campaign touts its much wider 3G coverage compared to AT&T), to which the toy airplane replies "You're gonna fit right in here!" and falls on the ground laughing.
  • Starting in 2011, there have been several commecials, filmed to look like the same stop-motion style as the special, which feature several characters including Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Hermey, the Bumble, and the Misfit Toys.
  • A 2012 commercial for Windows phone again features Bumble the Abominable Snowman (with his full set of teeth), speed-dating, getting advise from friends through Live Tiles. A follow-up features Bumble at Santa's North Pole pool party, and Santa using Live Tiles on his new Windows Phone to help him give his elves the holiday-season toy production directives.


  • The copyright year in Roman numerals was mismarked as MCLXIV (1164) instead of the correct MCMLXIV (1964). (While this would normally invalidate the copyright under U.S. law at the time, which required a valid date of copyright to be affixed to the production, the U.S. Copyright Board nonetheless recognized, and continues to recognize, the copyright, and as a result the special has not lapsed into the public domain.)
  • In 2006, the puppets of Rudolph and Santa used in the filming of this famous television special were appraised on PBS Television's Antiques Roadshow. The puppets had been damaged through years of rough handling by children and storage in an attic.[12] In 2007, both the puppets were restored to original condition by Screen Novelties, a Los Angeles based collective of film directors specializing in stop motion animation with puppet fabricator Robin Walsh leading the project.[13]
  • In December 2011, author and special ed professor, George Giuliani, noted the behavior of the characters to Rudolph in the special being tantamount to bullying. Consequently, he decided to write a book based on the special titled No More Bullies at the North Pole[14]

See also


External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • Big Cartoon DataBase
  • Character Arts' official licensee site for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer licensing
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