Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey
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Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is a Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin-Bass. It was first aired in 1977, and its plot is similar to an earlier Rankin-Bass special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
The film is narrated by Santa Claus's donkey, Spieltote, voiced by Roger Miller. He tells the tale of a donkey with abnormally long ears named Nestor, who lived in the days of the Roman Empire. Every animal in the stable disliked Nestor because of his ears. One day the animals in the stable are celebrating the winter solstice. Nestor's mother gives socks to Nestor to cover his ears.
That night when Nestor is asleep, soldiers come from the Roman Empire. They pick a bunch of donkeys, including Nestor, but not his mother. Nestor tries to get away and one of the soldiers grabs the socks on Nestor's ears. They come off. The soldiers thought the owner of the stable was trying to trick them. The owner, Olaf, says he will give them Nestor for free, but the soldiers are angry so they force him to give him all the donkeys for free and do not take Nestor. The soldiers leave. Olaf is angry at Nestor and he throws Nestor out the door, saying that he doesn't care if Nestor freezes to death and tells him to never come back. Nestor's mother escapes the stable and finds him. As a blizzard rages outside, and since there is no indoor shelter to be had, Nestor's mother finds a small cove out of the wind and uses her body to shield the little donkey from the storm, giving up her own life in the process, passing away in her sleep due to hypothermia. He wakes up in the morning to find his mother pale, stiff and cold, covered in snow by the blizzard, wriggles out from underneath and mourns for her.
Later, Nestor meets a cherub called Tilly. She says they need to travel to Bethlehem, telling him "Your ears can do wondrous things no other ears can do. The sounds they hear will guide you on a path that's straight and true, and then you will save another, as your mother once saved you." They travel across the desert sands for many months, and when they finally get to the outskirts of Bethlehem, Tilly tells Nestor to wait. Even though he finds a rundown old stable, still nobody will buy him.
One day Mary and Joseph visit. Mary is expecting a child, and they do not have much money. They take Nestor because of his "gentle eyes", but are caught in a sandstorm. In the midst of the storm, Nestor hears Tilly's voice, but recognizes it as his mother's, and she tells him to follow the voices of the angels. Nestor guides Mary and Joseph through the storm, wrapping Mary in his ears, soon arriving at Bethlehem. They find a proper stable, where Mary subsequently gives birth to Jesus after which Nestor finds his way back home, where he is considered a hero.
- Roger Miller - Spieltoe/Narrator
- Shelly Hines - Nestor
- Brenda Vaccaro - Tilly
- Paul Frees - Olaf the stable owner/Roman soldier
- Linda Gary - Nestor's mother
- Don Messick - donkey dealer
Released with The Year Without a Santa Claus
- Release date: October 31, 2000
- Full Screen
- Region: 1
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Audio tracks: English
- This was the first animated television program that Brenda Vaccaro, who voiced Tilly, worked on; in later years she would become the voice for Bunny Bravo on the TV series Johnny Bravo.
- This special currently airs on ABC Family annually.
- The Rudolph model as used in Rudolph's Shiny New Year is seen in the shot at the very end standing near the Christmas tree with the group of a few familiar characters. In addition, Jingle and Jangle (from The Year Without a Santa Claus), Mrs. Claus (as she is shown in The Year Without a Santa Claus), Santa, and other elves in the barn are there before Nestor says "Merry Christmas".
- Joshua the camel from The Little Drummer Boy and The Little Drummer Boy, Book II served as one of the camels in this special.
- The song "Don't laugh and make somebody cry" has been cut from the ABC Family Broadcasts of the special.
- The reference to Santa Claus having a donkey is similar to the one found in the song "Dominick the Donkey," the 1960 Lou Monte song.
- Both Speiltote and Nestor's names are Italian.