Robbie the Reindeer
|Robbie the Reindeer|
|Written by||Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||3|
Robbie the Reindeer is a series of three animated comedy television specials shown on BBC One at Christmas, filmed in aid of Comic Relief. Written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley, the programmes are based on the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with Robbie as Rudolph's son and the tenth of Santa Claus's reindeer. The three episodes produced so far are titled "Hooves of Fire", "The Legend of the Lost Tribe" and "Close Encounters of the Herd Kind". Mark Knopfler composed most of the music for the television specials; along with the accompaniment of Guy Fletcher.
Relation to original story
Robbie is portrayed as being the lazy, overweight son of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with a nose possessing many unique capabilities and powers. Whilst his father's nose lights up Robbie's works as a worldwide tracking device that assists him in locating the North Pole and he hopes to join Santa Claus's famed team of reindeer. He is depicted as being an underdog character due to his lazy personality aspects, but is trained under the tutelage of elderly reindeer coach Old Jingle for the Reindeer Games. Other characters featured in the story are based on several traditional reindeer depicted on Santa Claus's team, including Vixen, Robbie's attractive original love interest (who he later abandons in favour of Donner, who also is depicted as being female), Prancer, Donner, Robbie's later love interest and wife, and Blitzen, the primary antagonist of the first and second film who bitterly despises Robbie's famous father for overtaking his position as the head reindeer and frequently conspires against Robbie out of vengeance.
In the original British production, Robbie was voiced by Ardal O'Hanlon and was narrated by Robbie Williams. Other voices were provided by Jane Horrocks, Steve Coogan, Paul Whitehouse, Harry Enfield, Jeff Goldblum, David Attenborough (as himself), Alistair McGowan and Ricky Gervais, among others. The director was Richard Goleszowski of Aardman Animations. Though not technically an Aardman production, several of the company's staff did work on the project, since it has Aardman's-esque visual style. The executive producer was Richard Curtis.
The programme was first shown in the United States on Fox Family with the original British voices until 2001. CBS then acquired the rights to both the original and the sequel and began airing the special in 2002. However, the program was redubbed with American accents. Ben Stiller voiced Robbie, while other voices included Hugh Grant (as Blitzen; Grant largely imitated Coogan and kept the character's British accent), Britney Spears (Donner), Leah Remini (Vixen), James Belushi (Santa Claus), NFL on CBS announcing team Dick Enberg and Dan Dierdorf (Des Yeti and Allan Snowman), Brad Garrett (Prancer), and Stiller's father Jerry (Old Jingle and a talking garbage bag). Airplay of this version was discontinued by CBS after the 2005 holiday season; it has not been seen since. Nicktoons Network aired the original British version for the next two years, meaning CBS likely either lost or gave up the rights to the special after the breakup of CBS Corporation and Viacom. Neither version currently has a broadcast home in the United States.
Hooves of Fire
Robbie arrives at the North Pole in hopes of finding work on Santa's sleigh team, where he instantly is besotted with a lovely doe named Vixen and becomes acquainted with several other celebrated reindeer, including Prancer, Donner (who does not pull the sleigh), and Blitzen, who bitterly envies Robbie's father Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for overtaking his position as the lead reindeer of the team, and schemes against his rival's son in his goal to win the upcoming, anticipated Reindeer Games. Robbie meets an elderly, formerly well-known coach known as Old Jingle, convinced that he could assist him in attaining his goal of winning the Reindeer Games, but later he winds up sacrificing his dreams to help his coach in a time of need after his home slides from a slope. Although Robbie is able to compete against Blitzen, who has secretly taken strengthening-drugs in defiance of the rules of the games, he winds up barely losing a race; however, after Blitzen's secret is revealed, he is imprisoned and Robbie is crowned as winner by default, ending the special with a romantic evening with his true romantic interest in Donner.
Legend of the Lost Tribe
The second Robbie special originally aired on BBC One in 2002. Robbie and the other reindeer now run a bankrupt holiday resort. While rescuing a tourist, Robbie falls of a cliff and is rescued by a Viking, who then disappears. Meanwhile, Blitzen returns and captures the reindeer, turning them into robots with special remote-controlled hats. Robbie is the only one to escape, and he seeks the aid of the last remaining Viking tribe (whose diminutive members are all named "Magnus"). He brings them out of their shame and they agree to help. He discovers that the reindeer have been put into an exhibit at Blitzen's Reindeer World. Robbie rescues them and Blitzen is once more jailed. "The Legend of the Lost Tribe" was directed by Peter Peake (also of Aardman), whose credits include the animated short "Captain Sarcastic" and the Oscar nominated short "Humdrum".
Close Encounters of the Herd Kind
A third installment was broadcast on BBC One during the Christmas 2007 period. O'Hanlon and Horrocks returned as their original characters, with additional voice appearances by Keira Knightley as Donner's sister Em, Ozzy Osbourne as Vicar, Gillian Anderson as Queen Vorkana and Russell Brand as an Earth Guardian. Robbie and Donner's wedding is interrupted when Donner is kidnapped by aliens. Robbie saves the day again though with the help of his friends and an alien crystal.