Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV special)
|Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer|
|Genre||Christmas, Animation, Family, Comedy|
|Based on||"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"|
by Johnny Marks
|Written by||Romeo Muller|
|Directed by||Larry Roemer|
|Narrated by||Burl Ives|
|Country of origin|
|Producers||Arthur Rankin, Jr.|
|Running time||55 minutes|
|Production company||Videocraft International|
|Distributor||NBCUniversal Television Distribution (on behalf of DreamWorks Classics)|
|Followed by||Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)|
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Videocraft International, Ltd. (later known as 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 poem of the same name written in 1939 by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS; the network unveiled 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. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest continuously running Christmas TV special. The 50th anniversary of the television special was marked in 2014, and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.
Sam the Snowman narrates the story, which takes place in Christmastown at the North Pole, four years before the big snowstorm which almost cancelled Christmas. Donner, Santa's lead reindeer, and his wife have a new fawn named Rudolph. They are surprised to see that he has been born with a glowing red nose. When Santa arrives, he warns Donner that Rudolph will not make the sleigh team because of his nose. So, Donner covers it with mud so Rudolph will fit in with the other reindeer.
Next year, Rudolph goes out for the reindeer games, where the new fawns learn to fly and are scouted by Santa for future sleigh duty. Rudolph meets a doe named Clarice, who tells him he is cute, making Rudolph fly. While he celebrates with the other bucks, Rudolph's fake nose pops off, causing the other reindeer to mock him and Coach Comet to expel him. Rudolph meets and joins Hermey, a misfit elf running away from Santa's workshop because he wants to be a dentist instead of making toys. They meet Yukon Cornelius, a prospector who has spent his life searching for silver and gold. After escaping the Abominable Snow Monster, they land on the Island of Misfit Toys where unloved or unwanted toys live with their ruler, a winged lion named King Moonracer who brings the toys to the island until he can find homes and children who will love them. The king allows them to stay one night on the island, and asks them to ask Santa to find homes for them. Rudolph leaves on his own, worried that his nose will endanger his friends.
Three years pass and Rudolph is now a young stag. After returning home to find that his parents and Clarice have been searching for him, he travels to the Abominable's cave, where they are being held captive. Rudolph tries rescuing Clarice, but the monster hurts him with a stalactite. Hermey and Yukon show up; Hermey lures the monster out of the cave by imitating the sound of a pig, and pulls out all his teeth after Yukon knocks him out. Yukon drives the toothless monster back over a cliff, and falls with it.
Rudolph, Hermey, Clarice, and the Donners return home where everyone apologizes to them. Santa promises Rudolph that he will find homes for the Misfit Toys; the Head Elf tells Hermey that he can open his own dentist's office a week after Christmas; and Donner apologizes for being hard on Rudolph. Yukon returns with a tamed Abominable, now trained to trim a Christmas tree, explaining that the monster's bouncing ability saved their lives. Christmas Eve comes and while everybody is celebrating, Santa announces that a big snowstorm is approaching, forcing him to cancel Christmas. Blinded by Rudolph's bright nose, he changes his mind and asks Rudolph to lead the sleigh. Rudolph accepts, and their first stop is the Island of Misfit Toys, which they deliver by parachute. Santa wishes everyone a merry Christmas as Rudolph and his team fly into the night.
- Burl Ives as Sam the Snowman
- Larry Mann as Yukon Cornelius
- Billie Richards as Rudolph
- Paul Soles as Hermey
- Stan Francis as Santa Claus and King Moonracer
- Alfie Scopp as Fireball, various male elves and Charlie-in-the-Box
- Janis Orenstein as Clarice
- Paul Kligman as Donner, Comet and Clarice's father
- Carl Banas as the Head Elf and various Misfit Toys
- Corinne Conley as Dolly and Mrs. Donner 
- Peg Dixon as Mrs. Claus
The TV special, with the teleplay 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. Other than Burl Ives, all characters were portrayed by Canadian actors recorded at RCA studios in Toronto under the supervision of Bernard Cowan.
Rankin and Bass chose Canadian voice actors for two reasons. First, while the last radio dramas in the U.S. had ended production a few years previously, many were still being produced in Canada, giving the producers a large talent pool to choose from. Second, Rankin and Bass, financially stretched while making Tales of the Wizard of Oz a few years earlier, had been able to complete that series only due to the lower labor costs in Canada.
Ives' parts were recorded later. He and his character were added to the cast just before the end of production, after NBC and General Electric, the show's sponsor, asked Rankin and Bass to add a name familiar to audiences to the cast. Character designer Antony Peters intentionally made the Sam the Snowman character resemble Ives.
After the script, concept designs and storyboards for Rudolph were done by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and his staff of artists at Rankin/Bass in New York City. The company's trademark stop motion animation process, known as "Animagic", was filmed at MOM Productions in Tokyo with supervision by Tadahito Mochinaga and associate direction by Kizo Nagashima. Besides Rudolph, Mochinaga and the rest of the Japanese puppet animation staff are also known for their partnership with Rankin/Bass on their other Animagic productions almost throughout the 1960s, from The New Adventures of Pinocchio, to Willy McBean and his Magic Machine, to The Daydreamer and Mad Monster Party?
In the original production Billie Mae Richards, who voiced Rudolph, was credited as "Billy Richards" since Rankin and Bass did not want to disclose that a woman had done the part. Puppeteer Antony Peters' name was also misspelled.
Since those involved with the production had no idea of the future value of the stop-motion puppet figures used in the production, many were not preserved. Rankin claimed in 2007 to be in possession of an original Rudolph figure. Nine other puppets—including Santa and young Rudolph—were given to a secretary, who gave them to family members. Eventually seven were discarded. In 2005, the remaining two puppets of Rudolph and Santa were appraised on Antiques Roadshow; the episode aired in 2006 on PBS. At that time, their appraised value was between $8,000 and $10,000. The puppets had been damaged through years of rough handling by children and storage in an attic. Toy aficionado Kevin Kriess bought Santa and Rudolph in 2005; in 2007, he had both puppets restored by Screen Novelties, a Los Angeles-based collective of film directors specializing in stop-motion animation, with puppet fabricator Robin Walsh leading the project. The figures have been shown at conventions since then; they are expected to be auctioned in November 2020. The figurines were successfully sold at auction on November 13, netting a $368,000 sale price, doubling the expected return.
Ives, and since his 1995 death his estate, received annual residuals from the show, the only actor in it to do so. "This business of residuals was new to our union, which was not quite as strong as SAG or others in the States", Soles recalled in 2014. He, Richards and the other main cast voices received only a thousand dollars over the three years after the special's original airing; it has in some years since made $100 million. While Richards said in 2000 that her compensation was a "sore subject" for her, she had no complaints about the work itself. "I feel so lucky to have something that has made such an impact on people, and it's because of the story first and foremost."
- "Jingle, Jingle, Jingle" - Santa Claus
- "We Are Santa's Elves" - Elves
- "There's Always Tomorrow" - Clarice
- "We're a Couple of Misfits" - Rudolph and Hermey
- "Silver and Gold" - Sam the Snowman
- "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year" - Misfit Toys
- "A Holly Jolly Christmas" - Sam the Snowman
- "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" - Sam the Snowman
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Original 1964 NBC broadcast edit
This version has the NBC "living color" peacock at the introduction. It includes the original end credits, where an elf drops presents that list all the technical credits. It also includes commercials that 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 p.m. (EST) telecast. The College Bowl quiz show was also sponsored by GE. 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. Deletion of the peppermint segment in 1965, to make room for Santa traveling to the Island of Misfit Toys, leaves the audience to assume that Cornelius was attempting to find either silver or gold by taste alone.
The 1965 broadcast also included a new duet between Rudolph and Hermey called "Fame and Fortune", which replaced a scene in which the same characters sang "We're a Couple of Misfits". Viewers of the 1964 special complained that Santa was not shown fulfilling his promise to the Misfit Toys (to include them in his annual toy 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. Until sometime in the 1970s the special aired without additional cuts, but eventually more commercial time was required by the network. In 1978, several sequences were deleted to make room for more advertising: the instrumental bridge from "We Are Santa's Elves" featuring the elf orchestra, additional dialogue by Burl Ives, and the "Peppermint Mine" scene resolving the fate of Yukon Cornelius. The special's 1993 restoration saw "Misfits" returned to its original film context, and the 2004 DVD release showcases "Fame and Fortune" as a separate musical number.
1998–2004 CBS telecasts
Most of the 1965 deletions were restored in 1998, and "Fame and Fortune" was replaced with the original "We're a Couple of Misfits" reprise. A short slide reading "Rankin/Bass Presents" was inserted at the beginning of the special to reflect the company's name change.
Starting in 2005, CBS began using the footage of the "Fame and Fortune" scene with the soundtrack replaced by a rather hastily edited version of "We're a Couple of Misfits". The special has also been edited to make more time for commercial advertising.
2019–present Freeform broadcast edit
In May 2019, it was announced that Freeform will air the special as part of their annual 25 Days of Christmas line-up for the first time, alongside Frosty the Snowman. The agreement was later revealed not to be an exclusive rights agreement, as CBS retained their broadcast rights to air the special twice under a separate license with Classic Media/Universal. CBS still shows the version they have had since 2005, while Freeform's airings reinsert much of the material deleted or changed from CBS' broadcasts, such as the original version of "We're a Couple of Misfits" as well as the "Peppermint Mine" scene, making it the first time that the latter scene has been seen on television since the original broadcast. Freeform's print of the special also has the 2012 Universal Pictures logo preceding the film, due to their purchase of Classic Media's owner, DreamWorks Animation, in 2016.
When Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was first released on VHS and LaserDisc by Family Home Entertainment under license from Broadway Video from 1989 to 1996 under the Christmas Classics Series label, the 1965 rebroadcast print described above was used. It got re-released in 1997 by Family Home Entertainment under license from Golden Books Family Entertainment. It used the same print, but with the GBFE logo at the end instead of the Broadway Video logo. 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 1964 NBC broadcast (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, the special was re-released on VHS by Sony Wonder under license from Golden Books Family Entertainment. In 1999, the special was released for the first time on DVD by the two companies. In 2010, the special was released for the first time on Blu-ray by Vivendi Entertainment. This edit has been made available in original color form by former rights holders Classic Media, (which in 2012 became the DreamWorks Classics division of DreamWorks Animation, and finally in 2016, part of Universal Pictures) As previously mentioned, this is also the version that had previously aired on CBS, albeit in edited form to accommodate more commercial time. In November 2014, they re-released the special on a 50th anniversary edition on Blu-ray and DVD. The same 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition was released with a exclusive storybook; this was only sold at Walmart. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment re-released the special again on DVD and Blu-ray in 2018.
The songs were written by Johnny Marks, with musical director Maury Laws composing the incidental score. In addition to songs written specifically for the film, several of Marks' other holiday standards populate the instrumental score, among them "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day". Many of the songs are utilized in the score as musical themes for recurring characters and ideas, such as "Silver and Gold" (for Yukon Cornelius), "Jingle, Jingle, Jingle" (Santa) and "There's Always Tomorrow". Some of these themes are modified for dramatic purposes, particularly those of the Abominable Snow Monster, who has several interwoven themes; a primary motif, indicated by brass and an F minor key; a modulating chase theme led by tack piano; a tritonal attack theme combining the latter two; and finally the deleted song "The Abominable Snow Monster", which is alluded to melodically during a scene in the Abominable's cave. None of the film's original score has ever been released.
In 1964, an LP record of the soundtrack was released on Decca Records. It contained different mixes of 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 remixed soundtrack selections while tracks 10-19 are the same songs performed by the Decca Concert 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.
Ives re-recorded "A Holly Jolly Christmas", with different arrangements, for the song's 1964 single release.[note 1] This version, along with a similarly newly-recorded version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer", was released the following year on his 1965 album Have a Holly Jolly Christmas.
Books and other items related to the show have in some cases misspelled "Hermey" as "Herbie". Rick Goldschmidt, who wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Making of the Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic, says the scripts by Romeo Muller show the spelling to be "Hermey".
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, 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.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer received an approval rating of 95% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on thirteen reviews, with an average rating of 9.37/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a yule-tide gem that bursts with eye-popping iconography, a spirited soundtrack, and a heart-warming celebration of difference." In December 2018, a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll which surveyed 2,200 adults from Nov. 15–18, 2018, named Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer the most beloved holiday film, with 83 percent of respondents having a generally favorable response to the title.
The Rankin/Bass special inspired numerous television sequels made by the same studio:
- Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), a special that first aired on ABC and is still aired annually on both ABC and Freeform.
- Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979), a feature-length special that paired Rudolph with the song-inspired character Frosty the Snowman.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys (2001), a direct-to-video computer-animated film. Released by a team that produced an unrelated Rudolph movie in 1998, neither Rankin/Bass or its descendant companies had any involvement in its production.
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - 4D Attraction (2016), A faithful, 10-minute stop motion story adaptation in the form of a 4D film for SimEx-Iwerks; produced by Bent Image Lab and directed by Chel White.
- T.E.A.M. Rudolph and the Reindeer Games (2018), a short film adaptation of the book of the same name was featured on the original film's 2018 Blu-ray release.
In popular culture
The television special's familiarity to American audiences through its annual rebroadcasts, along with its primitive stop-motion animation that is easy to recreate with modern technology and the special's ambiguous copyright status, has lent itself to numerous parodies and homages 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 MADtv aired "Raging Rudolph", which also parodied Martin Scorsese's films. In it, Sam The Snowman narrates in a Joe Pesci-like voice how Rudolph and Hermey got violent Mafia-style revenge on their tormentors. This was followed by two sequels: "The Reinfather", spoofing The Godfather trilogy and "A Pack of Gifts Now", spoofing Apocalypse Now.
- A 2001 episode of That '70s Show, titled "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.
- In the stop-motion animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), 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.
- Chel White, of Bent Image Lab, directed two parodies that played on Saturday Night Live', on Robert Smigel's TV Funhouse:
- In a 2001 TV Funhouse episode, Sam the Snowman refuses 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.
- In 2004, TV Funhouse referenced 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.
- In 2004, for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer'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 the General Electric-sponsored broadcast.
- In November 2007, the Aflac insurance company released a commercial that featured Rudolph, who has a cold but does not want to miss work. All his friends say he will be unable to pay for his expenses. Santa then tells them about Aflac. Charlie wonders what will happen if Rudolph 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.
- 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's.) The toy airplane replies: "You're gonna fit right in here!" and falls on the ground laughing.
- Starting in 2011, there have been several Bing.com commercials, 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 features Bumble the Abominable Snowman (with his full set of teeth), speed-dating and getting advice 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.
- A 2013 commercial for Nissan shows a woman in a dealership briefly entering a fantasy, wherein Santa's Elves, including Boss Elf and Hermey, have expanded their manufacturing line to include Nissan cars. Furthermore, the Bumble makes an appearance test driving one to his obvious approval.
- CBS celebrated the special's 50th anniversary in 2014 with Rudolph and Sam the Snowman celebrating with cast members from The Big Bang Theory and NCIS while passing by their studio lots.
- In 2014, the United States Postal Service used four characters (Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, and Bumble) for the year's "Contemporary Christmas" stamp issue.
- In 2015, the Rudolph characters began appearing in commercials for AT&T with a stop-motion version of spokes-character Lily Adams.
- The 2003 live-action Will Ferrell comedy Elf pays homage to the Rudolph special with similar stop-motion animation characters interacting with live actors. The elves also wear the same distinctive red, blue, and green costume design with cone-shaped hats.
- In 2010, the comedy website CollegeHumor made a short parody video called "Rudolph The Regular Reindeer", depicting what the special would've been like if Rudolph had a normal nose.
- In the sci-fi/comedy series The Orville, during the 2017 episode "About a Girl", the character of Bortus is shown Rudolph by other crew members to make him reconsider his plans to arrange gender reassignment surgery for his newborn daughter. (Bortus's species, the Moclans, are a single-gender species who statistically produce only one female every seventy-five years, with females having no place in their society) Rudolph demonstrates to Bortus how unconventional people can accomplish great things, although Bortus humorously misinterprets part of the film's story as suggesting that Rudolph's father may have considered euthanizing his child as an anomaly.
- Christmas elf § In films and television
- List of animated feature films
- List of Christmas television specials
- List of stop-motion films
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (video game)
- List of Rankin/Bass Productions films
- None of the soundtrack's recordings were ever released as singles. Ives' 1964 single release of "A Holly Jolly Christmas", despite being released around the same time as the soundtrack, was a new recording; the one commonly heard today.
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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the nation’s longest-running and highest-rated Christmas television special 'went down in history' to receive its stamp of approval today. The set of four Limited Edition Forever stamps depicting Rudolph, Hermey, Santa and Bumble were created from still television frames from the special which premiered 50 years ago in 1964.
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Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps. The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps.
- Wolski, C.A. "A Surreal Christmas Story". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 20, 2009.
- . December 14, 2010 https://web.archive.org/web/20110329135147/http://www.collegehumor.com/video/6366134/rudolph-the-regular-reindeer. Archived from the original on March 29, 2011. Missing or empty
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