Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV special)

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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph - 1964 ad.JPG
Promotional advertisement for the original NBC airing.
Written by Romeo Muller, Robert May
Directed by Larry Roemer
Narrated by Burl Ives
(as Sam The Snowman)
Theme music composer Johnny Marks
Country of origin United States
Production
Cinematography Tadahito Mochinaga
Running time 55 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass Productions
Release
Original network NBC (1964–1971)
CBS (1972–present)
Original release December 6, 1964
Chronology
Followed by Rudolph's Shiny New Year
External links
Website

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions and currently distributed by DreamWorks Classics. 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 1939 poem Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer written by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS, 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 on CBS. Unlike other specials that also air on several cable channels (including ABC Family), Rudolph only airs on CBS. It has been telecast every year since 1964, making it the longest running Christmas TV special in history. 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the television special[1] and a series of postage stamps featuring Rudolph was issued by the United States Postal Service on November 6, 2014.[2]

Plot[edit]

Sam the Snowman narrates the story of Rudolph, a reindeer who is born with a glowing red nose. His father, Santa's lead reindeer Donner, feels ashamed and uses a special cover to hide Rudolph's nose so Donner and his wife can send Rudolph to take-off practice a year later without Rudolph being ridiculed by the other yearlings. Meanwhile, an elf named Hermey has his own problem - he wishes to be a dentist instead of making toys. The Head Elf scolds him and tries to get him to obey, but the young elf refuses to change his interests.

A year later, Rudolph is a yearling reindeer who is sent to take-off practice to learn how to fly, with Comet as his coach. Donner still tries to hide the nature of Rudolph's nose with the cover. This causes Rudolph's voice to sound as if he had a permanent cold. Despite this, two deer befriend Rudolph. One is a little buck named Fireball, and one unnamed buck is said to be the son of Dasher. The other is a beautiful doe named Clarice. During some horseplay, Fireball inadvertently pops the cover off of Rudolph's nose. After seeing his glowing nose, the other reindeer, Fireball included, start ridiculing Rudolph; Comet denies Rudolph from being with the other reindeer as a result. Clarice is the only reindeer who still likes Rudolph and tries to comfort him. However, their musings are interrupted by Clarice's father, who forbids Clarice from being around Rudolph. Feeling outcast, Rudolph runs away into the forest.

While in the woods, Rudolph meets up with Hermey. The two bond after they discover they each have something that makes them unique. After deciding to be "independent together", they set out to seek "Fame and Fortune." After the song ends, the Abominable Snow Monster, a carnivorous monster that hates Christmas and feeds on reindeer, chases them. The two manage to escape him.

Later, they meet a prospector named Yukon Cornelius who is obsessed with finding silver and gold. The trio manages to flee to the Island of Misfit Toys, ruled by a winged lion named King Moonracer. Because they are misfits but not toys, King Moonracer allows them to spend one night on his island. Rudolph leaves the island on his own, having realized that his nose is a danger to his friends.

A few months later, Rudolph grows into a handsome young stag. He decides to return home despite being ridiculed. When Rudolph arrives back in his cave, he finds out that his parents are not there. He learns from Santa that they left to go looking for Rudolph, and Clarice went with them. Rudolph searches the North Pole and he finds his family and Clarice being held captive by the Abominable Snowman. Rudolph attempts to rescue them before Hermey and Yukon Cornelius find him and they try to help. They manage to knock out the Abominable while Hermey removes the monster's teeth, but Yukon knocks himself, his sled team, and the monster over a cliff when he stands up to the beast. The others return home, where they tell what happened to the others. Rudolph and Hermey stop being ridiculed, and the lead elf finally allows Hermey to open a dentist's office the week after Christmas. Yukon and the others, who survived, make a grand entrance with the Abominable, now reformed by Yukon. Everyone decides to keep the monster around because he can put a silver star on top of Christmas trees without a step-ladder. However, a strong blizzard is too much for Santa's team to handle, so Santa decides to cancel the Christmas Eve flight. But Rudolph's nose inspires him, and he asks Rudolph to lead his sleigh, which he agrees to. Rudolph leads the sleigh to the Island of Misfit Toys and takes the toys along the flight, where they are dropped off to their respective homes. With Rudolph leading the sleigh, it turns out to be a merry Christmas after all.

Cast of Characters[edit]

Hermey and Rudolph

Santa's Workshop[edit]

  • Billie Mae Richards voices Rudolph.[3][4]
  • Stan Francis voices Santa Claus.
  • Paul Kligman voices Donner, Coach Comet, and Clarice's unnamed father.
  • Burl Ives voices Sam the Snowman.
  • Paul Soles voices Hermey.
  • Janis Orenstein voices Clarice.
  • Larry D. Mann voices Yukon Cornelius.
  • Peg Dixon voices Mrs. Claus.
  • Carl Banas voices the Boss Elf
  • Alfie Scopp voices Fireball and the other young bucks.
  • Uncredited - The Abominable Snow Monster of the North
  • Uncredited - Tall Elf, a minor character who appears in the "We Are Santa's Elves" and "Holly Jolly Christmas" scenes. This tall, thin, and bespectacled 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.

Island of Misfit Toys[edit]

  • Stan Francis voices King Moonracer, a winged lion who rules the entire Island of Misfit Toys.
  • Alfie Scopp voices Charlie-In-The-Box, the island's sentry.
  • Carl Banas voices the Spotted Elephant, King Moonracer's footman.
  • Corinne Conley voices Dolly, a seemingly normal girl rag doll. Her misfit problem is never explained on the special; many decades later, on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! news quiz show (broadcast December 8, 2007), Rudolph's producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., noted that Dolly's problem was psychological, caused by being abandoned by her owner (named as Sue in the special) and suffering depression from feeling uncared-for.[5]
  • Carl Banas voices the other toys which includes: a bird that swims, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a train with square wheels on its caboose, two teddy bears (one on a bicycle and one with wings), a boat that doesn't float, a set of clown nesting dolls with a wind-up mouse as the last one, a water pistol that shoots jelly, a plane that can't fly, and a scooter with two wheels in front and one in back.

Production[edit]

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.[citation needed] Other than Burl Ives, all characters were portrayed by Canadian actors recorded at RCA studios in Toronto under the supervision of Bernard Cowan.[6]

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.[7]

Aftermath[edit]

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.[8] In 2007, both 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.[9]

Production credits[edit]

Different versions[edit]

Original 1964 NBC broadcast edit[edit]

This version has the NBC "living color" peacock at the introduction. It includes the original end credits, where an elf drops presents 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.[10] 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[edit]

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.

1998–2007 CBS telecasts[edit]

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. The "Peppermint Mine" scene was not restored; it has not aired on CBS since the mid 70s.

Starting in 2005, CBS airs the video of the "Fame and Fortune" scene with the soundtrack replaced by an edited version of "We're a Couple of Misfits". The special has been edited to make more time for commercial advertising by shortening some musical numbers.

2008–Present CBS telecasts[edit]

"Fame and Fortune" has once again been replaced with "We're a Couple of Misfits". Additional cuts have been made for more commercial time.

Home media[edit]

When Rudolph was first issued on VHS and LaserDisc by Family Home Entertainment and Broadway Video from 1989 to 1997 under the Christmas Classics Series label, the 1965 rebroadcast print described above was used. 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, the special was released by Sony Wonder on VHS. In 2000, it was released on DVD, and on Blu-ray Disc in 2010 (although the Blu-ray does not contain the bonus features from the previous DVD release.) This edit has been made available in original color form by former rights holders Classic Media,[11] (which in 2012 became the DreamWorks Classics division of DreamWorks Animation)[12] As previously mentioned, this is also the version currently airing on CBS, albeit in edited form to accommodate more commercial time. In November 2014, Classic Media released a 50th anniversary edition of the special on Blu-ray.[13] Walmart released an exclusive 50th anniversary Blu-ray edition with a storybook.

Soundtrack[edit]

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 on Decca Records. 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 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 "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "A Holly Jolly Christmas", with different arrangements, for his own album Have a Holly Jolly Christmas in 1965.[14]

Merchandise[edit]

Books and other items related to the show have in some cases misspelled "Hermey" as "Herbie". Rich 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".[15]

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.[16]

Sequels[edit]

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

Parodies of, and homages to, Rudolph[edit]

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[edit]

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",[17] 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",[18] spoofing The Godfather trilogy and "A Pack of Gifts Now",[19] 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.

Other parodies of Rudolph[edit]

Uses in advertising[edit]

  • In 1964, Rankin & Bass produced several commercials for the General Electric-sponsored broadcast.[20]
  • 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.[21]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • In 2014, the United States Postal Service used four characters (Rudolph, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, and Bumble) for the year's "Contemporary Christmas" stamp issue.[2][22]
  • In 2015, the Rudolph characters began appearing in commercials for AT&T with a stop-motion version of spokes-character Lily Adams.

Copyright issues[edit]

The copyright of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special lies in a gray area of federal copyright law. When the recording was originally published, the date of copyright (published in Roman numerals) was accidentally listed as 1164 (MCLXIV), omitting an M that should have been present (1964 in Roman numerals is MCMLXIV); this mistake was not corrected with subsequent edits and remains on televised prints to this day.[23] The original story and soundtrack remain separately copyrighted, and U.S. copyright law does allow for some leeway for non-substantial errors; thus, the special is generally not considered to be in the public domain and permission is still required to redistribute the special. (The extensive derivative works seen in popular culture are likely a byproduct of this uncertain copyright status.)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer celebrates 50th anniversary". CBS News. December 9, 2014. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Rudolph all red-nosed over stamp of approval". United States Postal Service. November 6, 2014. Archived from the original on December 24, 2014. 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. 
  3. ^ Young, John (September 14, 2010). "Billie Mae Richards, voice of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, dies at 88". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. 
  4. ^ Ford, Don (November 19, 2010). "'Rudolph' remembered". My View. Halton, Ontario: InsideHalton.com. Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Not My Job". Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me!. NPR. 2007-12-08. Arthur Rankin, Jr. 
  6. ^ Braithwaite, Dennis, "Canadian voices", The Globe and Mail, December 8, 1964, p. 31.
  7. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (December 19, 2012). "Mailbag: A Rudolph restoration, departed 'Partners,' more". Akron Beacon-Journal. Retrieved December 21, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Rudolph & Santa Characters from 'Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer'". Antiques Roadshow. PBS. May 15, 2006. Archived from the original on December 2, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2011. 
  9. ^ Goodman, Brenda (2006-12-23). "Rudolph and Santa, as Good as New". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ YouTube video of original bumpers and commercials from the 1964 NBC telecast of Rudolph
  11. ^ TV Party.com: Rudolph--Behind The Scenes, Part II, by Rick Goldschmidt
  12. ^ Lieberman, David (July 23, 2012). "DreamWorks Animation Agrees To Pay $155M For Classic Media". Deadline.com. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  13. ^ "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. August 19, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  14. ^ Torreano, Bradley. "Have a Holly Jolly Christmas - Burl Ives". AllMusic. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Ask SAM: 'It's a Wonderful Life' pre-empted by 'Sound of Music Live'". Winston-Salem Journal. 20 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  16. ^ Steimer, Kristine (December 15, 2010). "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Review". IGN. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  17. ^ "Raging Rudolph". Video.
  18. ^ "The Reinfather". Video.
  19. ^ "A Pack of Gifts Now". Video.
  20. ^ "General Electric Rankin Bass Rudolph Commercials (1964)". YouTube. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  21. ^ Aflac - Rudolph. 
  22. ^ "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer". United States Postal Service. November 6, 2014. Archived from the original on December 4, 2014. Art director Greg Breeding designed the stamps. The Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stamps are being issued as Forever® stamps. 
  23. ^ Heldenfels, Rich (19 December 2013). "Mailbag: 'Rudolph' numerals wrong in opening credits". Akron Beacon-Journal. 

External links[edit]