The countdown of my favorite Christmas movies/specials/TV shows continues with a story filmed in a style that would become synonymous with holiday specials. Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass (Rankin and Bass) brought a song to life and created one of the most beloved shows to ever hit the airwaves. An annual staple, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is usually one of the first Christmas specials to air each year.
Filmed in what I affectionately call super marionation (think Stingray and Thunderbirds, or um, Team America: World Police), although I think it’s more stop-motion than anything else, Rudolph is one of the most endearing holiday specials ever made because of the animation style, the music, the voice performances, and the characters. We just won’t discuss that the reindeer actually look like white-tailed deer. The show aired for the first time on December 6, 1964.
Johnny Marks originally wrote the song and Gene Autry turned it into a No. 1 hit in 1949. Mark’s brother-in-law Robert L. May wrote the original story in 1939. Burl Ives lent his voice to the TV special as Sam the Snowman and he also sings Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Silver and Gold, and A Holly Jolly Christmas.
10. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – 1964
We all know the story. Rudolph is born with a birth defect and rather than cherish his son, Donner decides to hide the affliction. Eventually, Rudolph’s honker is discovered and the other reindeer proceed to discriminate against him. They bully and exclude him because he is different. Even Santa Claus is guilty here.
One doe, Clarice, accepts Rudolph for who he is but it’s not enough to keep Rudolph from striking out with Hermie, an elf who’d rather be a dentist. They end up on the Island of Misfit Toys. Eventually, they make their way back to Christmastown and Rudolph’s affliction turns out to be just what everyone needs as the storm of the century threatens to cause the cancellation of Christmas. Santa asks Rudolph to guide his sleigh through the storm.
So, the lesson here is we have no use for you if you’re different – make yourself useful and we have a place for you?!? The older I get, the more of a humanist I become. You know what? We are really all the same. We should all be treated equally. I think that’s the overarching message here, it’s just a little ham-handed. It makes the right point, it just takes a roundabout way to get there.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the show. I watch it every year. It wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t. The characters are endearing – Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius, Hermie, Clarice, and even the Abominable Snowman. The music is wonderful and many of the songs have become beloved Christmas classics that stand on their own apart from the show.