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Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: a childhood favorite for many a decade and a cultural classic

Updated on December 16, 2011

A skinny St. Nick. An elf who wants to be a dentist. A bouncing bumble boy. An island of toys nobody wanted. In Rankin/Bass' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolph is hardly the only odd thing you'll find.

And that's what's great about it.

When we think of Rudolph, we often think first of either this made-for-TV special or the song that it uses as inspiration. But Rudolph started as a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward. In 1947, it was turned into a cartoon short by Max Fleischer. The song came along later and was first publicly sung (on the radio) by Harry Brannon in November 1949, shortly before Gene Autry released a version on November 25.

The stop-motion special that we all know came around in 1964 and has been growing in popularity for decades now.

Narrated by Sam the Snowman (voice of Burl Ives), the story follows the old song very closely, with a large break in the middle where, after Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards) has been ridiculed and made fun of, he runs off on an adventure where he meets new friends, runs for his life, and finds that it's not that bad being different.

The songs are bright and cheerful (with one or two exceptions where they're going for something a bit more heart-felt) and the film makers have taken some great creative liberties with the story.

There's not much more to say about this one. Over the years it's become more than simply a Christmas special. It's been taken in as a real holiday classic in just about every sense of the word.

And this one has Rankn/Bass creativity at its finest.

Who would have thought up the Island of Misfit Toys? And the Abominable Snowman is completely new to the story. But they add real texture to the world where the film is set.

It's a wonderful classic of the season.

For me, this one gets an 8 / 10.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been rated TV-G and is fine for all audiences


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