TV special review: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

This stop motion animation is a must-see every Christmas season. While I was growing up, the major networks always showed it. And I would look forward to seeing it.

This classic continues to enchant. In some respects, the dialogue and social norms in the Christmas special are dated. When Rudolph’s mom and girlfriend want to join in the search for Rudolph who has gone AWOL, Rudolph’s dad barks, “No, this is man’s work!” (Rudolph’s mom and girlfriend set out on their own anyway.) Or at the end of the search and subsequent rescue, the men in the party decide that they need “to get the womenfolk back to town.” Lines like that are good for a laugh.

But in other respects, the Christmas special is timeless. Its message about tolerance and accepting differences in others still resonates. Hermey the elf wants to be a dentist, a desire for which he is ridiculed and berated. He is expected to conform to being an elf and doing elf things.

Rudolph is jeered at and ostracized by his peers and is an embarrassment to his dad. Even Santa rejects Rudolph because of his nose (until the nose comes in handy leading Santa’s sleigh through a heavy storm. Yeah, Santa is a jerk.)

Hermey and Rudolph run away separately but encounter each other and decide to “be independent together”. They meet a prospector, Yukon Cornelius, who accepts them. Together the three of them stumble across the Isle of Misfit Toys, which is inhabited by toys that are a bit outside of the norm and thus unloved by children. (“A toy is never truly happy until it is loved by a child.”)

In the end, everyone comes around. They not only accept Hermey and Rudolph for their non-conformities, but even celebrate them to a certain extent. (It is amazing how quickly they all drop their prejudices and scorn for those different than themselves.)

My favorites in the movie are Yukon Cornelius and Bumbles. Cornelius is such a blustery outdoorsman, very open and warm with strangers he meets who are in need. And Bumbles…he is a cuddly Abominable Snowman who only wants to be accepted by the elves, the Clauses, et al. after being tamed through Hermey removing his teeth.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a true classic, to be watched and enjoyed year after year. Now, if only I could find me a stuffed Bumbles….

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