Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (TV special)

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Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
File: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
Cinematography Tadahito Mochinaga
Running time 55 minutes
Production company(s) Rankin/Bass Productions
Original network NBC (1964–1971)
CBS (1972-present)
Original release December 6, 1964
Followed by Rudolph's Shiny New Year
External links

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]


Sam the Snowman opens the special. He welcomes the viewers to Christmastown and begins to regale the viewers with a tale of a young reindeer and his glowing red nose.

The wife of Donner the reindeer has just delivered a male fawn. They decide his legal name will be Rudolph, and they are surprised that he possesses a glowing red nose. Santa Claus arrives to meet the new fawn and is surprised by his glowing nose as well; he makes it known that Rudolph will not pull his sleigh if this trait continues into adulthood. Donner attempts to rectify the situation by placing a dirt cover on Rudolph's nose, to make it appear normal.

A year later, Rudolph's parents take him out to the reindeer games where Rudolph, along with all of the other young bucks, will be trained to fly and pull Santa's sleigh when they get older. There, Rudolph meets a friendly reindeer named Fireball, and they quickly become friends. The pair then sees a group of does, including one named Clarice, who seems to be attracted to Rudolph; Fireball encourages Rudolph to speak with her. After the two introduce each other, Clarice tells Rudolph he is cute causing him to perform a dazzling leap into the air and fly. However, when Rudolph and Fireball engage in celebratory play, the cover pops off Rudolph's nose and unveils his "non-conformity", scaring Fireball and ending their friendship. All of the others then make fun of Rudolph's nose, and he is not allowed into any more reindeer games. Clarice, the only reindeer not the least bit bothered by Rudolph's secret, catches up with the sulking Rudolph to try to comfort him. However, Clarice's father comes and forbids her to hang around with Rudolph.

Meanwhile, an elf named Hermey dreams of becoming a dentist rather than making toys. The head elf becomes outraged at Hermey's persistent obsession with dentistry, which is interfering with his work as an elf and threatening his position. Eventually Hermey and Rudolph meet and, noting that they are both misfits in their respective societies, decide to team up and run away together.

Along the way, they meet a cheerful and boisterous prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who dreams of discovering silver and gold, before the trio bumps into the Abominable Snow Monster (the Bumble, for short) who is attracted to Rudolph's nose. Escaping on an iceberg, they arrive on the Island of Misfit Toys, where unwanted toys live with a winged lion named King Moonracer, until he can find homes for them. The king agrees to let them stay for one night, in exchange for a promise that as soon as they return to Christmastown, they will ask Santa to deliver the Misfit Toys to children who need them. However, Rudolph decides to leave the island alone, knowing that his nose will endanger his friends.

Rudolph grows older and drifts from place to place, making and losing friends as he is continually rejected for his glowing nose. Eventually deciding to go home, he returns to the North Pole two days before Christmas to find that his peers continue to mock him, and his parents, along with Clarice, had left to search for him months ago. Rudolph then sets out to find his family and discovers that they have been captured by the Bumble, who plans to eat them. After a brief fight, Rudolph is knocked unconscious. Fortunately, Hermey and Yukon arrive, and hatch a rescue plan. Luring the monster out of the cave, the pair knock the Bumble unconscious with a boulder and extract his teeth. Rudolph awakens, but he and his family are blocked from their escape by the also awakened beast who is now toothless. Yukon boldly chases the Bumble from the cave entrance to a cliff, driving them both off the edge. Mourning Yukon's assumed death, Rudolph, the Donners, Clarice, and Hermey nonetheless return home, where everyone apologizes for the way they acted while the travelers relate their adventure.

Santa promises Rudolph that he'll find homes for all the Misfit Toys, the Elf Foreman agrees to let Hermey open his own dentist's office a week after Christmas. Even Donner apologizes to Rudolph for being critical about his nose. During the celebration, Yukon returns with a tamed Bumble, now a kinder and gentler monster, and thus reveals he survived because as he states "bumbles bounce!" However, a huge blizzard blows in, which threatens to cancel Santa's flight. While announcing the news to the elves and reindeer, Santa notices Rudolph's gleaming nose and decides that its light could cut through the storm. With Rudolph leading the sleigh team, Santa and his reindeer fly off to the island where the Misfit Toys, still grieving about being left out and unloved, are cheered up when Santa and Rudolph arrive to pick them up. The special ends with Santa wishing the viewers a merry Christmas as he and Rudolph fly off into the night.

Cast of Characters

Hermey and Rudolph

Santa's Workshop

  • 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

  • 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.


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]


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 the 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

Different versions

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 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

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

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

"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

File:Rudolph 50th blu ray cover.png
50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray cover

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.


1995 CD cover

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]


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]


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

Parodies of, and homages to, Rudolph

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",[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

Uses in advertising

  • 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 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

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 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.[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


  1. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer celebrates 50th anniversary". CBS News. December 9, 2014. Archived from the original on December 10, 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "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: 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 Rudolph--Behind The Scenes, Part II, by Rick Goldschmidt
  12. Lieberman, David (July 23, 2012). "DreamWorks Animation Agrees To Pay $155M For Classic Media". Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 9, 2015. 
  13. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary Collector's Edition Blu-ray". 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