50 years ago on December 6th, 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first aired on TV for families to enjoy at home. It’s tradition that has kept on going every year since and I’m sure we all share memories of watching Rudolph learn a valuable lesson about being himself. So let’s shed a little light (pardon my pun) on the history of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!
50 years seems like a long time right?
Turns out it is because Rudolph is the longest running Christmas special on TV! Here’s to 50 more years!
Where did the story come from?
The special premiered in 1964 but it was actually created back in 1939 when Robert L. May wrote the story for a children’s book. The department store, Montgomery Ward, gave away 2.5 million copies of the book that year.
Burl Ives Almost Wasn’t:
Sam the Snowman wasn’t a thing until the studios decided they needed a well-known name to attach to the project. Sam’s songs were originally meant to be sung by Yukon Cornelius, the ambitious treasure hunter. Larry Mann (voice of Yukon) originally did the narration but it has never been heard.
Just How Small Were the Puppets?
Rudolph himself was only 4- inches tall so when he is matched up against the Bumble (who was 14-inches tall) it looks genuinely frightening.
How Realistic Can It Be?
Aside from it being a story about a glowing nosed reindeer who helps Santa travel, visits an island where toys are alive, and conquers the abominable snow man; it does have a grain of reality to it. The animators spent 2 days watching real deer interact so they could properly animate them.
The Creation of the Puppets:
Over 200 puppets were hand carved for the production and all of the characters were made with joints to look more lifelike.
What made the baby doll a misfit?
It’s obvious as to why the toys on the island were all misfits, except one. It’s hard to figure out why the doll was on the misfit island, some think it’s because she has no nose. Creator Arthur Rankin cleared it up and told us that the doll is depressed and feels unlovable. So there you go, real life issues were being taught to children in the form of a cute reindeer story!
Outraged Fans Bring Back The Misfit Toys:
Unless you saw the original airing of Rudolph in 1964 you probably didn’t know Rudolph and his gang never went back to the island to visit the toys. Fans wrote angry letters to the studio and in 1965 they included a new scene where the misfit toys are delivered to new families.
Rudolph Was Filmed in Japan:
Obviously Japan has had a corner on the market for animation for decades but it turns out they also aided in American animation as well! Rudolph was filmed in Japan along with other Rankin/Bass stop-motion classics.
Puppet Restoration In 2007:
In 2007 the original puppets of young Rudolph and Santa Claus were rapidly falling apart. Santa was missing half his mustache and Rudolph was missing his nose (his nose!) Their new owner spent $4,000 on restoring them to mint condition by animation studio Screen Novelties International.
Gene Autry Didn’t Want The Song:
Gene Autry, who recorded the original song, didn’t want to do it. His wife convinced him to do it and lucky for them she did. The song went on to be the second best-selling Christmas song of all time, second to Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”?