Dec 1, 2014

Review: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1948)

Today is December 1st and that marks the beginning of my annual Christmas movie marathon until the end of the month. It might go on a bit longer with New Year's still pretty much being part of the holiday, but we'll see. It's a month where I get to see the best and the worst of the Christmas movies that are out there as well as also testing my patience. Let's hope I can live through this and still hold onto at least a smidgeon of Christmas spirit by the end.

Pretty much anyone who celebrates Christmas and watches TV is familiar with the Rankin/Bass Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1964 right? You can practically forget the existence of any other Rudolph movies all because of it, which is a bit unfair. It would appear that this 1948 version is the very first Rudolph adaptation and that makes it a pretty good reason to see it. Wikipedia and IMDb list different release years though and I'm not sure who's right or wrong. Internet Archive also lists 1948 so I'm going to side with IMDb on this one.


Genre: animation, short, family
Directed by: Max Fleischer
Produced by: Max Fleischer
Written by: Joe Stultz
Music by: Samuel Benavie, James Higgins, George Kleinsinger, etc.
Running time: 9 minutes
Production company: Jam Handy Organization
Distributed by: Jam Handy Organization, Republic Pictures Home Video, Whirlwind Media, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry

Starring: Paul Wing


Rudolph the reindeer is having a tough time making friends all because of his big, red and shiny nose. He wants to be treated like everyone else and play reindeer games like all the other reindeer do. Sadly Rudolph is only laughed at and mercilessly teased. That all changes on Christmas Eve however when Santa realizes how useful Rudolph could be on what is a very foggy night. 


The short film opens to a really nice rendition of the famous Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song. The song was originally released in 1949, so that means that the copy of this short film that I watched is a reissue because the song didn't exist beforehand. That's fine though because the song has every right to be there. 

The animation to begin with looks pretty dated unfortunately. I can say that it gets better later on though, mostly because of the fact that it tries to limit the amount of more complicated animations. It's 1948 though and I can't really be all that critical. There's all the same some great use of colour that makes this look like a Christmas film. 

IMDb only lists the voice of the narrator so I have no idea who voices all the other characters. The voices are overall good except for the one scene where the other reindeer are bullying Rudolph. Some of the voice actors in that scene sound like they recorded their lines while standing across the room from the microphone. It's the only time that it happens anyway, so I guess it's not really a big deal.

The story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a bit different from the one that I'm used to, but it works just fine. It goes by very quickly though, almost the point that if you blink you might miss something important. It's set in a world populated by animals (except Santa) which is quite different to say the least. The ending is predictably satisfying though.

Despite some age-related issues, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer makes for a good short film of Rudolph's story. It's nice to see a slightly different version of the classic Christmas tale anyway and it's worthwhile to see the first effort at tackling Rudolph's famous story. It won't re-write my Christmas time must-sees, but it's an interesting view that doesn't requite a very big time investment anyway.



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