Dec 23, 2014

Review: Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

2014 is the 50th anniversary of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and it's one of those movies that is a must see for me every year around Christmas. I'm not sure how old I was when I first saw it, but like a lot of people it's one of those movies that became a huge part of my childhood. It just doesn't quite feel like Christmas if I don't catch at least a little bit of Rudolph on TV. I'm a little bothered by all the merchandising I've seen for it this year, but I guess that's just the nature of the beast. You only turn fifty once after all.

My big three every year for Christmas are Rudolph, How the Grinch Stoles Christmas! and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Again though, I really don't think I'm alone in this at all. These are some of the oldest movies continuously played every single year on TV without fail and they're bound to have lots of fans. I'm just stating the facts here. Hopefully though, it's a Christmas trio that will live forever.


Genre: animation, adventure, family
Directed by: Larry Roemer
Produced by: Arthur Rankin Jr., Jules Bass
Written by: Romeo Muller, Robert May
Music by: Johnny Marks
Running time: 55 minutes
Production company: Rankin/Bass Productions, Videocraft International, National Broadcasting Company, etc.
Distributed by: General Electric Fantasy Hour, National Broadcasting Company, Telepictures Corporation
Country: United States, Japan
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Burl Ives, Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles, Larry D. Mann, Stan Francis, Paul Kligman, Janis Orenstein, Alfie Scopp, Carl Banas, Corinne Conley, Peg Dixon



Donner (voice: Paul Kligman) oversees Mrs. Donner (Peg Dixon) give birth to his son Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards). He's already speaking but unfortunately has a very bizarre defect; a red, glowing nose. Donner decides that if Rudolph is to carve out his own place pulling Santa's (voice: Stan Francis) sleigh, he will just have to hide his nose at all times. It's an impossible task that results in Rudolph running away from home in shame, but luckily making a new friend. As an elf who enjoys dentistry instead of making toys, Hermey (voice: Paul Soles) is a misfit himself.  


Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer has this really nice tone that balances charming and funny. Burl Ives as the narrator Sam the Snowman orchestrates that aspect to perfection at the start with comfortably witty and warm dialogue. Everything from Sam's singing, to his reactions in between action is easily worth a smile and a shot of eggnog that doesn't even need to be spiked.

The stop-motion animation itself was actually all done in Japan. It's a job very well done and most of that is due to the wonderful design of the character figures. The animation actually is pretty jittery at times, but that's totally part of the charm. 

You could probably do all this much easier with CGI, but it wouldn't be the same thing anymore. It would come at the cost of the softness of the reindeer's fur for example, or the way the snow moves as Sam the Snowman walks through it. Even the way Rudolph's nose lights up with that familiar sound-effect wouldn't be the same either. Strong usage of sound is actually a big part of why Rudolph is so memorable too. I'm sure everyone remembers being terrified of Abominable's first appearance with his roar and crushingly huge footsteps that shake the frame.

The songs are what take Rudolph from great to classic status. All written by Johnny Marks, these are the kind of songs that are super easy to get into and leave you with a smile. My favourite without a doubt is "A Holly Jolly Christmas" sung by Burl Ives, but it's closely followed by "Most Wonderful Day of the Year" which is sung by the misfit toys. They're all good though and enjoyable for all ages.

The message of  Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is definitely a good one and it's one that's nicely delivered without too much melodrama or preachiness. It's about conformity and how bad it can be when it comes to people who are different. A worthwhile message if you ask me and it's definitely something that can be appreciated during the Christmas season when we should all be just a little bit nicer.

Rudolph isn't anywhere close to being knocked off its perch of being part of my guaranteed Christmas lineup. I don't know if that'll ever change even. Everything from the songs, the animation and just the overall tone is Christmas as it should be to me. Christmas might just be some magical concept that I can't really put words to inside my head, but Rudolph comes pretty close to finding those words.



Related Reviews:

Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) 

Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

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