Jan 1, 2015

Review: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)

Most people are probably only familiar with the 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and don't even know that there's a sequel. There are actually several. Rankin Jr. and Bass were smart businessmen though who had every reason to capitalize on the big deal that Rudolph became. To be honest though, I think that Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. were a bit too late with this one. Twelve years is way too long to expect to catch lightning in a bottle again.

I'm not sure when Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer became so ingrained in popular culture, but there probably wasn't any room left for another Rudolph TV movie, even if it was centered around New Year's. Still, I originally watched Rudolph's Shiny New Year last year around New Year's and I was really intrigued to see how it would be. It helps that Billie Mae Richards was back again as the voice of Rudolph, but unfortunately she's the only returning cast-member.

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Genre: animation, family, fantasy
Directed by: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Produced by: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Written by: Romeo Muller
Music by: Johnny Marks
Running time: 50 minutes
Production company: Rankin/Bass Productions
Distributed by: American Broadcasting Company, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, Lightning Video, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Red Skelton, Billie Mae Richards, Morey Amsterdam, Frank Gorshin, Paul Frees, Don Messick, Harold Peary, Iris Rainer

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Synopsis


After Rudolph (voice: Billie Mae Richards) successfully saves Christmas due to his shiny red nose, Santa has another task for him: save New Year's. His friend Father Time (voice: Red Skelton) is in a pickle since Happy the Baby New Year has run away due to everyone laughing at his over-sized ears. If Happy isn't found, time will forever be stuck on December 31st. 

Review


Rudolph's Shiny New Year is a completely different production compared to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer when it comes to animation. To be honest, it isn't as charming as RtRNR and it does seem to be of lesser quality. All the same, it's not too bad I guess and it does make for some pleasant watching as opposed to CG animation. One thing however that is completely infuriating is the inclusion of a scene which is a reenactment of the events of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Probably to avoid comparison to the original, this scene isn't done in stop-motion animation, but in cel animation and boy does it looks out of place.  

Comparing the crews of both Rudolph movies reveals that there are some crucial people who make a return. Johnny Marks is back for the songs and soundtrack and Romeo Muller is back for writing duties. That looks to be a great thing but for whatever reason, RSNY disappoints in both of these aspects. The story honestly sounds like it's being made up as it goes along and the songs are quite forgettable compared to RtRNR. The only one I suppose that makes any headway is "Have a Hap-Hap-Happy New Year" and no, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" doesn't really count.

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer benefited mightily from Burl Ives' voice as Sam the Snowman. Red Skelton plays the same sort of role as Father Time, also contributing to the narration of the story. Skelton is good, but he's no Burl Ives. He also doesn't have the same great lines that Ives had either.  

It's definitely nice having Billie Mae Richards back as Rudolph though who teams up with all sorts of different characters. Would you ever think you'd see Rudolph going on an adventure with a caveman, a knight, a whale and get this, Benjamin Franklin?!? Not to mention being chased by a giant vulture named Aeon the Terrible who will turn into ice and snow if Happy succeeds Father Time.

Too bad Aeon the Terrible makes for a pretty poor villain compared to the Abominable Snow Monster. That's a comparison that's just too easy to make. His squawking is pretty hard on the ears to be honest and the awkward animation just makes him look like a flying joke. (Spoilers) Not only that, but the resolution with Aeon laughing so hard because of Happy's ears is a bit too happy for me. Rudolph claims that the warmth of his laughter will ensure that he'll never turn into ice and snow now once Happy succeeds. All I wanted was to see him turn into a block of ice so I wouldn't hear him anymore. Oh well, this is a kid's program after all. (End Spoilers)

So is Rudolph's Shiny New Year a terrible movie? It isn't really, but it's hard not to be disappointed when you compare it to Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. All the cute charm it had with the songs and the animation is gone with only this weird charm to take its place. While it's kind of amusing to see Rudolph hang out with all these ridiculous characters who have some funny lines once in a while, it isn't really enough to make RSNY a must-see at New Year's like RtRNR is at Christmas.

Rating


5.5/10

Related Reviews:

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)