Welcome to the Rotoscopers’ Twelve Days of Christmas! Every day until Christmas Eve, we’ll be taking a look at a holiday-themed piece of animation. Check back each day for a new review!
This holiday season, why don’t we pop in a movie about abandonment, bullying, and fighting psychotic monsters while catchy tunes play in the background? Let us watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; a beloved stop-motion Christmas classic that is really weird to look back on as a (sort of) adult.
The film begins with Sam the Snowman, voiced by the incredible Burl Ives, who tells the viewer all about Christmastown, Santa, and Rudolph. We then pan to a cave in which an adorable fawn was just born, although with the slight defect of a red and shiny nose. When Santa comes in to meet the fawn to see if he will one day be able to pull his sleigh, he balks at the sight of Rudolph’s nose and progresses to sing a song about how he will never be good enough. Never mind the fact that Rudolph was only born like 8 seconds ago and he now wants to put him to work- Santa is bullying this poor baby reindeer. Bullying this baby so much that the father immediately works to cover up and shame his son’s defect. And then, when others do happen to discover his “non-conformity,” they immediately shame Rudolph so much that he feels the only solution is to run away from home. Wowza.
This film is interesting in that it is a Christmas movie that focuses on misfits and how it is okay to be different, rather than making love or generosity the big morals of the story. The movie shows that you should never conform, but should instead should learn how to use your differences as strengths, and you should never let naysayers pull you down. Instead, you can prove them wrong just by being yourself. These are all morals that I didn’t pick up on until I was a little older and not so focused on the amazing tunes or adorable reindeer. These deep meanings surprised me in an age we are so focused on recognizing the wrongs of bullying.
Meanings and morals aside, this is a great film (as long as I get to exclude Santa, who I am convinced is the real villain of this story. But that’s just my opinion, which is definitely in the minority.) We get a host of colorful characters that help to propel the story further, and they are all enhanced by the stop-motion magic of Rankin/Bass to really make them come to life.
We get the brave and selfless Rudolph (a much bigger person than I would be) who helps Santa and the other reindeer, in spite of being basically kicked out from Christmastown as a fawn, and who fights monsters and is willing to do anything to help protect his friends.
Hermey, the elf who wants to do nothing but be a dentist, is sweet and willingly takes the young reindeer under his wing as a fellow misfit. Plus, he rips out all of the Bumble’s teeth, which is pretty cool.
My personal favorite, Yukon Cornelius, is hysterical, with his search for gold – no wait, silver – and his pack of mismatched dogs.
There is Clarice, who is perhaps the only nice reindeer in all of Christmastown. Good for you, Clarice.
Then, we get the Island of Misfit Toys, which holds a host of weird and random defects that makes the toys unloved (I had to look up what was wrong with Dolly, who seemed perfectly fine and normal to me. Turns out, her problems are psychological from being abandoned and she is, therefore, depressed and has low self-esteem. This movie is really deep.) I read that the final scene, in which Rudolph goes back for the misfit toys, was never included in the original movie in spite of his promises. Kids watching were so horrified that they wrote in and asked for a change in the plot and the new ending of Santa delivering the misfit toys has been shown ever since.
And then, we get the Abominable Snow Monster, who terrorizes the gang and is the real villain of the film, at least until Yukon reforms this Bumble and gives him new employment putting stars on top of Christmas trees.
We are lead through the entire experience by Sam the Snowman, who sings beautiful songs to make these dark themes a little more palatable for children and who is the real driving force in narrating the plot.
Even fifty years later, this film still holds up as being a truly great Christmas film. You get some really great one-liners, such as, “bumbles bounce!” and the stop-motion is sweet and endearing. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer only continues to get more interesting as you get older and realize just how deep this movie gets. In spite of evil Santa, this is perhaps one of the most beloved Christmas specials to date, and it is easy to see why.
Be sure to catch all the entries thus far in our 12 Days of Christmas Celebration:
What do you like about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes