When I was a kid my dad would always sing me two songs as lullabies. They were Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. How could I not like the specials after this? But of the two, Frosty is better. More on that next time.
I know there’s a lot of backlash directed at this one… particularly on Cracked.com, but I think a lot of what’s criticized is what makes the special good. Interestingly, though, what I would criticize the special about (its sexism) is rarely brought up when people bash it.
Anyway… Rudolph is born to the Donners at Christmastown, North Pole, and is ostracized because of his funny nose. Hermey the only blond, not bald male elf is also ostracized for wanting to become a dentist rather than a toy-maker. The two misfits decide to be independent together and fleeing the Abominable Snow Monster of the North meet the awesome Yukon Cornelius and his dogs. They wind up on the Island of Misfit Toys, where they cannot stay because living things cannot hide like toys. Eventually they defeat the Monster, and everyone reconciles their differences. Even the toys get a new home. It’s a truly merry Christmas.
Now I’ll address some of the complaints. One is the Santa in this special is very crotchety and sides with Rudolph’s detractors at first. This a problem… but the show treats it like just that. If even Santa Claus is subject to prejudice then we get a sense of how badly the status-quo needs to change. It also makes their victory of being accepted greater.
Another complaint I hear a lot is about the Island of Misfit Toys. I always got the impression that they were store-bought toys, not made by the elves. That’s why it was so urgent that Santa find them good homes. He knows toys and is not subject to the same error as Uncle John who thought a Charlie-in-the-Box was a good idea. But he’s not above mistakes himself… it’s a little reassuring, isn’t it?
Then there’s the animation. I realize that the Rankin/Bass style is not for everyone, but it suits the subject matter. The figures look like toys, so what’s better than that for the North Pole? They even rather resemble claymation, which is loved when applied to Halloween. Why knock it at Christmas?
So, yes, Rudolph might not be perfect, but it’s still one of the great specials, and a happy birthday to it!