Fifty-six years ago today, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer aired for the first time on NBC. The stop-motion special quickly became a holiday classic.
Title: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Based on: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Johnny Marks
Written by: Romeo Muller
Directed by: Larry Roemer, Kizo Nagashima (associate director)
Narrated by: Burl Ives
Composer: Johnny Marks
Country of origin: United States
Original language: English
Producers: Arthur Rankin, Jr., Jules Bass (co-producer)
Cinematography: Tadahito Mochinaga
Running time: 55 minutes
Production company: Videocraft International
Original Network: NBC
Original Release: December 6, 1964
Followed by: Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)
Sam the Snowman welcomes the viewers to Christmastown at the North Pole and introduces Santa and Mrs. Claus who live in a castle located left of the Christmas Tree Forest. Later on, Sam recalls the year Christmas was almost cancelled due to a big snowstorm and how a very special reindeer saved the day.
Donner, Santa’s lead reindeer, and his wife have given birth to a new fawn named Rudolph. Upon admiring him, they are surprised to see that he has been born with a glowing red nose. When Santa arrives, he warns Donner that Rudolph will not make the sleigh team because of his nose. So, Donner decides to hide it by covering it with mud so Rudolph will fit in with the other reindeer.
One year later, Rudolph goes out to the reindeer games, where the new fawns will be inspected by Santa to pull the sleigh when they grow up. During flight practice, Rudolph meets a beautiful doe named Clarice, who tells him he is cute, making Rudolph fly. However, while celebrating with the other bucks, Rudolph’s fake nose pops off, causing the other reindeer to mock him and Coach Comet to expel him. He then meets Hermey, an elf who ran away from Santa’s workshop because he wanted to be a dentist instead of making toys, so they run away together. They then meet a prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who has searched his whole life long to find silver and gold, but never does. After escaping the Abominable Snow Monster of the North, they crash land on the Island of Misfit Toys where unloved or unwanted toys live with their ruler, a winged lion named King Moonracer who brings the toys to the island until he can find homes and children who will love them. The king allows them to stay one night on the island until they can tell Santa to find homes for them by Christmas when they get home. However, Rudolph leaves the island on his own, still worried that his nose will endanger his friends.
Time passes and Rudolph grows into a young stag, still enduring mockery from others. He returns home to find that his parents and Clarice have been looking for him for months. He sets out once again to locate them and finds them all cornered in a cave by the snow monster. Rudolph tries to save Clarice, but the monster hits him in the head with a stalactite. A few minutes later, Hermey and Yukon return and try to save Rudolph. Hermey, oinking like a pig, lures the monster out of the cave and pulls out all his teeth after Yukon knocks him out. Yukon then drives the toothless monster back, only to fall over the cliff.
Mourning Yukon’s presumed death, Rudolph, Hermey, Clarice, and the Donners return home where everyone apologizes to them. After hearing their story, Santa promises Rudolph that he will find homes for the Misfit Toys, the Head Elf tells Hermey that he can open his own dentist’s office a week after Christmas, and Donner apologizes for being hard on Rudolph. Yukon returns with a tamed snow monster, now trained to trim a Christmas tree, explaining that the snow monster’s bouncing ability spared their lives. Christmas Eve comes and while everybody is celebrating, Santa reluctantly announces that the big snowstorm won’t subside in time, and has forced him to cancel Christmas, but is soon inspired by Rudolph’s red nose. He asks Rudolph to lead the sleigh. Rudolph accepts and they fly off to the island where the Misfit Toys, sad about being left alone and unloved, are suddenly cheered up when Santa arrives to pick them up.
Santa wishes everyone a merry Christmas as he and Rudolph fly off into the night.