AVAHS – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Rankin/Bass)

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose. And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows. All of the other reindeer used to laugh and call him names. They never—you’ve heard the song before. Don’t act like you haven’t.

Breakdown: I was on the fence about doing this review because, while I do watch this special every year like many people, it’s a time honored classic that’s just hard to review. So let’s look at this objectively and see what problems there are with this story.

Donner, one of Santa’s flying reindeer, is a new father to a fawn named Rudolph. However, he’s appalled when he discovers that his new son has a glowing red nose. And I mean absolutely appalled, like he’s the anti-christ or something. When introduced to Santa, he basically acts the same way. He even goes so far as to imply that Rudolph will never be a reindeer on his team because of his nose…..which I don’t understand at all. What does a glowing red nose have to do with pulling a sleigh? It may be a tad distracting, but no worse than a little red light on your dash from a GPS or a security system or something.

I will admit that the three-year-old-with-a-recorder sound effect that comes up when his nose glows is annoying, though.

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Too cute to stay angry about the noise.

As Rudolph gets a little older, Donner, still ashamed of his demon spawn, actually gets him a fake nose so he’ll be more socially acceptable. And, really, it only seems like Donner gives a crap about his son when his nose is covered up. This special made me really hate Donner. Dasher all the way, man!

The prosthetic nose seems to work as Rudolph is very accepted by the other reindeer. He manages to make a new friend in Fireball, who inexplicably has hair on his head (also, what a rip off to be named Rudolph when your friends have names like Fireball) and he catches the eye of a doe named Clarice.

They’re about to start reindeer training with Comet, but Rudolph chats up Clarice because he’s a baller.

After hitting it off with Clarice, he starts flying all over the place in gleeful excitement, which impresses Comet and Santa. But his fake nose falls off and everyone starts making fun of him. Comet tells them to stop it and continues on with the training, but he bans Rudolph from the training and says the familiar phrase of not letting Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

Even Santa’s a jerk here because he chastises Donner for lying and then says it’s a shame Rudolph still has that nose because he did a great job flying. I still don’t get it. Also, if his nose was covered successfully before, just get him a better fake nose if the glowing is such an issue. This is like someone getting rejected from a IT job because they have an eleventh toe.

Luckily, Clarice is a nice doe who sounds eons too old for Rudolph. She cheers him up through a song so angelic that she pulls a Disney Princess and gets the woodland creatures to sing too. And like a good Disney Princess, she also falls in love with Rudolph in the time frame of four minutes.

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He’s about to walk her home when her father arrives and forces her to go back to their cave, banning her from associating herself with a red-nosed reindeer.

Meanwhile, we have the plot with Hermey the elf, who is not happy being a toy making elf and wants to be a dentist. However, all elves are damned from birth to live a life slaving in a toy factory. Also, dentists don’t exist, I guess, which is weird because they’re in a world where you’d assume they live on a diet of candy and cookies.

He gets fired from his job and meets up with Rudolph, accepting him for who he is because he’s a fellow misfit. After an ear-worm song break, the two go off on an adventure.

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After surviving the first night in the frozen tundra, they meet Yukon Cornelius, an eccentric mountaineer and prospector who travels by sled dog and hunts for silver and gold. He also likes to lick his pickaxe…..he can taste minerals or ore….I don’t….he licks his pickaxe is all you really need to know.

Throughout the movie, there’s been one thing we’ve been warned of in regards to a threat – The Abominable Snowmonster of the North, Bumble. A monster who scared the hell out of me as a kid and still kinda does. The design of the thing is offputting enough, but the first time you see him, all you see are his legs and feet, which are immensely larger than Donner and Rudolph. But really the thing that gets me about him is his voice. Or should I say his ear-piercing screech? You expect monsters to roar, but this thing has a shrill yell so loud I think this movie should be re-edited with warnings in place for headphone users.

Bumble is following Rudolph’s nose light, which results in them reaching a dead end in the ice. Yukon saves them by chipping off the part of the ice they’re on, which allows them to escape since Bumble can’t swim.

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Please make this go away.

And hey, let’s have some good ol’ fashioned 1960’s sexism!

Narrator: “You can bet that Donner felt pretty bad about how he had treated Rudolph, and he knew that the only thing left to do was to go out and look for his little buck. Mrs. Donner wanted to go along, naturally. But Donner said ‘NO! This is man’s work!’” No worries, though, because Mrs. Donner and Clarice go off on their own anyway because they don’t need no man.

Floating on the ice, Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon crash into the island of misfit toys, which is self-explanatory. I don’t really understand why some of these toys are outcasts, though. The first toy we meet is a Jack-in-the-box who no one wants because his name is Charlie…..Uh, dude, just change your name. It’s not like it’s written on you….just call yourself Jack. I get that it’s not about changing yourself to suit societal norms, but it’s a name – something that was given to you and something that is easily changeable…

Then we have matryoshka doll whose final doll is a wind-up mouse, which I guess makes sense.

A pink polka dotted stuffed elephant which makes a little sense, but since when do kids complain about not getting color accurate to real life version stuffed animals?

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A doll, which looks normal, a toy airplane, which looks normal, a teddy bear, which looks normal – just a lot of toys which look normal. There’s a toy train with square wheels, which must be the fault of a drunk elf because that’s ridiculous, and a toy gun that squirts jelly……….uhhh…..empty the jelly and fill yourself up with water….it’s not that hard….there’s water right there.

There’s also a bird that doesn’t fly and instead swims…..that’s called a penguin, just in case you’re wondering. A cowboy riding an ostrich, which, come on, that’s awesome. What kid wouldn’t want that?

We also have a boat that can’t stay afloat……alright, I concede on that one.

Rudolph asks if they can stay on the island since they’re misfits too and Charlie tells them to ask King Moonracer, who not only has a kickass name, but he’s also a damn winged lion with his own castle.

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I need a Moonracer doll right now.

They ask if they can stay on the island, but Moonracer refuses, stating that living beings, unlike toys, cannot hide themselves away on an island. Don’t worry, Yukon points out the irony that Hermey and Rudolph can’t even belong with other misfits. Moonracer asks them for a favor to help the misfits toys. Since they live in Christmas Town, Moonracer asks them if they’ll tell Santa about this island to help find good homes for the misfit toys. They agree and Moonracer gives them a place to sleep for the night.

Afraid that he’ll put his friends in danger with his nose calling Bumble, Rudolph leaves in the middle of the night and floats off on his own. He spends months on the run from Bumble, and no matter who he meets, he still gets treated like a freak. He grows into a full grown buck and decides to return to Christmas Town to face his problems head on. The other bucks are still jackasses, and when Rudolph returns home, he finds that his mother, father and Clarice have been gone searching for him the whole time he’s been gone.

Santa says he’ll never be able to fly without Donner, and with Christmas days away, it’s a real emergency……uh….Donner’s been gone for months and you’ve clearly been training other reindeer. Why not use one of them?

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Just then, a massive snow storm hits, which also threatens Christmas. Rudolph has to brave the storm to find his parents and Clarice, but luckily he knows exactly where to look – the cave of the abominable snowmonster. And luckily he knows exactly where that is. And luckily they do just so happen to be there. And luckily, despite being held hostage by Bumble for god knows how long, he has yet to kill them.

Rudolph and Bumble start an epic battle and Rudolph gets beaten to death with a stalactite. What’s that?…..He lives? No, no, that’s not a livable event……Really?….Whatever.

Luckily, Hermey and Yukon have been looking for Rudolph since he left and, luckily, they just happen to decide to go back to Christmas Town right when Rudolph went, and, luckily, they learned where Rudolph was going and got there quickly. Plot convenience is hella fun.

Yukon knocks Bumble out with a rock and Hermey pulls out all of his teeth (!!!), rendering him harmless. But I guess that’s not enough because Yukon also knocks him off a cliff, taking him with him.

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I feel like I’m watching a serial killer origin story.

Rudolph and the others return home where the worry over their safety has made the citizens of Christmas Town all realize what jerks they were. Santa and Donner apologize to Rudolph, Santa promises to find homes for all of the misfit toys and Hermey’s boss apologizes to him, telling him he can open a dentist office next week after Christmas is over…without proper schooling or a license. Let me remind everyone that earlier he was performing dental work on a doll by tapping her teeth with a hammer.

Yukon reveals that he not only survived, but so did Bumble, who is now inexplicably reformed and wants a job in Christmas town. How did Yukon survive? Because Bumbles bounce…..Hmm…..rant about physics or biology? Decisions, decisions.

Business as usual at Christmas Town until the song’s plot continues. There’s a terrible storm and Santa can’t navigate in such terrible conditions, so Christmas is canceled.

But then…..one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?’ Then the FiddleTwix complained, because that’s not how it works. The weather conditions have been changed from fog to one of the worst blizzards in history. A dinky red light is not going to help you much. Not only is red probably the worst color to use for a navigation light, but it certainly won’t help combat the winds and snow. Even if it was fog, the light would just reflect off of it. That’s why you don’t use your high beams in fog…Why hasn’t Santa ever thought to add headlights to his sleigh anyway? It’s 1964. At least have a lantern or something. I’ll shut up now.

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And then all of the other reindeer mocked Rudolph for his pink harness and Rudolph flew them into a mountainside.

Donner: “I knew that nose would be useful someday. I knew it all along.” Shut up, Donner. No one likes you.

I guess that leads us to one of the more prominent issues with the message here. The movie actually fixes the message problem that the song has. In the song, you’re lead to believe that Rudolph only gained social acceptance because his shiny red nose was useful to Santa, meaning you’ll be treated as an outcast if whatever deformity or issue you have doesn’t contribute to society. Here, though, the other reindeer, Santa and Donner all feel remorse and accept Rudolph before this ever happens. While he does gain higher social status because of it, he doesn’t gain acceptance because, hey, we can actually use laser face over there to further our needs.

I’d still say Donner is adhering to this because while he seems accepting of Rudolph before, he really only seems proud of him after he saves Christmas……also, why is Donner being left behind? Rudolph’s at the front on his own. Donner should still be in the pack.

I think we should be more concerned about the message Mrs. Claus is giving. Her one role over this whole movie is obsessing over fattening Santa up because kids expect a fat Santa….even though….ya know….they shouldn’t be seeing him at all. She actually seems to force feed him from skinny to about 200 pounds heavier in the course of a day. Merry Christmas, kid! I got you a Santa dying from a heart attack under your tree! After Santa wakes from his coma, he’ll enjoy his gift of an eternity of body image issues!

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I would complain more about this, but I’m actually more distracted by the background. Why did they put up the alphabet with a bunch of random arrows?

Santa goes to the island of misfit toys and rescues them all. How Santa knows what kid would like what deformed toy, I don’t know. Also, the bird who couldn’t fly gets murdered because the elf sending off the packages pushes him out of the sleigh without giving him the umbrella. Did you not listen to the song, elf?!

What else is there to say about this special besides stop motion is creepy?……Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself anymore. I love those old Rankin/Bass specials too, but it doesn’t change the fact that I still find stop-motion, especially old stop-motion, to be incredibly creepy. Not as bad as claymation, but still creepy.

It’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It’s a heartwarmer for people of all ages. It has its oddities, and a terrifying snowmonster and logic problems up the wazoo, but it’s still fun, endearing, has some nice music both original and songs by Burl Ives, and it’s a staple for any household around Christmas. If, somehow, you’ve never seen it before, give it a watch. Maybe you can make it a Christmas tradition too.

Then all the reindeer loved him, and they shouted out with glee.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, you’ll down in history!