AVAHS – Nestor the Long Eared Christmas Donkey (Rankin/Bass) (1977) Review

Plot: A little donkey named Nestor was always endlessly ridiculed for his incredibly long ears. He faced many hardships throughout his life, but one fateful night in a little town named Bethlehem would turn him into a Christmas hero.

Breakdown: Okay, look, I know what you’re going to say. We’re all thinking it. And as far as I’m concerned, yes, this is a Christian-ized Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They’re not even remotely subtle about it. The song on which this special is derived from even makes direct references to Rudolph, and the song feels like it was originally written to be an off-shoot of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Nestor Lyrics: “Everyone knows about Rudolph
Our fleet-footed friend from the north
Who lights Santa’s way through the darkness
As he drives his sleigh back and forth
But there’s someone else we should mention
If we want the whole story told
He carried the first gift of Christmas
More precious than diamonds or gold”

Rudolph Lyrics: “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall
The most famous reindeer of all?”

Summary: “You know these other reindeer, and they’re cool and all, but do you know of someone even cooler than they were? Here, let me tell you the story.”

Nestor: “Nestor was a donkey who seldom laughed or played
‘Cause no one even used him in the stable where he stayed
And all the camels teased him, the other donkeys too
They said, look at little Nestor, there’s nothin’ he can do.”
Rudolph: “All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games.”

Summary: “A physical deformity made them the laughing stock of the town, and they were completely ostracized from the other animals.”

Nestor: “Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his knees
When he looks at his reflection, ears are all he sees
Nestor’s heart was broken and his eyes were full of tears
If only there was somethin’ he could do about his ears.”

Rudolph: “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows.”

Summary: “Dude looks weird.”

Nestor: “One dark night two strangers gave Nestor a surprise
They chose him from all others for they loved his gentle eyes
A man was called by Joseph, Mary was his bride
She needed help to Bethlehem and Nestor’s back to ride

They travelled through the desert but hadn’t gone too far
When winter clouds no longer let them see their guiding star
But Nestor learned a secret as he listened to the breeze
And the angels gave directions to the ears that touched his knees

And so it was that Nestor found the manger where they stayed
Where kings and wise men bowed before the baby where he lay
Mary bore our Saviour and Nestor brought them there
A gift of love from God above for all the world to share”

Rudolph: “Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph, with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?””

Summary: “Deformity came in handy. Saved Christmas. Cool beans. Also, Nestor’s song is clearly way longer at this point.”

Nestor: “Though, Rudolph, I just love you, I know you’d want it said
Nestor’s ears are lovely as a reindeer’s nose is red
So children, if you’re happy when you trim your Christmas trees
You might thank a little donkey whose ears hung to his knees.

Look at little Nestor, his ears hang to his knees
They shouted as they praised him and his friends were all so pleased
Nestor was so happy and his eyes held no more tears
Now all the world knows Nestor for his laughter and his ears”

Rudolph: “Then how the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history””

Summary: “Golly you’re sure swell, Rudolph/Nestor. We love you now that your physical oddity proved useful to us.”

Now, being COMPLETELY fair, the song was co-written Gene Autry, who wrote the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer song, even though it’s not mentioned anywhere in his very long Wiki page. Also, while he is given top billing in the song credit in the special, probably for the sake of name recognition, every entry I can find about this song lists Don Pfrimmer and Dave Burgess in the writing credits before Autry, so I kinda feel like he didn’t have much to do with the writing of the song and was moreso consulted about it since it was so similar to Rudolph and had references to Rudolph in the song. I don’t have any proof of that, though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Even if he wrote the song, it’s hard to defend this as not being a Christian Rudolph story, even if the bookends still take place at the North Pole and all the Santa stuff is still canon.

I hate to ding them for copying something else too, but the whole ‘huge ears made me a laughingstock’ thing was also done in Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, which came out one year before Nestor.

But hey, I can give this special something. It’s more grounded than Rudolph was, and…..dear god it is depressing.

I mean, yeah, of course it has a happy ending, but uh…Let me just go through the story real quick.

Spieltoe, Santa’s donkey, watches as Santa flies away on the night of Christmas eve, with Rudolph heading the sleigh. Spieltoe shows the audience the stables, which house him and the reindeer. In the stables is a nativity scene which, as Spieltoe points out, displays an inaccurate representation of Nestor because it doesn’t have long ears.

He starts singing the story of Nestor, and one of the elves comes over to replace the donkey figure with a more long-eared one. Cool. I mean…ya know….Jesus and Mary (why is Joseph not here? The figures behind her are the three wise men.) are still being depicted as white people, but you make sure that donkey has accurate ear length.

We flashback to Nestor as we start the opening credits and…Uh….it certainly sets the stage for the depressing aspect I mentioned. Here’s the entire credits sequence.

Nestor walks out, trips on his ears, we keep cutting back to the other animals, who just think it’s the funniest thing, Nestor legit CRIES, spends a while being sad on the ground, and then walks over to his mother, which you’d think would be the one nice spot in this entire opening, but just you wait, readers. Just you wait. Did I mention the music blaring over this is very upbeat?

A long, long time ago, somewhere in….pbbtt this area.

Under the rule of the rising Roman empire, Nestor lived on a modest little farm owned by Olaf, an almost comically designed asshole. He denies Nestor dinner because he has difficultly working on the farm due to his long ears constantly tripping him up. And, of course, one of the other farm animals has to chime in and say there’s nothing he can do (though, this is part of the song.)

Olaf feeds Nestor’s mother because she ‘earns her keep’ and she decides to share her meal with Nestor to help keep him fed.

You guys starting to see why this is Rudolph only with the depressing factor turned up? Rudolph being made fun of sucked, yeah, but at least he wasn’t starved. At least he lived in a nice place. At least his parents didn’t have to suffer to make sure he stayed alive.

But let’s take a break from that depressing scene to head to a different depressing scene. Spieltoe explains how hard Nestor has had it his whole life because his long ears made him clumsy and everyone mocked them.

The next verse of the song plays here, though there’s one difference. Instead of saying “When he looks at his reflection, ears are all he sees” they say “They whispered as they mocked him, but he heard every sound.” Yes, Nestor gets absolutely no peace. He hears every insult and comment all of these jackasses (pun intended) make about him. He can’t turn his ears off. He has to cope with the constant torment.

But don’t worry, Nestor. If Rudolph’s Shiny New Year taught me anything, it’s that no one ever laughs AT someone’s strange physical attributes. They’re just filled with so much joy when they see it that they can’t help but burst out laughing. They’re secretly just being pals and you’re misinterpreting their laughter (and terrible comments and shunning).

Honestly, though, the song is pretty nicely done.

Cut to later, during a harsh winter storm, the animals of the farm are all celebrating the winter solstice by partying and giving gifts. Nestor’s mom gives him some old stockings to wear on his ears to keep them warm. Even the farm animals are, for some reason, being very nice to Nestor today. One donkey even apologizes for making fun of him and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Uhhh….How and why? You can’t have characters established as being complete jerks to Nestor every day of his life suddenly shift to being super nice to him and giving him a kiss on the cheek just because it’s a holiday. Oh, by the way, the one who gave him a kiss on the cheek, I’m pretty sure that’s the same donkey who made the “He can’t do anything.” comment earlier.

It’s not unheard of for bad guys to suddenly turn good-ish in holiday specials or anything, but this situation is such a drastic and quick turnaround for no reason that it feels pretty lazy. (Unless they ARE playing off of the “Laughing at people for their physical differences isn’t a bad thing – they’re just really happy and stuff” thing from Shiny New Year, in which case I think I need to be thankful I stocked up on aspirin.)

Especially considering we get an all too familiar foreboding line;

Nestor: “This is the best day ever! I’ll never forget it!”

Things sure are going great for Nestor….completely out of the blue. I certainly believe things will stay good for him.

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So things go bad.

An imperial Roman soldier barges into the stables demanding donkeys for the emperor. They snatch a bunch of them, including Nestor, and pay off Olaf. Nestor tries to run back to his mother, but the soldier stops him by grabbing his ears. The stockings come off and reveal his true ears. The soldier accuses Olaf of trying to sell him ‘misfit’ donkeys. Olaf tries to just give Nestor away for free, but the soldier is so insulted that he takes back all of the money, knocks Olaf down and takes the donkeys without paying.

By the way, the foley in this special is really weird. Either the sound effects aren’t there at all, what is there sounds like it doesn’t belong or the effect is delayed. Also, I can’t be certain, but I’m 95% sure those pieces of silver are nickels.

The soldier heads off, referring to his new donkeys as ‘slaves,’ whipping them and laughing maniacally. He is a bad guy. Also, he never shows up again so…..guess those donkeys are screwed.

Olaf is so pissed about Nestor’s ears screwing him over again that he chucks Nestor across the room and kicks him off of the farm, proclaiming he doesn’t care if he freezes in the storm.

*snort* Look at Nestor’s face when he’s being held up as Olaf threatens to throw him out of the stables. He should be scared out of his mind, but his expression comes off like he gives less than zero fucks.

Nestor is literally thrown out into the snowy tundra. Meanwhile, Nestor’s mother fights her way out of the stables so she can find him. Once they reunite, she tells him that, no matter what, he has to be brave.

They find a slightly sheltered spot, and Nestor’s mother digs a spot down to the ground so Nestor won’t be lying in snow. He lays on the frozen grass, and Nestor’s mother shields his body from the snow and cold by laying on top of him.

So because this is a Christmas special and we have to get going with the happy happy joy joy, Nestor enjoys a beautiful sunrise with his mother followed by some delightful breakfast foods and they plan on going into town together to see if some other nice farmer will take them in.

Hold on, I’m getting word that I’m a sarcastic git and Nestor’s mother actually frickin’ died.

Story at 11.

Or right now. Whatever.

What the hell?! What the actual hell? What kind of Christmas special is this?

I don’t recall any part of the song including something like;

“Nestor’s dear mother froze to death out in the snow.
Covered her son’s body with her own, now, don’tcha know?
Who knows how long she survived. Four hours? Maybe five.
If her son didn’t have long ears, she’d still be alive.”

They immediately cut to Nestor crying as he looks at the makeshift grave he made for his mother, which, considering the frozen ground, is not even a grave. She’s just covered in snow. But if you think about this even more, it’s HORRIFYING. Nestor woke up to his dead mother lying on his back. He had to wiggle out of his dead mother’s frozen embrace and deal with the fact that his mother froze to death trying to save his life. And considering he couldn’t even give her a proper burial, I hope to god he never returns to this spot once spring rolls around….

Merry Christmas, by the way.

Nestor survives for a while on his own, steadily making his way south, when he meets a Cherub named Tilly who has come to lead him to the plot—I mean, who explains that she’s meant to inspire animals as angels inspire humans. He’s meant for something very important – to save a life like his mother saved him. They must go to Bethlehem, which is a long and arduous journey.

Nestor: “Aw…I don’t want to go THAT far.”

Tilly: *a light shines down from the sky on her head* “Of course you do. You know….”

Nestor: *that same light shines on Nestor’s head* “Ohhhhhh….”

Tilly: “Mmmhmm. Come on now.”

Did….did….God just brainwash a donkey?

Nestor and Tilly go on a nice friendly montage where the accompanying song talks about not laughing at others to make them cry as they pass a bunch of animals who laugh at Nestor’s ears. This is a pretty good montage, and I think it’s really cute that Tilly holds Nestor’s ears through so much of it. However, the lyrics kinda fall flat at a point. A bear laughs at Nestor’s ears, but then the bear freaks out because he saw a spider and Nestor laughs at him. Then the bear happily waved as he walked away? So….laughing at someone is okay as long as the laughing person gets humiliated too?

Nestor and Tilly head off on a boat with Nestor’s ears acting as a sail and Tilly smacks two dolphins who were laughing at Nestor’s ears. Okay, Tilly hasn’t hit anyone until now, and the one time she does it’s when Nestor is using his ears as a sail, which is legitimately funny? Come on.

They finally reach a village and Tilly just straight up dips back to Heaven, telling Nestor to wait in town until it’s the right time to head to Bethlehem…….So of course he immediately gets captured by a jackass merchant (Like my clever wordplay? I’m so witty.) who tosses him in a pen with other animals who promptly laugh at his ears. So, uh, Tilly, you sure you don’t want to pop back down and help him out?…No?….Okie dokles.

Second verse, same as the first – no one wants to buy Nestor, the other animals keep viciously mocking him, he cries about it a lot and it’s sad.

Merry. Christmas.

Oh yeah, this merchant dude was pointed out by another reviewer as having a ‘penis-nose’ and uh….

I feel like I need to censor this….

Also, phallic imagery aside, this guy’s design just feels racist in general….Especially when it’s right beside White Joseph and Whiter Mary.

Okay, now we’re finally getting to greener pastures. Joseph and Mary show up looking for a donkey to purchase to take them to Bethlehem. They chose Nestor because he had kind eyes. The merchant can’t believe that they want to buy him, so he decides to pull a con and claims Nestor’s super expensive because long ears are popular these days.

Mary and Joseph can’t afford it and are about to leave, but Joseph stops her because they need a donkey in order to travel considering she’s with child. Mary then glows with the same warm light that came from heaven before.

Merchant: *gazes at glowing Mary* “Ooohhh…take him. A gift. He’s yours.”

Okay, God keeps Jedi Mind Tricking people and it’s freaking me out.

And before anyone questions if this is mind control;

Mary: “Oh thank you, sir. God bless you.”

Merchant: “Oh….what made me do that?”

*waves hand* This is not the donkey you’re looking for.

They head out, but quickly run into a strong sandstorm that obscures their view of the star they were following.

Suddenly, a familiar holy light appears in the sky. Tilly tells Nestor that he has the ability to do something no one else can right now. He has to listen to the sounds only he can hear and lead Mary and Joseph out of the storm. As Tilly vanishes, Nestor tearfully sees his mother in the sky also telling him to listen to the angels and follow them.

Nestor wraps his ears around Mary, which I found to be adorable, and listens to the sound of the angels singing to guide his way through the storm.

Eventually, the sandstorm passes and the three find themselves on the outskirts of Bethlehem. All the inns were full, so Nestor, remembering the warmth of a stable when he was a baby, brought Mary and Joseph to a nearby manger for Mary to birth Jesus.

Nestor decides to leave them………….for…..some…..reason. Seriously, I have no clue why. He just up and leaves right after Jesus is born. He finally gets adopted by a kind couple who appreciate him and don’t mock him for his ears and he just leaves when their son is born. Can you imagine being Jesus’s donkey? That’s be awesome…..At least as awesome as a donkey’s life can get.

But no.

No.

Instead……

…..he returns to Olaf.

Rudolph really didn’t have a choice when it came to returning to the North Pole. He was trying to help Santa and he kinda lives there. However, it’s completely out of left field for Nestor to return to Olaf’s farm. They’re cheering him on when he returns, but how would they know he did anything worthy of praise?

And even if they somehow magically did know what he did, screw you all. Screw each and every one of you. Especially you, Olaf. If it wasn’t for you, Nestor’s mom would still be alive.

“And his friends all gathered ‘round.”

FRIENDS” Some friends you are. Now that Nestor’s a biblical hero, you suddenly treat him like royalty. I also don’t care at all about that turnaround they had before the Roman soldier came. If that was their redemption, it was entirely unearned. You can’t just have them being complete jerks to Nestor, constantly making him cry, and then immediately go “Oh but then they were nice to him on this one holiday, so they’re good guys now.” Even if you could say that about the animals, you can’t say that about Olaf because he kicked Nestor out after the party.

Remember how I mentioned that the Rankin/Bass Rudolph special fixed a problem the song had in that the special had the reindeer making amends with Rudolph before his LED nose became useful in a pinch? So it didn’t seem like they only like him now because his physical deformity had benefit?

They didn’t do that here.

Instead, Nestor’s returning to his abuser in his dilapidated farm that’s probably going to go under soon because Olaf said he was screwed without all of those young donkeys and the money from their sale – and Nestor will be living there without his mother, the one Olaf indirectly got killed.

He went there instead of staying with JESUS.

Back in the present, the song concludes as all of elves, reindeer, including Rudolph, Santa, Mrs. Claus and Spieltoe dance around the nativity scene to celebrate Nestor, who I know realize is probably long since dead, and how he saved Christmas and lived happy ever after.

The End.

——————————————–

I do vaguely remember watching this special when I was a kid once or twice, and I liked it fine. Even now I find it to be alright. Nestor is quite adorable, the animation is okay, though the voice acting and foley are a little hokey, the music is nice and catchy, and the story is….decent, although I can poke way too many holes in it.

I can forgive most of them, it is a Rankin/Bass production afterall, barring the very ending and one note I can’t keep quiet about anymore…..why did Nestor’s mother have to die?

The reason I bring this up is because they make off like Nestor’s mother had to die in order for Nestor to fulfill his purpose. They specifically say “the lord works in mysterious ways” when she dies, and I really don’t like that phrase. I get that it’s just a go-to phrase religious people have for explaining terrible things in an effort to maybe comfort people, but I just can’t get into that. I can’t leave something so terrible with a phase so flippant. Nestor could have been with his mother this whole time and nothing would have changed. She could have been Joseph’s donkey or something. Why did she need to die for him to do what he was destined to do?

Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful that she was willing to sacrifice herself for her son, but I’d like some actual meaning in her death in regards to the story.

Another phrase said a couple of times is that Nestor needs to do this so he can save someone as his mother saved him. Sooo….he wouldn’t have been compelled to save a life unless his mother sacrificed herself for him? I sincerely doubt that.

The only realistic way I can figure it is that the writers wanted you to feel as bad as possible for Nestor, so they killed the only character who loved him.

I mean, it worked. I felt so bad for that poor kid I wanted to reach through the screen to hug him and take him home with me. He doesn’t catch an actual break until about twenty minutes into this 24 minute long special….

It was just wave after wave of terrible things frosted in the mocking of strangers. Topped off with a cherry of Nestor leaving caring owners and baby Jesus to return to a poor abusive asshole and a farm full of animals who probably traumatized him with their ceaseless laughter and insults. In that respect, this special is fairly miserable, no matter how adorable Nestor is. In fact, Nestor being so adorable makes the miserable feeling worse.

In the end, everything is all well and good. Nestor is happy, people celebrate his role in Jesus’ birth and we all learn not to mock people unless it has some role in a cosmic plan.

It’s not like the special has bad messages or anything (except the ‘returning to your abuser’ thing, but I don’t think kids would infer that much) and it’s an alright Christmas special for both religious and secular households. I did enjoy seeing Santa, the reindeer and the elves dancing around the nativity scene. It’s not saying either Rudolph or Nestor is ‘better’ or the more important Christmas hero. They’re just humble little animals who helped save Christmas. And they’re both adorable.

Once more, though in a non-sarcastic manner this time, Merry Christmas! 🙂


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AVAHS – It’s a Spongebob Christmas! Review

Plot: It’s Christmastime in Bikini Bottom, and Spongebob’s filled with holiday cheer. Plankton, on the other hand, isn’t. He’s sick of getting coal for Christmas, so he decides to ruin the holiday by lacing fruitcakes with jerktonium – a compound that instantly turns people into jerks, putting them all on the naughty list. Spongebob accidentally helps him distribute the fruitcakes to everyone in town, leading to complete catastrophe.

Spongebob remains unaffected due to his pure heart and love of Christmas, but Plankton solves that problem by creating a chaotic robot replica of Spongebob to create even more destruction and trick Santa into putting Spongebob on the list too. Can Spongebob manage to save everyone from the jerktonium and the naughty list, or will Plankton ruin Christmas for everyone?

Breakdown: Since Christmas Who? was an instant classic Christmas special, it was hard to imagine that any followup would meet or surpass it. Well, they somehow managed to do it. It’s a Spongebob Christmas! is just as good if not better than its predecessor.

First and foremost, taking a note from the beloved Rankin/Bass holiday specials, this episode is done entirely in stop motion. The crew admits that they used some modern day digital tricks in the animation, but make no mistake that this is true blue stop motion animation. And it looks really great. Sure, some aspects look creepy, like Santa – he looks downright gross for some reason, especially in his first shot (when Spongebob’s looking at a vision of him in the sky. He’s like a weird bug-eyed puppet version there) – but it’s actually very cute, and I love how they rebuilt Bikini Bottom with this style. Sandy and Spongebob in particular were adorable.

I love how you could see the textures so clearly on everyone. Sandy’s tail looked very fluffy, and Spongebob looked…well, like a real sponge. I loved how they were able to marry the style of the 2D animation with the 3D stop-motion. They created an entirely new look and feel without sacrificing the well-known comedy, style and antics Spongebob is known for.

The story is a little on the predictable side, but I honestly didn’t mind. They added enough charm and wit to the whole experience that it wasn’t a big deal. It’s hard to overlook the general convenience of jerktonium, but I think I can overlook that too because Spongebob is littered with ridiculous and convenient things like that. I mean, if I get irritated at that, what am I expected to do with the fact that the cure to its effects is a song?

The songs were really catchy and fun. They crammed three songs into this half hour long special, and I think that was just the right amount. Usually, specials of this length only get one song, so it was impressive that they made three that were really good. I especially loved Don’t Be a Jerk, It’s Christmas. It’s quite the earworm, and, truth be told, it’s a really good moral.

Most Christmas specials will be a little too corny with their message, but Spongebob hit the nail on the head. Don’t be a jerk. You don’t have to be loaded with Christmas cheer, you just have to not be a jerk. Be respectful, do good where you can and just try. This is really reflected in Squidward’s small role. He wasn’t affected by the jerktonium because he didn’t eat the fruitcake, and Squidward being Squidward is a grump, but they don’t try to force him into the cheer and even though he’s still being snitty, he also still passes on the present in the song, sings along a bit and helps catch Spongebob at the end.

There’s a jerky elephant in the room I need to address, though. Patrick.

For those not in the Spongy know, for some reason, later seasons had Patrick consistently being a jackass for seemingly no reason. He was still an idiot, but he was less innocent, naive, heart of gold idiot and more aggressive, selfish asshole idiot. Maybe this was to differentiate him more from Spongebob, I don’t know, but the point is that Patrick was super hard to like for several years. Sadly, this episode is no exception.

Our first scene with Patrick is him building a box-and-stick trap for Santa so he can capture him, hold him against his will forever so he can have a never-ending Christmas.

Now, I had heard about the jerktonium plot before I got the chance to watch this episode, so I thought Patrick was somehow already affected by it and was being a jerk. Because, let’s be real, that plan really sounds like something a villain would do. I’m actually surprised Plankton didn’t come up with it and had it be the real plot of this special.

Nope.

Patrick just came up with a supervillain plot all by himself and Spongebob doesn’t seem to see anything wrong with that.

Jerk!Patrick…..or…maybe just SlightlyWorseLaterSeason!Patrick still holds this plan, only this time he’s building a tiger trap for Santa. A tiger trap is a hole with a door or a thin layer of sticks or wicker on top designed to look like normal ground. When stepped on, the door would flip around/the covering would collapse, and the person would fall into a spiky pit of death. And just to add more Christmas cheer, Wikipedia notes that the spikes in these traps sometimes had rotten meat smeared on them so there would be a high risk of infection if the initial wound didn’t kill the victim first, and they would more surely die….(And just to be clear, Patrick straight out says that what he’s building is specifically a tiger trap.)

Thanks writers. You not only had me researching horrific Vietnam booby traps for this review of a Spongebob Christmas special, but you also showed Patrick jumping from jerk to maniac. Granted, the pit isn’t filled with spikes, of course, but still.

You’d think that after the jerktonium effects wore off that Patrick would be much better, right?

Nope.

Our last shot of the main special is Patrick ambushing Santa in his sleigh with a butterfly net, capturing him and causing him to careen out of the sky.

Stop-motion Patchy also has segments in this episode, but outside of one or two good jokes, it’s not really necessary.

Overall, I absolutely love this special. It’s definitely a worthy successor to Christmas Who? and it’s such a unique experience for Spongebob fans as a whole. The comedy hits well, the sentiment is nice without going overboard and just the way it’s animated makes for a great experience to come back to over and over again. Patrick’s scenes may have been alarming, but they’re very short so it’s not that bad. Whether you’re a Spongebob fan or not, I really suggest checking out this special at least once around the holidays. You won’t regret it.

Final Notes: How strange is it that I grew up in a world where the stereotype was that fruitcake was horrible and no one ever really wanted it to a special where people are sucking it down like it’s the best thing ever. I’ve never actually had fruitcake, but what is the actual general consensus? Was it just wrongly condemned in the past?


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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.

AVAHS Rudolph 1
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!