It's time for RUDOLPH to take flight again and we thought we would add some new facts we have learned recently on this classic RANKIN/BASS special.
First of all, we located the original and complete December 6th, 1964 Network Broadcast print of The GENERAL ELECTRIC FANTASY HOUR: RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER. Many revelations were unveiled.
The GE Christmas Caroler Elves in part one of my article, were not the ANIMAGIC figures featured in the original network airings of RUDOLPH. Apparently, they are earlier RANKIN/BASS characters that I suspect may have been used by GENERAL ELECTRIC during a broadcast of Christmas material in 1963.
These early figures may have been the prototypes for the ones used in the special we have grown to love over the many years. The RANKIN/BASS staff can't quite place them at the moment.
During the 1964 broadcast, three commercials for GE featuring the FOREMAN elf, the elf with the glasses and the generic elf with the sunglasses were used. GE sponsored the entire hour, so the commercials were lengthy, musical spots.In addition to the three with RANKIN/BASS characters, a final commercial featuring a husband, wife and shoe polisher was featured. This was the "Holy Grail" of RANKIN/BASS animation and well worth the hunt!
The differences during the actual special and what appears on the Collector's DVD are minimal but need mentioning.
First of all, After the GE introduction and the snowflakes fall, it does not feature the words RANKIN/BASS PRESENT as it does on the DVD. The reason for this is quite simply it was presented by GENERAL ELECTRIC during it's first three airings. Later, when GE started it's own entertainment division known as TOMORROW ENTERTAINMENT, a different arrangement was made between RANKIN/BASS and GE including name recognition for the young animation studio.
The other BIG difference between what is on the DVD and the original broadcast is the ending of the special. The original airing features the end credits directly after Santa takes off for the island of MISFIT TOYS. The end credits feature one elf throwing packages out of the sleigh with the end credits on them.
The lettering on the packages matches the attractive lettering from the open of the show and the talent's names are all spelled correctly. In the subsequent end credits, many names like BILLIE (BILLY) MAE RICHARDS were spelled wrong. The collector's DVD states that the special featured on the DVD is exactly as it appeared in 1964, BUT you and I now know that it is not. It is very close but no cigar.
Jules Bass remembers that there was a write in campaign by viewers to actually see Santa go back for the toys and hence the dropping of the Misfits from the sleigh since 1965. This is why "The Peppermint Scene" was ultimately trimmed. It was trimmed to make room for the misfits around the campfire and jumping into the sled.
I personally prefer the original ending due to the better end credits (which have not been discovered in any 35mm negative form for DVD release). The very ending of the special is a GE Holiday wish from Burl Ives and some of the voice cast! A wonderful way to close the special.
I have been asked two more similar questions about this scene. Why does Santa no longer go down Chimneys and why is Santa's sleigh led by six tiny reindeer and Rudolph, instead of eight with Rudolph?
ANSWER: creative license. In the 1964 version, I believe the reason the Animators/Director decided to go with six reindeer plus Rudolph is because Donner could not say his line "That's My Buck" up in the air to the other reindeer. He had to be on the ground with his family.
As far as the toys being dropped from the sleigh with umbrellas... this became a necessity when the animators went back into the special in 1965 to add the return to the Island Of Misfit Toys. Since the original ending in 1964 featured the sleigh in the air, it became necessary for time and money to keep the sleigh in the air and add as little footage as possible.
The 1964 end credits do feature the same close-ups of Rudolph and Santa, the animators just replaced the sequences of the elf holding the packages with credits on them, with shots of the elves dropping off the misfits. What I find interesting, is that HANNA-BARBERA took this same approach with the Christmas episode of The Flinstones a few years later. The toys are dropped from Fred's sleigh with parachutes. My own kids asked me today why he was dropping the toys off on parachutes.
There were rumors that Yukon fired off his gun and it was trimmed by the censors. This is untrue. Although, in the original draft of the script, he is waving and firing off his pistols! Donner telling Mrs. Donner "This is Man's Work!" is true and can be heard on the DVD. See my "MAKING OF" book on Rudolph on sale now.
This brings us back to the MISFIT GIRL doll questions.....Uggh! The later versions of the script did not attribute any specific problems with the doll. I believe that Romeo Muller never really gave the character much thought, since her screen time in the original broadcast was mere seconds.
She was granted more screen time in the 1965-1997 Broadcasts and ultimately led many a fan to wonder what was wrong with her? Since Arthur Rankin says it was psychological, I still stand behind that.
We have heard from many of the principal cast of talent lately! People like Tony Peters, Bill Giles and Janis Orenstein (Clarice) and I think the story behind this special is an amazing one. Especially since it is still going strong. By the way, don't believe everything you read in black and white in other "MAKING OF" books.
You can be certain that RUDOLPH does appear more than once in the TOP 10 highest rated TV SPECIALS (not just Christmas) of all-time via the Neilsen Ratings. In fact, RUDOLPH is the longest running, highest rated television special of all time! The millennium has seen some amazing RUDOLPH products released by ENESCO and PLAYING MANTIS and this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Did you happen to notice that HERMEY is now spelled right on NEW products of the character? BUT why is the ABOMINABLE SNOWMONSTER now, all of a sudden, the ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN? Oh well... we invite you to check out our NEWS pages at RANKINBASS.com for more information and photos!
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and a prosperous new year!
- Rick Goldschmidt / www.rankinbass.com
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