Friday, December 17, 2010

"Okay, Rudolph... Full Power!"

Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol debuted two years' before, but Rankin-Bass's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the earliest Christmas special I remember. "The most famous reindeer of all's" story premiered on December 6, 1964 as an entry in General Electric's Fantasy Hour, a series of color specials that aired on Sunday afternoon. Someone has posted the original opening and commercials (featuring Santa's elves) from that first appearance to YouTube:

The closing includes a couple of nice shots of the voice cast. Jerry Beck, at his invaluable blog Cartoon Brew, has identified them. The first photo shows, from left to right, Janice Orenstein (Clarice), Paul Kliegman (Donner and the reindeer coach) and Paul Soles (Hermey). From left to right in the second photo: Soles, Billie Mae Richards (Rudolph), Carl Banas (Head Elf and Spotted Elephant) and Alfie Scopp (Charlie-in-the-Box).

I'd forgotten that this wasn't a prime-time entry, but its popularity ensured that it would become one for Christmas Future. It received a lot of press back in 1964, and more than one reviewer opined that we would see Rudolph annually... as indeed we have.

To all my readers: May you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2011. And to quote from the Christmas special I didn't see first, May God Bless Us, Every One.


Brad Fallon said...

My father will be very happy for this post. He was at his prime when "Rudolph" was shown. I will be sharing him this post when I come to visit him tomorrow. Thanks.

Paul Duca said...

Running in perpetuity certainly makes Burl Ives' next of kin happy. As part of his deal with Rankin-Bass, he or his heirs would receive royalties per airing (I don't know if they were farsighted enough to add a codicil about "new methods of transcription" meaning they collected on VHS tapes, then DVDs). Either way, he made a lot more than the rest of the cast of Toronto-based voice artists. Plus, the show had to work in "Holly Jolly Christmas", which Ives recorded and released in 1962 with little notice.

Pokey said...

Wow, so it aired on a Sunday afternoon, not on a night...thanks for the article!SC