Thursday, December 01, 2005

Taking on a holiday tradition

I've hated this cartoon for as long as I can remember. But because for years I haven't been able to remember why, I decided to watch the 1964 made-for-TV classic "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" last night on CBS.

While I'm pleased to report that my intense dislike of Hermey, Yukon Cornelius and the rest of the gang eased a bit, I will offer a handful of observations on why this cartoon rubbed me the wrong way as a kid.

Dentistry. Right off the bat, we learn that Hermey wants to be a dentist. I'm scared of dentists, so there you go.

The portrayal of Santa. He spends the first 45 minutes thin and whiny. Where's the bowl full of jelly, bud?

Production values. I think this cartoon may have been the forerunner of Japanimation, "Crapanimation." What's more, as if the constant breaking-out-into-song isn't bad enough ("Silver and Gold" comes to mind), the songs sound like they're being played on a hand-cranked phonograph.

Story arc. Even as a youngster, I could see plot holes a mile away. How can Santa gain so much weight in just one scene? Why does a Griffin rule the Isle of Misfit Toys? How does the abominable snow creature suddenly become a good guy at the end? Wasn't it fog, not a snowstorm, that led Santa to ask Rudolph to lead his sleigh?

So there you go. A reasoned defense of why this cartoon sucks. I challenge anyone to defend it.



Blogger Jack McDoer said...

i prefer christmas with the cranks.

December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Meredyth R. said...

While I can understand your gripe with the plot being stretched to the point of becoming mesh, I wish to address your questions and correct some mistruths you have cast about one of my favorite holiday specials.

First of all, NaturalBlog, it's Herbie. Also, the Abominable Snowman is actually naturally friendly. His crankiness is caused by a toothache, which is later ameliorated by dear little Herbie.

Why do you concern yourself with the reality of whether Santa can regain his bowl full of jelly in a single scene? Does not the mystery of how he can fly around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer delivering gifts to millions of children in a single night trump that issue in terms of questionability?

I can understand if the jilted animation makes you a bit sick to your stomach (check out the lips -- they don't even move sometimes!) but bear in mind that each little figure had to be moved individually and filmed in tiny snippets. It actually took months to film the hourlong special.

I can't argue with you about the problems with the plot. This would have been better done in a half-hour without Yukon Cornelious and with less of the wandering through the snow. (I'd add the Island of Misfit Toys to that list, except I find it a useful metaphor in everyday speech.)

Actually, what I take exception to is the mistreatment that the characters serve to each other throughout the show. At one point during the "We are Santa's Elves" number, one elf just hauls off and clocks another for no apparent reason except that it punctuates a sound in the song nicely. And Donner is horribly mean to Rudolf from birth. Even Santa is uncharacteristically unkind. After the unfortunate incident during the reindeer games, he tells Donner that he "ought to be ashamed" of himself, presumably just for fathering a son with a red nose. Nice Christmas spirit, folks.

Instead of being a hater, though, I embrace the faults of this hokey special. I enjoy finding new flaws and I always wait with bated breath for my favorite inappropriate line, "NO. THIS IS MAN'S WORK." (spoken by Donner when Mrs. Donner and Clarice want to join in the search for Rudolf. In fact, I would suggest that Rudolf could be made into a cheerful drinking game, perhaps involving egg nog. For some real fun and weirdness, I suggest watching a different Rankin and Bass Christmas special, "A Year without a Santa Claus." Heat Miser and Snow Miser? What? I suspect it might be an allegory that I haven't yet figured out. Or the result of whatever drugs were the rage in 1974.

December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You suck. I'll be on the island of misfit toys tonight, so don't bother to call.

December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i absolutly love this special.

you're a scroogey mcscrooge!

December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was Emily calling you scroogy mcscrooge by the way...

December 01, 2005  
Anonymous Bean Stringfellow said...

I went through these same emotions a year ago watching this special - and came to some of the same conclusions. Mainly, Santa is an ass, who only uses Rudolph (it's Rudolph, by the way, not Rudolf meredyth r.) when its to his benefit. I conclude that it's because of this special (and the Santa scene in 'Christmas Eve on Sesame Street) that I am scared of Santa Claus.

December 01, 2005  

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