Many of you have probably read my post about the film Day Of The Beast listed as my favorite Christmas holiday movie and thought, "What a freak!" Well, you're right about that. However, I do have a soft spot in my heart for the old holiday specials that have been a staple of the airwaves during December for years. Yup, I'm talking about the stop-motion animated specials produced by Arthur Rankin,Jr. and Jules Bass, specifically my two favorites, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974).
Rudolph was the first such special the team of Rankin/Bass put together. After making several successful commercials using the Animagic process, they decided to make their first hour-long holiday special. Rankin happened to be the neighbor of composer Johnny Marks, who wrote the famous song about the red-nosed reindeer. He convinced Marks that they would treat his property right, and went on to make TV history. Rudolph snagged a 55% share of the audience on its initial broadcast, and has consistently pulled in a big batch of viewers ever since.
I'm not going to go over the plot, since I'm sure all of you have seen this at one time or another...and if you haven't, stop reading this and go rent it now!It really is a classic. Personally, my favorite characters in this show are the Ambominable Snowmnan(or The Bumble), and King Moonracer, ruler of the Island of Misfit Toys. I remember being a bit scared of the Bumble when I first saw this show at about age 3, but I still thought he was cool. And Moonracer was a winged lion, and how can you beat that? Also, the story had a message about how its OK to be different, and I think that's a good message for kids, and adults too.
My other favorite show from this team was The Year Without a Santa Claus, because of the appearance of Heat Miser and Snow Miser, brothers who control their respective elements . Their song -and-dance routines are classic. I remember back in college, I think it was my first year, going down to the TV room in the dorms to watch this show. The place was packed within no time, and quickly became standing room only. That a bunch of usually drunken folks around their 20s were standing around for an hour to watch a kid's holiday show says something for the impact it had on everyone there.
I'm kind of turned off of the holiday season for the most part...it's over-commercialized, and I'm not of a particularly religious bent in the first place, and even the basic spirit of giving that the season is supposed to promote is tarnished by pushy, grouchy shoppers with an undeserved sense of entitlement(yeah, I used to work retail years ago...one of the many reasons I do not fear Hell). They start putting Christmas stuff in stores before Halloween is even over, and playing Christmas music in stores before Thanksgiving is past. Despite all this, when these shows come on TV, I ease up a bit, and I can still recall the child-like wonder I had as a kid watching these animated adventures for the first time. It's kind of like when I watch a Godzilla film...the years flow backward, and I'm a kid again, smiling at the screen.
There's a great book titled The Enchanted world Of Rankin/Bass-A Portfolio, by Rick Goldschmidt. If you want to learn more about these shows, this is the place to start(My copy is autographed by the author, with a drawing of the Bumble by him as well).
Now, if someone would make an Animagic special about St. Nick and Krampus....