Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Dated but Wonderful (Day #14)

Title: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Release: December 1964

Starring: Burl Ives, Larry D. Mann, Billie Mae Richards

*Warning, this review may contain spoilers

You know that weird stop-motion Christmas movie you used to watch as a kid? The one with the abominable snowman puppet? C’mon, think… Think real hard. You know what I’m talking about. That movie is called Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is a fact that I often forget. My memories revolve more around the abominable snowman and the lead boy Hermey instead of the actual reindeer Rudolph. While based off of a 1939 Christmas song, this hit TV special is probably more renowned for its use of stop-motion animation when the concept was fairly new. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was released during a time when TV specials were the best entertainment a kid could get. 55+ years later, it is still considered a genuine Christmas classic and is must-see TV every December.

As you read through my article here, you’ll notice that I am a tad bit harsh on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’s outdated look. You must first know that I only call it like I see it. It LOOKS old, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. This is a piece of cinematic history, a masterpiece of its time. The stop-motion animation may be the biggest draw of the movie, but it’s the characters that leave you coming back for more. An entire island of sad toys, a confused outcast reindeer, Sam the unforgettable snowman narrator, the terrifying abominable snow monster, and so much more. You’ll come into the movie fresh and leave in a state of shock and awe. It will ALWAYS have that impact on you.

While stop-motion animation is a filming technique that has been usurped by advances in computer animation technology, it did have a long and abundant life. The Wallace and Gromit shorts may be the most successful, but there are many others as well. Perhaps another Christmas movie on this list? Stop-motion animation is a painstaking process that requires long tedious days of micro-movements of your puppets, then piecing together every shot one frame at a time. It is a grueling task that should be admired as much for its artistic talents as its final result.

As a child I created minutes-long videos of Legos and other action figures using the family 8mm camera, and I can personally attest to the necessary attention to detail. I also did a couple short videos for my college courses when I was studying film, but unfortunately all of my videos got lost due to me being a total bum when it comes to organization. I have a great deal of appreciation for production company Videocraft International, Ltd. They could have taken the easy road and used cel animation, but instead they chose to bring families something special. Something unique.

While Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is definitely special and unique, it’s hard to argue with how dated it looks. Computer technology continues to shine a light on movies of old, making it easier to see the flaws in their special effects. I can’t sit here and say that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is flawed, but I am comfortable in saying it is imperfect. Attention to continuity and character movements are paramount in stop-motion animation. Although the puppet crew was pretty thorough, they were not without the occasional issue. We need to be forgiving because back in 1964, they had to process the film before they could see their mistakes. We often forget the struggles filmmakers faced back then. Regardless, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer‘s age is showing. I’m okay with that and you should be too! It is Christmas, after all!

Overall, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a wildly fun ride that is clearly dated but still a wonderful journey. The puppet movements lack fluidity and are occasionally out of sync with their voice dubs, but I’m no Grinch! It doesn’t bother me in the least, despite its glaring age. I am always thrilled to sit down and watch this 47 minute long Christmas movie! Its dated look is quaint, reminding me of a better time. A more innocent time. I would have loved to have sat on the floor amongst my siblings and cousins experiencing this on its debut. The good news is: this is an easy find for yourself or your children. Available on DVD, Blu-ray, and live-TV this holiday, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the perfect walk down memory lane, or a chance to start a new memory for some lucky kids.

Thanks for reaching the end of the article! This piece is apart of our Modern Neon Christmas Bonanza, where we are looking at 25 of our favorite or well-known Christmas movies.  So click through to see the previous and next movie, or go back to the home page to find your favorite movie!

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