Debuted in 1944
Plot in 3 Sentences: A reindeer with a shiny red nose is mocked and treated badly by his peers. Then on a particularly foggy Christmas Eve, Santa sees him and asks him to help light the way for his toy delivery. He becomes a Christmas hero.
Fun Fact: Rudolph was originally created to be an advertising icon for Montgomery Ward department stores.
My thoughts: The Rankin-Bass version of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has been a Christmas tradition pretty much as long as I’ve been alive. I imagine there are lots of people who have never seen this short, which marks the debut of Rudolph as an animated character. This version of the story is significantly less cluttered than the Rankin-Bass, with the only named characters being Rudolph, Santa and his team of reindeer, which is why you can tell the entire story in nine minutes. Also, Rudolph is not at all related to Santa’s reindeer and is completely unknown to them until Santa stops by to deliver his presents and spies his red nose. The story is narrated in rhyme by Paul Wing, who was one of the only people to receive an Academy Award for Assistant Director (before they retired the category). On the versions I’ve seen, all the dialogue sounds as though it was recorded inside a tin can. I’m not sure if the original sounded any better. It’s worth watching for the historical view of Rudolph, but doesn’t stand up that well over time.
Individual Superlative: Most Ambiguous Age – No one seems to be really sure when this cartoon was actually released. Some documentation says 1944 and others say 1949. The song was first recorded (by Gene Autry) in 1949 and some say this short was re-released with the song in 1949, thereby causing the confusion, but it seems that no evidence exists to support either story.
Want to Watch it? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer is available on YouTube as well as several VHS and DVD compilations.