This is a film that is nolstalgia from my childhood. When I was a little kid the Abominable Snow Monster (as well as the Wampa in “The Empire Strikes Back”) gave me nightmares as a child. Seeing it later I certainly see the cons of the era (Why aren’t there any female Reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh?) but it’s pros too as the outcasts being accepted is a major theme and that is something that makes sense as difference is part of what defines us as human beings.
The film was directed by Larry Roemer and written by Romeo Muller and Robert May.
The story is the classic tale of how Rudolph went down in history after saving Christmas during the worst snowstorms.
The Pros: The Animation – The Stop Motion animation is absolutely beautiful. Rankin/Bass really did create a unique style that is worth checking out at least once, if only for how there is nothing like it. It has a distinct cartoonish character to it.
The Abominable Snow Monster – The fact that as a small child this guy freaked me out is a testament to this beast. It’s also cool how after it loses it’s teeth it becomes a good creature. Props to Yukon Cornelius for reforming it.
Hermey – The Elf who wants to be a dentist and has a rebellious streak. He talks about quitting and finally does. He also saves Rudolph from the Abominable Snow Monster with the his dentistry skills when he pulls out all it’s teeth.
Yukon Cornelius – Yukon is all ham and it is glorious! He’s over the top and obsesses over mining everything from gold, silver and finally deciding on peppermint. I’d watch a film of this guy going on crazy adventures. He doesn’t need a team, he’s zany enough on his own.
Island of Misfit Toys – The Island is a lot of fun and the outcast toys show how Santa has dropped the ball as he forgot all about them. Santa dropping the ball is a big theme as well as Santa being a dick. The Island is cool and the Lion with Wings who is King is a pretty great character too.
Rudolph – Rudolph is a great character. He conforms to the fullest degree and loses it all when he is revealed except for Clarice. He finds acceptance among the outcasts though. He comes into his own and ends up saving the day per the song. He’s the standard hero but he’s empathetic and the best of the reindeer.
Okay: Clarice – She’s a bit of a blank slate. She likes Rudolph because he’s different but she never gets to know his personality all that much. For this reason she is a bit of a cipher. She has agency though as she is the one with Rudolph’s Mom and Donner who goes looking for him after he runs away. Ashame she needs rescuing in the end, but all the Reindeer and the North Pole do.
Mrs. Claus – Another cipher. We never know her motivation beyond making Santa fat for Christmas.
The Cons: Santa – Santa is horrible to everyone around him. To the elves he acts bored and he refuses the even let Rudolph get training because he has a red nose. Rudolph has to save him and do all the work for him to finally become a decent human being. Way to go Santa.
Boss Elf – Same problem as Santa. All about conformity with no purpose beyond ritual. I like the Hermey got to show him up in the end.
This was an enjoyable special, though I wouldn’t go so far as to calling it great. That is largely a limitation of time and some of the story choices. Clarice could have done much more and Santa being unsympathetic and a horrible person generally to those around him doesn’t help his case, just like the Boss Elf. The outcasts are the most sympathetic and the reason to watch this unique Christmas Special.
Final Score: 7 / 10