- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer character First appearance 1939 Last appearance 2001 (films and series) Created by Robert L. May Information Species Reindeer Gender Male Title The Red Nosed Reindeer
Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is a fictional reindeer with a glowing red nose. He is popularly known as "Santa's 9th Reindeer" and, when depicted, is the lead reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. The luminosity of his nose is so great that it illuminates the team's path through inclement winter weather.
The story is owned by The Rudolph Company, L.P. and has been adapted in numerous forms including a popular song, a television special, and a feature film. Character Arts, LLC manages the licensing for the Rudolph Company, L.P. Although the story and song are not public domain, Rudolph has become a figure of Christmas folklore.
Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for Montgomery Ward. The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money. May considered naming the reindeer "Rollo" and "Reginald" before deciding upon using the name "Rudolph". In its first year of publication, 2.4 million copies of Rudolph's story were distributed by Montgomery Ward. The story is written as a poem in the meter of "'Twas the Night Before Christmas". "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" is loved by millions and still selling copies. Publication and reprint rights for the book "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" are controlled by Pearson Plc.
May's brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, decided to adapt the story of Rudolph into a song. Marks (1909–1985), was a radio producer and wrote several popular Christmas songs. He was born in a New York City suburb and graduated from Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, before traveling to Paris to study music. He had a heroic World War II combat record, winning the Bronze Star and four battle stars.
The song was first sung commercially by crooner Harry Brannon on New York city radio in early November, 1949, before Gene Autry released it on November 25th, and has since filtered into the popular consciousness.
The lyric "All of the other reindeer" can be misheard in dialects with the cot–caught merger as the mondegreen "Olive, the other reindeer", and has given rise to another character featured in her own Christmas television special, Olive, the Other Reindeer. (Coincidentally, she mentions Rudolph by name to one of the reindeer, and the reindeer tells her Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer doesn't exist; it's all an urban legend.)
Autry's version of the song also holds the distinction of being the only number one hit to fall completely off the chart after hitting #1 the week of Christmas, 1949. The official date of its #1 status was for the week ending January 7, 1950, making it the first #1 song of the 1950s. Nonetheless, it sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.
Also in 1950, Spike Jones and his City Slickers released a version of the song that peaked at #7 on Billboard magazine's pop singles chart and #8 on Billboard's Best Selling Children's Records chart.
In 1968, The Temptations released a version of the song that peaked at #12 on Billboard magazine's special, year-end, weekly Christmas Singles chart (this same version later got as high as #3 on the same chart in December 1971). Their version of the song was also included on the group's 1970 Christmas album, The Temptations Christmas Card.
Also in 1996, The Wiggles recorded this song for their album, Wiggly, Wiggly Christmas. A year later, they sang it on their video, Wiggly Wiggly Christmas.
Also in 1996, Peach Hips, a group consisting of Kotono Mitsuishi, Aya Hisakawa, Rica Fukami, Emi Shinohara and Michie Tomizawa covered this song for a Christmas album coinciding with the fifth season of Sailor Moon.
In 2007, 1910 Fruitgum Company recorded the song for their Christmas album, Bubblegum Christmas.
In 2002, Jack Johnson recorded the song for a various artists holiday album released by Nettwerk Records and titled Maybe This Christmas (this same version was also released on the 2008 various artists holiday album, This Warm December: Brushfire Holiday Volume 1, which was released on Johnson's record label Brushfire Records).
In 2009, Barry Manilow included this song in the re-release of his third Christmas album, In the Swing of Christmas.
Rudolph in the media
Theatrical cartoon short
Rudolph's first screen appearance came in 1947, in the form of a cartoon short produced by Max Fleischer for the Jam Handy Corporation, that was more faithful to May's original story than Marks' song (which had not then yet been written). It was reissued in 1948 with the song added.
National Periodical Publications, also known as DC Comics, published a series of 13 annuals titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from 1950 to 1962. In 1972, DC published a 14th edition in an extra-large format. Subsequently, they published six more in that format: Limited Collectors' Edition C-24, C-33, C-42, C-50 and All-New Collectors' Edition C-53, C-60. Additionally, one digest format edition was published as The Best of DC #4 (Mar/Apr 1980).
In 1958, Golden Books published an illustrated storybook, adapted by Barbara Shook Hazen and illustrated by Richard Scarry. The book is similar in story to the Max Fleischer cartoon short. Although it is one of the more memorable versions of the story in book form, it is apparently no longer in print. However, a revised Golden Books version of the storybook has since been issued.
In 2003 Penguin Group (USA) Inc, a division of Pearson Plc, issued a reprint version of the original "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" with new artwork by Lisa Papp. Penguin also reprinted May's sequels "Rudolph Shines Again" and "Rudolph To The Rescue."
Stop Motion Animation TV special
The reindeer made his television debut on NBC in 1964, when Rankin/Bass produced a stop-motion animated TV special. This version of the story adds several new characters, including the prospector Yukon Cornelius, a love interest for Rudolph named Clarice, and a Christmas elf named Hermey. (Hermey, like Rudolph, is a misfit: he suffers the disdain of the other elves because he would rather be a dentist than a toymaker). New subplots include Hermey and Rudolph running away to the "Island of Misfit Toys" where defective, anthropomorphic toys are left when they are deemed unfit for a child's care, and the capture of Rudolph's parents and Clarice by the Abominable Snowmonster.
In 1975, a sequel to the Rankin-Bass original special was produced, titled Rudolph's Shiny New Year, and then a third in 1979 titled Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. The 2001 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys, while it used the same characters, was produced by a different company, and it's unclear whether or not it should be considered as part of this particular canon (see the next section).
Animated feature-length film
An animated feature film of the story was produced in 1998, titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie. It received only a limited theatrical release before debuting on home video. Despite this, it has garnered a base of dedicated fans as well as criticisms of many of the songs. Its inclusion of a villain character, Stormella, and a love interest, Zoey, for Rudolph as well as a small sidekick, Slyly, and a strong protector character, Leonard, are very derivative of the Rankin-Bass adaptation of the story as opposed to the original tale and song (the characters of Stormella, Zoey, Arrow, Slyly and Leonard closely parallel the Rankin-Bass characters of The Bumble, Clarice, Fireball, Hermey the Dentist, and Yukon Cornelius respectively). The movie amplifies the early back-story of Rudolph's harassment by his schoolmates (primarily an older fawn named Arrow) during his formative years.
GoodTimes Entertainment, the producers of this film, brought back most of the same production team for a CGI animated sequel, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys in 2001. Unlike the film, the sequel licensed the original characters from the Rankin-Bass special.
Relatives in different adaptations
Two BBC animations carry on the legend by introducing Rudolph's son, Robbie the Reindeer. However, Rudolph is never directly mentioned by name (references are replaced by a character interrupting with the phrase "Don't say that name!" or something similar, presumably for copyright reasons.)
Rudolph is also given a brother, Rusty Reindeer, in the 2006 American special, Holidaze: The Christmas That Almost Didn't Happen. Unlike in the "Robbie the Reindeer" cartoons, Rudolph's name is mentioned freely in the film.
Michael Fry and T. Lewis have recently given Rudolph another brother in a series of Over the Hedge comic strips; an overweight, emotionally-damaged reindeer named "Ralph, the Infra-Red nosed Reindeer", who has a red nose just like Rudolph's, but his is good for defrosting Santa's sleigh and warming up toast and waffles. He appeared before R.J., Verne, and Hammy, enviously complaining about his brother's publicity and his anonymity.
Rudolph has a cousin, Leroy, in Joe Diffie's 1995 song, "Leroy the Redneck Reindeer".
In the animated specials produced by both Rankin-Bass and GoodTimes Entertainment, Rudolph has been given different sets of parents. In Rankin-Bass's holiday special, he is Donner's son and his mother is an unnamed tan doe with long eyelashes who is simply called "Mrs. Donner". In GoodTimes's retelling, Rudolph's father is Blitzen, possibly to avoid plagiarism, and his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds, is named Mitzi.
Robert L. May's original book does not name Rudolph's parents.
- ^ Urban Legends Reference Page article on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
- ^ "Old Fashioned Christmas". University Place/Wisconsin Historical Society. Wisconsin Public Broadcasting Station. Wisconsin Channel. December 12, 2010. 0:28 minutes in.
- ^ Casey Kasem American Top 40 8/4/1979
- ^ Kenneth T. Jackson, Karen Markoe, Arnie Markoe, The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives. Simon and Schuster, 1998, p.28
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 31. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 43. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 36. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 25. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 49. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 18. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 61. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Christmas in the Charts (1920–2004). Wisconsin: Record Research Inc.. p. 42. ISBN 0-89820-161-6.
- ^ Christmas Special, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer Retrieved October 14, 2011
- Official Licensor for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Official CBS website for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
- Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948)
- Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer
- Rudolph To The Rescue
- Rudolph Shines Again
- Rudolph’s Second Christmas
- Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (1948) Full Film (public domain footage)
- Lyrics To Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
"Mule Train" by Frankie Laine
U.S. Billboard Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
January 7, 1950 (Gene Autry)
"I Can Dream, Can't I" by The Andrews Sisters
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