The Misfits Are Still a Hit

No animated Christmas special has been more durable than “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”   This Rankin-Bass perennial favorite, based on the Johnny Marks song of the same title,  premeried on NBC on December 6, 1964. 

There are several characters in the program, the main character among them, who don’t quite fit into their circumstances.  Rudolph doesn’t fit in with the other reindeer because the other reindeer don’t have glowing red noses.  Hermey the Elf doesn’t quite fit in with the other elves in Santa’s workshop because Hermey would rather spend his time being a dentist than a toymaker–toymaker apparently being the raison d’etre of the average North Pole-dwelling elf.  Rudolph and Hermey meet up and come upon a character named Yukon Cornelius.  The three of them manage to find a place called The Island of Misfit Toys, the denizens of which apparently have various defects that render them unlovable by children (as one of them puts it, “No child wants to play with a Charlie-In-The-Box!”). 

Rudolph decides to see if Santa can help the misfit toys so he goes back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve.   However, inclement weather places Santa’s annual mission in peril.  It is at this point that Rudolph’s glowing red nose becomes an asset and he leads Santa’s sleigh on its annual journey around the world.

Marks wrote the music for this program, the soundtrack of which contains some beloved tunes, among them “We’re a Couple of Misfits”, “Silver and Gold”, “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year”, and “Jingle, Jingle, Jingle.” 

The original preproduction of the show apparently did not include folk singer/balladeer/actor  Burl Ives, who would play the role of Sam the Snowman and would perform several of the songs in the program.  Originally, Yukon Cornelius (Larry D. Mann) was to perform many of the songs Sam ended up performing.   Ives was most likely brought in as a star name to sell the show to network TV and, in fact, Sam did bear a resemblance to Ives.

Other voice artists to perform on “Rudolph” besides Mann and Ives were Canadian actor Paul Soles as the voice of Hermey the Elf and Billie Richards (using the name “Billy Richards”) as the voice of Rudolph.

I have attached a YouTube clip featuring Sam the Snowman’s performance of “Silver and Gold.”  My main source of information for this entry was the “Rudolph: Behind the Scenes” page on TVParty.com.  Rick Goldschmidt, the author of  “The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass”, wrote the text for the TVParty.com page.  Another source of information I used was a “Rudolph” plot summary page from The Internet Movie Database.


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