You know Rudolph who guided and pulled Santa's sleigh
— Father Time's opening narration
Rudolph's Shiny New Year is a stop-motion animation special produced by Rankin/Bass that aired on ABC on December 10, 1976. It is a sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that is often aired during the Christmas season, despite technically being a New Year's special.
The story begins precisely where the original special left off, following Santa Claus's return from his trip around the world. As he begins to settle in, he receives a letter from his old friend Father Time, who is in serious trouble - Happy, the Baby New Year, has gone missing, and if he is not found, the new year cannot begin and the old one will continue on forever. Santa summons Rudolph, since he is the only one who can make it through the thick fog and across the Sands of Time to reach Father Time's castle to receive his mission.
Rudolph soon meets up with two agents of Father Time - General Ticker, a military clock, and The Great Quarter Past Five, a camel with a large timepiece in his hump. On the trek across the desert, they escape the dastardly clutches of Aeon the Terrible, a giant vulture who is also looking for Happy. Rudolph's companions explain to him that Aeon can only live until he is one eon old and will supposedly turn into ice and snow upon death. Therefore, Aeon plans to prevent the new year from coming, thus extending his own lifespan.
Upon their arrival at Father Time's castle, located beneath a large, bright star in the sky, Rudolph is given details about the passage of time, and how crucial it is that he finds Happy so that he can be given the Crown of Time at the stroke of midnight on December 31st. Father Time explains that Happy took off when no one, not even his nurse Nanny Nine O'Clock, could look at his oversized ears without laughing. His feelings hurt, Happy set his sights on the Archipelago of Last Years - a group of islands, each of which is home to the individual who once represented years passed after they stepped down and retired when their year came to an end.
As Rudolph sets out to find Happy, he is greeted a large whale named Big Ben, who surfaces just as Aeon is about to attack the ocean-bound reindeer on his raft to prevent him from reaching the Archipelago. With his new bodyguard, Rudolph makes his first stop on an island belonging to one of the oldest years in the Archipelago - One Million B.C., a caveman whose island is anachronistically inhabited with friendly dinosaurs. Nicknamed O.M. for short, the flighty cave dweller tells Rudolph that Happy had been there not long ago. Unfortunately, the same misfortune with his ears occurred as before, and the laughter of the prehistoric creatures scared him off to another island.
O.M. accompanies Rudolph for two days on Big Ben as they have no luck finding Happy on the islands of 4000 B.C., 1893, 1492, or 1965. The next island they visit serves as home to Sir 1023, an armored knight with an overgrown beard that hangs out of his helmet. Instilled with a sense of duty, 1023 joins Rudolph and O.M. on their quest as they seek out Happy. On their journey, they ask the island's inhabitants (who are all characters from fairy tales and nursery rhymes) about Happy's whereabouts.
Meanwhile, Happy happens upon a house in the woods. Hungry from his travels, he samples the porridge left behind by the home's residents, the Three Bears - Papa Bear, Mama Bear, and Baby Bear. After eating Baby Bear's porridge and breaking the smallest of the three chairs, he falls asleep in Baby Bear's bed, which is where the bear family finds him upon their return. Baby Bear, identifying with Happy, befriends him and they play make-believe until he also laughs at his ears, all the while pleading for his new friend to return as he crawls away into the forest, his feelings hurt once more.
When Rudolph, 1023, and O.M. spot Happy being flown away by Aeon, they rush to Big Ben and chase the vulture down in pursuit. Big Ben is able to knock Happy free from Aeon's grasp with a spray of water from his blowhole, but a gust of wind carries him far off course and out of reach again. The air currents carry Happy to the island of 1776 (or "Sev", for short), a kindly older man resembling Benjamin Franklin, who is out flying a kite just before the holiday festivities. On this island, they are celebrating the Fourth of July, complete with a parade and a drum and fife corps. However, when the villagers once again drive Happy away by laughing at his ears, Rudolph just misses his chance to catch up with him, but Sev vows to help track Happy down after Rudolph explains everything to him. However, they soon discover Happy having been taken by Aeon again.
Happy is brought to the Island of No Name, a mountain of snow and ice where the evil bird is holding him captive in his nest. Rudolph and the others manage to catch up and try to climb the mountain. Unfortunately, Aeon is alerted to their infiltration and causes an avalanche that encases the heroes in four perfect snowballs, out of which only Rudolph is able to break free thanks to his shiny nose. Once at the top, while Aeon is sleeping, Rudolph shares his own misfit story with Happy and encourages him to overcome his disfigurement. Aeon wakes up and, upon seeing Happy's giant ears, plummets to the bottom of his perch, laughing for the first time in his life, while also freeing the past years from their snowballs. Rudolph figures that Aeon is now cured forever, since he is presently so full of warmth and happiness that it would be impossible for him to turn to ice and snow.
Unfortunately, Big Ben's tail clock begins to strike midnight. Luckily for the heroes, Santa Claus arrives to deliver Happy to Father Time by the last stroke, just in time for Father Time to place him at the beginning of the new year (which is designated "nineteen-wonderful"). After the celebration, everyone wishes the viewers a happy new year, with Rudolph adding, "And may it be shiny, too!"
- "Have a Happy New Year"
- "The Moving Finger Writes"
- "Turn Back the Years"
- "It's Raining Sunshine"
- "What a Wonderful World We Live In"
- "Fourth Of July Parade"
- "Have a Little Faith in Me"
- "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
The special was later re-aired on the Disney Channel from 1984 to 1997, and again in 2015. It was then aired as part of Freeform's 25 Days of Christmas from 1998 to 2017, and returned to ABC in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It began airing on AMC as part of their annual Best Christmas Ever event in 2018, and also appeared on its sister channel IFC in 2019.
This special has been released on home video several times over the years, including on all DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Year Without a Santa Claus, which also include Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
- Mrs. Thistlewhite and the unnamed grouchy Southtown citizen from The Year Without a Santa Claus, and the kid who threw away Burgermeister Meisterburger's portrait at the end of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, make cameos among the people celebrating the arrival of the new year at the end.
|Red Skelton|| Father Time|
|Frank Gorshin|| 1023|
The Great Quarter Past Five
|Morey Amsterdam||One Million B.C.|
|Harold Peary||Big Ben|
|Paul Frees|| Santa Claus|
Aeon the Terrible
|Billie Mae Richards||Rudolph|
|Don Messick|| Papa Bear|
The Seven Dwarfs
|Iris Rainer|| Mama Bear|
Nanny Nine O'Clock
Note: The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Miss Muffet, and Cinderella make cameo appearances during the "What a Wonderful World We Live In" sequence, but do not have speaking parts.
- Other Holiday Specials Wiki: Rudolph's Shiny New Year
- Rudolph's Shiny New Year at the Internet Movie Database
- Archived ABC Feature Page for Rudolph's Shiny New Year