Rudolph's Shiny New Year is a stop-motion animation special that aired on ABC on December 10, 1976, produced by Rankin/Bass. It is a sequel to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It is often aired during the Christmas season, despite the fact that it is technically a New Year's special, as suggested by the title.
The story begins precisely where Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 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 writes that he is in serious trouble: Happy the baby new year has gone missing. If he is not found, the new year cannot begin and the old one will continue on forever. Santa summons Rudolph who he knows is the only one who can make it through the thick fog and across the sands of time.
Sent to assist in this journey are 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, Rudolph is introduced to Aeon the Terrible, a giant vulture who hovers overhead, also looking for Happy. His companions explain to him that Aeon can only live until he is one eon old, after which he will apparently turn into ice and snow. Therefore, Aeon plans to prevent Happy from being passed on the crown of time, 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 just how crucial it is that he finds Happy. Father Time explains that he took off when no one, not even his nurse Nanny Nine O'Clock, could stand the sight of 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.
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. 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 occurred as before with his ears, and the laughter of the prehistoric creatures scared him off to another island.
O.M. accompanies Rudolph for two days as they have no luck finding Happy in the islands of 1893, 1492, or 1965. The next island they visit serves as home to 1023, a knight of shining armor with an overgrown beard that hangs out of his helmet. Instilled with a sense of duty, 1023 joins Rudolph on their quest as they seek out Happy. On their journey, they ask numerous 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 finding a bowl that was just right, 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 until he also laughs at his birth defect, all the while pleading for his new friend to return as he crawls away into the forest.
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 1776, a kindly older man resembling Benjamin Franklin, who is out flying a kite just before the holiday festivities. On this island however, they're not celebrating the new year, but the Fourth of July, complete with a parade and a drum and fife corps. As the villagers once again scare Happy away, Rudolph just misses his chance to catch up with him, but instead acquires yet another soul who vows to help track him down.
Back in the clutches of Aeon, Happy is brought to a mountain of snow and ice, where the evil bird is holding him captive. Alerted to this infiltration, Aeon causes an avalanche that encases the heroes in four perfect snowballs, out of which only Rudolph and his shiny nose is able to break free. Once at the top, he shares his own misfit story with Happy and encourages him to overcome his disfigurement. Awake now, Aeon glimpses those giant ears, and plummets to the bottom of his perch, laughing for the first time in his life.
As the clock strikes twelve, Santa Claus arrives to deliver Happy to Father Time by the last strike, thus restoring the passage of the new year.
- 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
Broadcast history and availability
This special has been released on home video several times over the years. It is currently included on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of The Year Without a Santa Claus, which also include Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. It also currently airs annually on ABC and during ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas programming block.
Note: The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, the Big Bad Wolf, Little Miss Muffet, and Cinderella make appearances, but do not have speaking parts.
- Archived ABC Feature Page for Rudolph's Shiny New Year
- Archived ABC Feature Page for Start Here for the Holidays
- Other Holiday Specials Wiki: Rudolph's Shiny New Year