Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

I'll do my best, Santa.

— Rudolph beginning the search for Happy, Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Of the different versions of the character of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, arguably the most famous one debuted in the 1964 Rankin/Bass television special of the same name. Originally voiced by Billie Mae Richards, he made reappearances in several later Rankin/Bass holiday specials, as well as a direct-to-video CGI special produced by Goodtimes Entertainment.


In the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special, just as the original poem and song suggest, Rudolph is born with an unusually shiny red nose. Unlike in the original poem, though, he is the son of Santa Claus' lead reindeer, Donner, and his wife, Mrs. Donner. After Santa says Rudolph should learn to control his nose's bioluminescence if he ever wants to be on the sleigh team, Donner covers it up with a fake one made of dirt, which young Rudolph hates having to wear. When his real nose is accidentally revealed at the Reindeer Games, the other reindeer laugh at him and call him names, and the coach, Comet, bans him from the games. His girlfriend, Clarice, is the only other reindeer who does not treat him badly.

Feeling ashamed about his nose, Rudolph decides to run away from home. He later befriends Hermey, an elf outcast who wanted to be a dentist, and a miner named Yukon Cornelius. After narrowly avoiding being caught by the Abominable Snowmonster of the North, they arrive at the Island of Misfit Toys, a place where all unwanted toys go. While spending the night there, Rudolph decides he does not want his nose to further endanger his friends' lives and runs away.


The older Rudolph leads Santa's team at the end of the special.

Several months later, Rudolph, now a young teen buck, finally decides to return home, despite still being ridiculed by his fellow bucks, and learns from Santa that his parents and Clarice have been looking for him. In spite of the big snowstorm now happening, Rudolph searches for them, eventually finding them being held prisoners in the Abominable Snowmonster's cave. He rushes in to save them but is knocked out cold when the monster hits him with a stalactite. Luckily, Hermey and Yukon, having learned about Rudolph's plight from Sam the Snowman, arrive at the cave to help save him and his family. As they return to Santa's workshop, everyone, including Santa himself, admits they were wrong to ridicule Rudolph and his nose. Shortly after, everyone learns that Santa's annual Christmas Eve flight will have to be cancelled because of the terrible weather conditions, but after seeing how bright Rudolph's nose is, Santa asks him to use his nose to light the way and lead his team. Thus, Christmas is saved, and Rudolph becomes praised as a hero.

Rudolph makes a brief cameo in Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, immediately following the introduction of the original eight reindeer. As a continuity nod, S.D. Kluger points out to his audience that Rudolph does not have a role in this story, since his backstory is another one altogether.

Rudolph Baby New Year

Rudolph with Happy the Baby New Year in Rudolph's Shiny New Year.

Rudolph later returned in a sequel titled Rudolph's Shiny New Year, which takes place almost immediately after the events of the original special (though strangely, he looks younger than he did at the end of it). In it, he is told by Father Time that Happy, the Baby New Year, has gone missing because everyone laughed at the sight of his oversized ears. Having put up with similar teasing about his nose in the first special, Rudolph says that he knows how Happy must have felt. Accompanied by Big Ben, he ventures to the Archipelago of Last Years, where Happy has run off to. In his travels, he is eventually joined by One Million B.C., 1023, and 1776. After Happy is captured by a giant vulture named Aeon the Terrible and brought to the Island of No Name, Rudolph finds him and shares his own story with him, encouraging him to overcome his problem.

Rudolph made another cameo appearance at the beginning of Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. As he is shown leading Santa's sleigh into the sky on Christmas Eve, Santa's pet donkey, Speiltoe, points out how Rudolph's story is somewhat similar to that of his ancestor, the titular Nestor, as he begins to tell the main story.


Rudolph with Frosty in Christmas in July.

Rudolph's last appearance under Rankin/Bass was the made-for-TV movie Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July. By the time of its events, Rudolph has become great friends with Frosty and his family, so much that Frosty and Crystal's twin children, Chilly and Milly, look up to him as their adoptive uncle. The film also provides a more detailed backstory for Rudolph's nose, explaining that Lady Boreal made it shine as a defense against the evil Winterbolt, and that its power lasts only as long as Rudolph uses his gift for good.

During the events of the film, Rudolph, along with Frosty and his family (who are wearing amulets that prevent them from melting in the hot weather, provided by Winterbolt pretending to be a nice person), appear as guest stars at the Seaside Circus at the Beach's Fourth of July show, in order to save it from being shut down. However, Winterbolt employs an evil reindeer named Scratcher to take advantage of Rudolph's kindness and steal the circus' money, which causes his nose to stop glowing. Upon finding out, Rudolph reluctantly agrees to take the blame after making a deal with Winterbolt to extend the powers of the amulets that Frosty's family is wearing. However, when he manages to retrieve Frosty's magic hat after Winterbolt steals it, his nose regains its glow. In the end, after Winterbolt is vanquished and Jack Frost arrives to save the melted Frosty family, Rudolph decides to temporarily stay with the circus until they've fully gotten out of their debt.

CGI Rudolph

Rudolph as he appears in Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys.

Over two decades later, Rudolph starred in another sequel, titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. In it, Rudolph feels like an outsider because he's often using his nose for party tricks. As such, he considers undergoing Queen Camilla's suggestion of undergoing plastic surgery to switch his nose with a regular one, but at the risk of losing his title as the most famous reindeer and becoming unable to guide Santa through fogs anymore. At the same time, he has to stop the mysterious Toy Taker from stealing all the misfit toys for himself. In the end, Rudolph decides to keep his nose the way it is because he's proud of just being himself.

Years after Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys, Rudolph and his original costars appeared in various commercials, including an Aflac commercial in 2007, a Verizon commercial in 2009, a Bing commercial in 2011, a Nissan commercial in 2013, and an AT&T commercial in 2015.



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