The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is a Christmas television special produced in stop-motion animation by Rankin/Bass. As the title suggests, it is a sequel to the 1968 special The Little Drummer Boy. Originally broadcast on NBC on December 13, 1976, it is notably the only Rankin/Bass special to receive an Emmy nomination; it was nominated for the 1977 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program, but it lost to Ballet Shoes.
The special picks up where The Little Drummer Boy left off, at the little stable in Bethlehem, shortly after the birth of Jesus. Melchior, one of the three kings from the first movie, invites Aaron to travel with him to see his friend, an elderly bell-maker named Simeon who plans to make a very special set of silver bells to honor the birth of Jesus.
Meanwhile, a group of tax collectors, led by Brutus and his dim-witted lackey Plato, break into Simeon's home. Simeon cannot pay his tax, so to compensate, the tax collectors decide to take the silver bells.
Melchior, along with Aaron and his animals, arrives shortly thereafter, and they all take off to the tax collectors' camp, planning to take back the silver bells. However, this proves to be one of the most challenging tasks Aaron has ever faced. And things are about to get ugly when the tax collectors have their eye on Aaron's beloved drum.
After searching through the night, Melchior, Aaron, Simeon, and the animals finally stumble upon the tax collectors' camp. Aaron rounds up the animals and begins to make his way towards the camp.
Meanwhile, at the camp, Brutus is getting ready to count up the silver coins that had been collected during the day as taxes. He laments the fact that all the money belongs to the Emperor, adding, "It's difficult not to be greedy with all of this at one's fingertips."
Brutus, Plato, and the other tax collectors break out into song and dance ("Money, Money, Money"). Towards the end of their song, Aaron has arrived at the camp and watches them from afar.
Brutus tells Plato to put the silver away and mentions that they should probably do something about "those wretched bells", noting it would be a hassle to bring them on their travels. Plato suggests they melt them down into silver bricks-- much to Plato's excitement, Brutus thinks it is a brilliant idea, and the men begin setting up a campfire.
Aaron becomes frantic upon realizing that the tax collectors are planning on melting the bells and goes into the camp, playing his drum. Melchior and Simeon are nervously watching the scene unfold from the hills.
Brutus is surprised to see Aaron and asks if he has come to entertain them-- and even more surprised when he realizes that Aaron actually expects to be compensated for his song. Brutus and his men laugh at him, and Aaron is bewildered ("Money, Money, Money (Reprise)").
Brutus is beginning to get impatient and wants to begin melting the bells. He asks Plato why the fire is not lighted yet. Plato explains that they are having difficulty getting the fire started and are in need of two dry sticks and some kindling.
Brutus turns to Aaron with a grin and asks him to come closer. When Aaron realizes that Brutus is eyeing his beloved drum, he is horrified and pleads for them not to take it. But it is too late-- Brutus seizes the drum and sticks, and Plato uses them to start a campfire. Aaron, in tears, tries to salvage the drum, but Brutus holds him back and forces him to watch it burn.
Melchior and Simeon are still keeping an eye on Aaron from the hills and are about to go to help him when, all of a sudden, they notice something strange. While the tax collectors and a heartbroken Aaron are gathered around the campfire, distracted, the animals begin to drag the silver bells out of the camp and up through the hills.
Eventually, Aaron sees what his animals are up to, and just as Brutus notices that the bells are gone, he makes a run for it.
Aaron meets Melchior and Simeon up in the hills, where they have been digging a hole in the sand in which to hide the silver bells. Aaron frantically explains that the tax collectors have begun to search for the bells. Melchior thinks their best bet is that they try to make the sand look like the other dunes. After they have finished burying the bells, they hide behind a nearby cliff. Luckily, the plan is a success: Brutus and his men are unable to find the bells.
Back at the camp, Brutus is nothing short of furious about the events of that night and intends to sweep them-- and Simeon's debt-- under the rug, telling his men that he "will not be embarrassed in Rome". Plato is more than willing to play along. Brutus, knowing that Aaron had tricked him, admits he has "been made to play the part of a fool", to which Plato responds, "And you were glorious, Brutus, my master!"
The next morning, the silver bells are all set up and ready to ring in the birth of Jesus, and Melchior and Simeon talk excitedly. Melchior goes to get Aaron and is surprised to find him in tears. Melchior congratulates Aaron for the work he has done and asks him why he is crying; Aaron sheepishly explains that the tax collectors burned his drum. Melchior tries his best to cheer him up.
Finally, they are ready: Simeon begins to ring the silver bells ("Do You Hear What I Hear?"). Afterwards, Simeon says that since Aaron knows the road to the manger, he should lead them there with his drum. Aaron is very confused at his suggestion-- until, much to his surprise, Simeon presents him with a brand-new drum that he had made earlier.
Melchior heads home, and Simeon and Aaron lead a crowd of people to the manger, where Aaron plays his drum for the baby Jesus once again.
- The characters Brutus and Plato bear similarities to Ben Haramed and Ali from the first special; Brutus and Ben are both driven by their love of money, and Ali and Plato, respectively, are their dim-witted sidekicks.
- Greer Garson reprises her role as the narrator, making this the only Rankin/Bass sequel that has the same narrator as the original special.
- This is also the only official Rankin/Bass sequel to feature a villain song.
Broadcast history and availability
After acquiring the distribution rights for the post-1973 Rankin/Bass specials, Warner Home Video released The Little Drummer Boy, Book II on VHS in 1993. It was eventually made available again on the Rankin/Bass TV Holiday Favorites Collection manufacture-on-demand DVD, released exclusively through Warner Archive on July 30, 2012.
The special often aired as part of ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas lineup from the 1990s to 2015. ABC Family's broadcasts of the special omitted Brutus and Plato's final scene, most likely for time constraints.
|Greer Garson||Our Storyteller|