Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

This article is about the 1968 Rankin/Bass television special. For the original song, see The Little Drummer Boy (song).

Aaron's heart was filled with joy and love. And he knew at last that the hate he had carried there was wrong. As ALL hatred will ever be wrong. For more powerful, more beautiful by far than all the eons of sadness and cruelty and desolation which had come before, was that one tiny, crystalline second of laughter. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

— Our storyteller, regarding Aaron having given and then received a great gift

The Little Drummer Boy is a Christmas television special produced in stop-motion animation by Rankin/Bass. It was originally broadcast on NBC on December 16, 1968.

Romeo Muller said that, of all the specials that he wrote for Rankin/Bass, this one was his personal favorite.



The special tells the story of a young drummer boy named Aaron, a lonely orphan after desert bandits stole his family's sheep, killed his parents, and burned their farm. His only companions are Baba, Samson, and Joshua (a lamb, a donkey, and a camel, respectively). Aaron's animal friends like dancing to the song of his drum, which was given to him by his father before his death. One day, Aaron, Baba, Samson, and Joshua are captured by a performer named Ben Haramed and his lanky partner, Ali.

After the capture, Ben Haramed talks Aaron into joining their show caravan and performing, though Aaron has vowed to hate all people for what they had done to his family and joyful life. When the trio and the animals arrive in Jerusalem, they roll out the carpet and begin the show with two unsuccessful Chinese tumblers and Ali, who attempts to juggle pots and ends up breaking them. Aaron then performs "Why Can't the Animals Smile" with some assistance from Baba, Samson, and Joshua. The audience loves it and begs for more, but Aaron becomes angry at them for being happy after the painful loss of his parents. His vow to hate all humans overtakes him, and the bewildered crowd chases the performers out.

Screen shot 2012-07-16 at 4.22

Soon after setting up camp, Ben Haramed and Ali discover the caravan of the Three Kings. Ben Haramed promises Aaron he will give him half of the money and set him free if he does a performance for the Kings. Aaron agrees, but to Ben Haramed's dismay, the Kings are leaving to follow the star of Bethlehem and have no time for a performance. But one of the Kings' camels collapses and is not able to go with them. The Kings then remember seeing a camel with the trio, and Ben Haramed sells Joshua, much to Aaron's horror. Determined, Aaron leaves Ben Haramed and, along with Samson and Baba, goes to follow the Kings' caravan and reclaim Joshua.


They resort to following the star of Bethlehem and soon come upon the barn, the birthplace of Jesus. They spot Joshua and happily run to meet him. Unfortunately, a horse-drawn cart comes rolling past and injures Baba. Heartbroken and carrying Baba, Aaron leads Samson and Joshua to one of the Kings. He begs him to save Baba but is told instead that nothing can be done. Aaron is then told to go look upon Jesus and give him a gift. He does not understand, but reluctantly lays down his beloved lamb and approaches Jesus. He plays a song on his drum, while the Vienna Boys Choir sings the title song. Jesus then smiles at him. After the song, he finds out that Baba is alive. He then realizes that the vow he had made and kept on the night of his parents' death was wrong. The star of Bethlehem still shines in the sky, protecting and illuminating Bethlehem forevermore.


Home video releases

As of 2016, the special is currently owned by NBC Universal, who obtained all rights to the pre-1973 Rankin/Bass library when they purchased Classic Media's parent company, DreamWorks Animation, in April 2016.

The special has been distributed on home video by Trans-Atlantic Video in 1988, by Family Home Entertainment from 1989 to 1997, A. E. E. Inc in 1994, by Sony Wonder from 1998 to 2004, by Genius Products from 2007 to 2009, and by Vivendi Entertainment in 2011. Of particular note, it was originally included as a bonus special on Sony Wonder's first two DVD releases of Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, before later getting its own DVD releases in subsequent years. It was later included in Universal's Original Christmas Classics Deluxe Edition DVD and Blu-ray box sets in 2018, sharing a disc with Cricket on the Hearth, and then got its own individual Blu-ray release the following year.


  • This special has been heavily panned by Arab-Americans for "including racist Arab stereotypes" through the characters of Ben Haramed and Ali, claiming that they portray Arabs as "money-grubbing, fat, ugly, hook-nosed kidnappers," according to the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee.


  • The original 1968 broadcast included several bumpers narrated by Greer Garson, wishing the viewers a Merry Christmas and thanking the original sponsor: The American Gas Association. One of these bumpers featured a photo of Greer Garson herself.
  • On Freeform's current airings of the special, a few scenes were cut for time.
  • Ben Haramed's song, "When the Goose Is Hanging High", was cut out from the ABC Family airings in the late 1990s and 2000s, but it has been restored back to Freeform’s airings as of 2019.
  • Releases since 1998 use an incomplete audio mix that is missing a majority of the sound effects and also has Greer Garson's narration briefly switch to a scratch track recorded by Paul Frees for one line at the end. This is due to the original 35mm master becoming lost in the 1990s, before Sony Wonder acquired the rights, leading them to use 16mm B-roll elements.
    • Furthermore, the 2018 DVD and Blu-ray release adds two additional commercial fade-outs.


Voice actor/actress Character(s)
José Ferrer Ben Haramed
Paul Frees Aaron's Father
The Magi
June Foray Aaron's Mother
Teddy Eccles Aaron
Greer Garson Our Storyteller
The Vienna Boys Choir Themselves


External links

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerCricket on the HearthThe Little Drummer BoyFrosty the SnowmanSanta Claus is Comin' to Town • "A Christmas Tree" • 'Twas the Night Before ChristmasThe Year Without a Santa ClausThe First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas SnowFrosty's Winter WonderlandRudolph's Shiny New YearThe Little Drummer Boy, Book IINestor, the Long-Eared Christmas DonkeyThe Stingiest Man in TownRudolph and Frosty's Christmas in JulyJack FrostPinocchio's ChristmasThe Leprechauns' Christmas GoldThe Life and Adventures of Santa ClausSanta, Baby!