Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
A snowman with a hipster goatee and the voice of Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
buttonholes us and insists we chat about the weather. This already seems less like a holiday classic and more like bad bus shelter small talk, but he assures us that if he "lives to be a hundred" he'll never see a worse storm. Who wants to tell him he won't live till March?
"What's the matter?" he demands, gazing into the camera with his coal eyes, "Never seen a talking snowman before." No, it's not that; I mean, I dropped acid once or twice in high school.
You know, the thing about a snowman is, he's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll's eyes. And when they come at you, they don't seem to be living. Because they're not, they're just malformed effigies made from clumps of inclement weather.
Big Daddy spends a few moments talking up the North Pole real estate market and trying to sell us on time shares in Ice Station Zebra, then he admits the whole place is a Honduran-style oligarchy ruled by the Claus Family. Cut to the interior of their castle, which like everything else was probably built by slave elf labor (but since the elves look more like garden gnomes and less like Legolas, nobody cares). Mrs. Claus is attempting to force-feed Santa like a goose, but Santa refuses to eat, because the "food" she's serving him is the same shade of purple as the plate, the table, the floor and the walls, so even if he wanted to eat, how would he even find it? Plus, Santa's no fool, and knows that if he cooperates there's a good chance he'll wake up in a bathtub full of ice with his liver harvested for paté (Mrs. Claus likes to do it up fancy for Christmas dinner).
Back to Big Daddy, who's sliding around the snowy grounds of Schloss Klaus, making a weird whisking noise that sounds like somebody running in tight corduroy shorts, or maybe a dog wiping its butt on a shag carpet. Suddenly, he breaks into a chorus of the theme song, which turns out to be a dark incantation that summons the credits. It's a catchy tune, but we've all heard it a million times, so let's jump ahead to Rudolph's birth.
Whelped in an icy cave, the infant Rudolph is a hyper-intelligent mutant who can speak within seconds of gnawing off his own umbilical chord, but is defaced by a red nose that seems to collect and discharge electrical energy. I expect Professor X to drop by at any moment to recruit him; instead, another meta-human bald guy, Santa, shows up. Santa breaks into a shamelessly boastful song which anticipates the self-aggrandizing excesses of gangsta rap, but he's forced to cut it short when his lavalier mic starts getting feedback from Rudolph's nose.
Rudolph's dad, Donner, lets the faun know that his love is dependent entirely on whether Rudolph makes Santa's sleigh team, and insists his son conceal his true self. Then he demonstrates by smearing a hoof-full of filth on Rudolph's birth defect. Basically the message of this holiday classic seems to be: "Son, my love is conditional. Here's some mud."
Donner teaches Rudolph how to "fight off enemies" and how to cower behind snowbanks whenever the "Abominable Snow Monster of the North" (is there one of the South? I should check) is around, because "he's mean, he's nasty, and he hates everything to do with Christmas!" So even though the Abominable Snowman is white, he's still Bill O'Reilly's worst nightmare.
Cut to the 12 Years an Elf
set, where a bunch of identical Fae are manufacturing crap for Mattel and Wham-O. They're all meeting quota, except for one blond, strangely Aryan-looking Elf, Hermey, who would prefer to be a dentist, just like Laurence Olivier's Nazi character, Szell, in Marathon Man
The Elf Overseer threatens to fire Hermey, but Hermey ignores this and studies a dental school text instead, because he knows you can't fire a slave, only sell them, and since his sexual organs and potency are nowhere near Mandingo's, it would make for a dull auction.
Cut to the Reindeer Games. No, not that crappy movie with Charlize Theron and Ben Affleck; I mean the ungulate Hunger Games where Santa culls the future sled team members from the future venison stew. Rudolph, who remains closeted to please his father, meets a buff, blond young buck named Fireball, and they become fast friends. Great! Now we can just sit back, sip our egg nog, and wait for this thing to turn into a nasal-labial Crying Game
Meanwhile, Hermey makes a break for freedom, and we can only hope he doesn't get caught and have part of his foot hacked off with an axe like Kunte Kinte.
Back at the Reindeer Games, Coach Comet has shown up, with his whistle and his clipboard and all the usual impedimenta of petty tyranny that we all remember from junior high. Or is it just me? Just me? Okay. Anyway, there's a Coach on the premises, which means there's about to be shame, peer pressure, and homosexual panic.
While Coach Comet makes the bucks try and fail to fly so he can get the verbal abuse started, Rudolph meets the comely doe, Clarice. As Meet Cutes go, it's a decent example, but since his nose is covered, Rudolph has to speak slowly and deliberately, and when he says "Clarice," he sounds a bit like Hannibal Lector with a bad case if the sniffles.
Clarice declares Rudolph "cute", and apparently testosterone acts like a performance-enhancing drug in reindeer, because he leaps farther than any of his classmates. But when the fake nose comes off, Santa rejects him, his classmates mock and bully him, and his father promptly disowns him. This is always the low point in any stop-motion animated "It Gets Better" video.
Clarice serenades Rudolph with an inspirational ballad to prove that she loves him despite his hideous deformity, but then her dad forbids her to see him, and he must have promised her a car or something, because she immediately agrees.
Rudolph sits on a snowbank that turns out to contain more than the FDA-allowance of Elf. Hermey introduces himself, informing Rudolph that he's a freelance dentist and "independent." Rudolph wants to be independent too, but they both immediately blow it by becoming co-dependent.
"It's a deal, then! I'll inappropriately touch your birth defect, and you give me Lyme disease."
They meet a prospector, Yukon Cornelius, who apparently has the same madness that overtook Humphrey Bogart in Treasure of the Sierra Madre
, because he likes to scream about various ores, and lick his pick. A passing Abominable Snowman chases them -- all
of them, although Rudolph always has to make it all about himself, and blames the situation on his nose for about the tenth time. The others wisely ignore him, and the trio escapes when Yukon Cornelius sets them adrift on an ice floe because yetis are notoriously non-buoyant.
Meanwhile, Donner regrets disowning his son, because he knows the little bastard is probably writing a tell-all book, and then it'll get turned into some stop-motion Mommy Dearest
and he'll come off looking like a jerk. He resolves to search for Rudolph, but won't let his wife accompany him because, let's face it, he's a jerk
. So Mrs. Donner and Clarice decide to look for Rudolph themselves, because the birth control pill has just been introduced and the resulting sexual revolution is undermining the patriarchy.
The ice floe bumps into an island, where our heroes are challenged by a fey Jack-in-the-Box who immediately goes on a drama queeny tirade about how he was banished to the Island of Misfit Toys because "No
child wants play with a Charlie
in the box!" Well, maybe they just didn't want to play with a Charles Nelson Reilly in the box. And he's not the only exile. Apparently the island is crowded with slightly irregular playthings who can't get a lift with Santa. Frankly, this is baffling. Considering the toxic crap from China that old Kris Kringle passes out every year, it's obvious he's not overly concerned about a little lead paint on a choo-choo train, or a teddy bears stuffed with fiberglas insulation.*
Rudolph, Hermey, and Yukon Cornelius evidently suck so bad that even factory second toys don't want them around, but they vow to stick together. Then Rudolph remembers his name is in the title and why the hell should he have to share the screen with these two losers? So he abandons his new-found friends and sneaks off to enjoy a montage and grow some antlers.
Eventually, Rudolph goes home, but discovers his parents moved and didn't leave a forwarding address. Even worse, there's a huge storming coming and it's only two days till Christmas and he hasn't even started his shopping.
He goes to the cave of the Abominable Snow Monster, because I guess that's always the first place you should look when your parents secretly move away while you're off at summer camp. The Monster has a fistful of Clarice and looks like he's about to eat her, although Donner and his wife don't seem even remotely concerned (maybe he promised them the wishbone). Rudolph charges and pokes the creature in the ass; the Monster retaliates by coldcocking him with a stalactite.
Just then, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius show up. Hermey gets down on all fours and squeals like Ned Beatty, and the suddenly aroused Monster lumbers outside, where Yukon crushes his skull with a boulder. Then Hermey uses ice tongs to forcibly remove all the creature's teeth, as the show -- like most animated holiday specials from that period -- takes an inevitable turn into body horror.
Yukon seizes the opportunity to bully the mutilated beast until he and his dogs fall off a cliff. The reindeer all go back to Santa's plantation, where Donner, Comet, and rest of the future venison are forced to eat crow. Happily, the Abominable Snowman broke Yukon Cornelius's fall, and in return he gets the yeti a job putting the stars on the top of Christmas trees, which is seasonal work so he'll still probably send the summer on disability.
Meanwhile, the storm has arrived as forecast by the second act, and Santa is forced to "cancel Christmas." But his sponsors ain't gonna allow that
to happen! Hell, Norelco alone owns Santa, and if he shows the slightest concern for worker safety, they'll threaten to pull that lucrative series of commercials where the old geezer snowboards around on an electric shaver
Under pressure from the big eastern syndicate that runs Christmas, Santa agrees to exploit Rudolph's handicap and force the rest of his employees to risk their lives. It's heartwarming, but if this holiday special had been made after 1971, OSHA would've shut Kringle's fly-by-night operation down before the first station break.
(By the way, according to the end credits sequence, Santa doesn't come down your chimney into your home, he just flies around while one of his elves shoves toys and dolls off the sleigh so they plunge to earth and hit the ground like sacks of wet cement. Which is why I never say "Merry Christmas" at this festive time of year, just "Heads Up!")
Okay, I was lying: I do want to say Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all our fellow Crappers. And particularly to Sheri, who must be Commander-in-Chief of the War on Christmas by now, because she never spends the season productively, complaining about the important things like nativity scenes or Starbucks cups, and instead wastes her time like this:
I had to do two previously scheduled kitten adoptions and care for some animals out in the country, so I missed my family Christmas Eve get-together. I tried to spread holiday cheer by giving all the cats extra canned food, and by giving some treats and love to some dogs on the farm that don't get much attention. Then I came home and tried to warm up while reading FB posts from my friends. So, a Christmas Eve just like the one Mary and Joseph spent, in that there were animals, and straw, and substandard housing, and the Internet. Merry Christmas, everyone.
I stole this paragraph from her Facebook page just to remind myself that even if I had nine lives, I'd never be half the person she is (and I bet she's still on her first).
Merry Christmas, guys!
*For more on this scene, and why it makes absolutely no sense, check out Bill S.'s Anatomy of a Plot Hole entry: On the Island of Misfit Toys