I wish I watched more movies. I enjoy them. I’m always glad when I have found the time to watch one, especially a film that everyone is talking about. But, frankly, movies are watched few and far between by yours truly. Don’t shoot me — I hear a BB gun is pivotal in this one — but I’ve never even seen A Christmas Story. I have seen some of the other classics over the years, but none of them standout.
But I do love the animated Christmas specials from back in the day. You know them well: Frosty the Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas. I still get excited if I have the chance to watch them on network television, as they should be. It’s nostalgic, to be sure. But there’s something immensely satisfying about watching the cartoons of my childhood at Christmas time.
But do you recall … the most famous of them all? It’s my favorite: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The stop motion animated special is a must-see each season. Maybe it’s my love of the underdog or my empathy for the inhabitants of the Island of Misfit Toys or the fact that the super scary abominable snowmonster of the North — you’d know him as The Bumble if you watched with frequency — can be turned into a pussycat by fixing his toothache.
The narration by Burl Ives was a hook all its own. I would listen to anything he sang or narrated. What appealed to me most was the stop motion animation, and I still marvel at it. Way ahead of its time, Rudolph — which began life as a Montgomery Ward coloring book — was filmed in Japan in the 1960s, the headquarters of today’s anime production.
Beyond the entertainment value, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a story full of valuable lessons and happy endings. After the cartoon aired for the first time, children were upset that the misfits were left on the island to an uncertain fate. The cartoon was changed in response, to show Santa picking up the cast-off toys to deliver them to homes of eager children.
Maybe it is those lessons of kindness and compassion that make it so right for the season.