tek's rating: ½

Rudolph's Shiny New Year, on ABC
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Caution: spoilers!

This first aired in 1976, when I was just one year old, so I wouldn't have seen it then. It's a direct sequel to the 1964 special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I'm pretty sure I saw it sometime in the 80s, even though I didn't get ABC at the time. So I'm not sure whether I saw it on my CBS station or on a Canadian channel. (Although it's also possible I didn't see it until the mid-90s, but I find it very hard to believe I saw it that recently.) Anyway, I watched it again in 2014. I didn't remember much about it, but it's kind of interesting. And vaguely trippy. Sort of.

Um... it's narrated by Father Time, who is voiced by Red Skelton. (He was a popular entertainer before my time.) The story starts on Christmas Eve, after Santa gets back from delivering toys, on the very first night that Rudolph joined his team of reindeer. Santa receives a letter from Father Time, asking for help in finding Happy, the new Baby New Year, who had run away. Santa sends Rudolph to Father Time's castle, guided by General Ticker, whose body is mostly a clock. They're met by a camel named Quarter Past Five (whom Rudolph calls "Quart" for short). Quart has a clock in his hump. And he helps get Rudolph and Ticker through a desert, on their way to the castle. They're sort of attacked by a giant buzzard-like bird named Aeon, though really Aeon is just looking for Happy, himself. Because the old bird lives for exactly one aeon (he's aptly named), and when the new year is ushered in this year, his time will be up. But as long as Happy is missing, December 31 will go on forever, and therefore Aeon will live forever.

Anyway, they finally make it to the castle, and Father Time explains things to Rudolph, including the fact that Happy ran away because everyone laughed at his big ears. (So Rudolph knows how he feels, since everyone used to laugh at his own shiny red nose.) Father Time also says Happy probably went to one of the islands in the Archipelago of Last Years. Each year, a new baby represents the new year (though clearly he's born before the new year, so I don't really get how that works). I assume it just takes one year for the baby to grow up, and then be replaced by a new baby. But the old years don't die, they retire to the Archipelago, each one claiming his own island, where things remain exactly the way they were during the year he reigned (or at least the way someone in the present might imagine things being that year). Now Rudolph has less than a week to find Happy. He takes off on a little boat, though I really don't know why he didn't just fly to the Archipelago, since he is a flying reindeer. (For that matter, I don't know why he didn't just fly to Father Time's castle.) But whatevs. Um, he eventually gets attacked by Aeon, and rescued by a whale named Big Ben, who has a clock in his tail.

Ben takes Rudolph the rest of the way to the Archipelago, and their first stop is the island of One Million B.C. The guy who represents that year is a cave man, who calls himself O.M. for short. And there are dinosaurs on the island. So... the whole thing is pretty anachronistic. (The other island/years aren't any more realistic.) But O.M. joins Rudolph on his search. The other islands they visit include 1023, where they're joined by a knight called Ten-Two-Three, and 1776, where they're joined by a guy called Sev (who looks like Benjamin Franklin). Oh, and on 1023, there are a bunch of fairy tales. Happy befriends the baby bear from the Goldilocks story. And 1776 island makes it seem like every day is the Fourth of July, as if America's declaration of independence was the only thing that happened that year. Anyway... Rudolph and his companions are always too late to catch up to Happy, who keeps running away because everyone he meets laughs at his ears. (Incidentally, Happy doesn't really talk, and he just crawls around like the baby he is. So it's odd that he can outrun the search party, considering he doesn't actually run.) But at least they didn't have to search a million islands to find him, which is lucky because obviously there are over a million islands in the Archipelago.

Eventually, Aeon catches Happy and takes him to his own island, called No-Name. But Rudolph finally catches up to them, and while Aeon is sleeping, he talks to Happy and convinces him that when people laugh at him, it's really just because seeing his big ears makes them happy. So I guess Happy agrees to return to Father Time's castle (though there's a bit more interference from Aeon). Alas, it's too late. The clock begins to strike midnight on New Year's Eve, and they need to get back to the castle before the last bong of the clock. (I couldn't help wondering how many bongs the writers went through while writing this special.) But Santa shows up to help get them all back to the castle before the last bong has sounded, which is probably the only thing in the special that makes sense (considering how fast his sleigh is). Anyway, the day is saved. (Well, not just the day, but the entire future.) And the new year (Nineteen-Wonderful) begins. Yay.

Well, I didn't particularly care for any of the songs in the special, but they were tolerable. The story itself was pretty redonk, but I enjoyed it because of that. Oh, and my favorite part was when Rudolph was explaining to Happy why he understood how he felt, we hear a song which I think was sung by Father Time. It's just the familiar "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" song, during which we see visuals of what had happened to Rudolph before, but of course it omits all the extraneous stuff from the original special, the stuff that's not actually in the song. But what I really like about this is that, while both the original special and this one were stop-motion animation, the visuals during the song are cel animation. And it's really neat to see what Rudolph's special might have looked like if Rankin/Bass had done it that way. I thought it was pretty cute, and also I liked the fact that Santa looked the way he did in the 1974 special 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. But anyway... aside from the brief cel animated scene, and the general weirdness of this special... it's not something I feel a great need to see again. Or at least I could probably stand to go a couple of decades without watching it again.

Followed by Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July

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The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia

stop-motion specials: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer * Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town * The Year Without a Santa Claus * Rudolph's Shiny New Year *
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey * Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July * Pinocchio's Christmas * The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold * The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus

animated specials: Frosty the Snowman * 'Twas the Night Before Christmas * Frosty's Winter Wonderland * The Hobbit * The Stingiest Man in Town

TV series: The New Adventures of Pinocchio * Tales of the Wizard of Oz * ThunderCats * SilverHawks

Movies: Mad Monster Party? * The Flight of Dragons * The Last Unicorn