Did you know that 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the beloved Christmas show “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” To celebrate the longevity of this wonderful story, the By George Journal presents ten facts you should know about the timeless classic favourite.
- On Dec. 6, 1964, television audiences across North America watched ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ for the first time. The made-for-TV special was created in Japan by MOM Production Studios, led by Tadahito “Tad” Mochinaga, a pioneer in Japanese stop-motion animation.
- The show took about 18 months, 22 room-size sets and hundreds of puppets to complete. It took 24 frames to create one second of filmed animation.
- Animators spent days observing deer to create Rudolph. Mochinaga, the chief animator, and his assistant Hiroshi Tabata spent two days at Nara National Park studying thousands of wild deer to observe the movement for their animation and to inspire their image of Rudolph and his setting.
- The Rudolph puppet measured a mere 4-inches high and Santa stood just 8-inches. And though he appears relatively large on screen, the Bumble figurine stood only 14-inches tall.
- More than 200 puppets were carved for the production of Rudolph. Puppet maker Ichiro Komuro explained that each character’s puppet was re-carved by hand for various movements and expressions, rather than using plaster and a mold, because it wouldn’t have been exact, “and the plaster head is very heavy for animation.” All of the characters were built with joints, which allowed any part of puppets’ bodies to be moved, including their eyes, ears and mouth.
- The puppets were not meant to last forever – and, in fact, are no longer. Despite their best efforts not to soil the puppets (only the animator and puppet maker were allowed to touch them in the studio, and they wore gloves when working on them) the figures were sprayed with magnetic flock to diffuse reflective light from the cameras. The spray contained acidity which contributed to the puppets’ deterioration over time.
- Before Burl Ives was corralled to narrate, Larry Mann (the voice of Yukon Cornelius) performed the narration. Mann’s version has never been heard publicly, but those who have listened to the recordings say Mann put on a Brooklyn-like accent that was less than gentle on the ears. And “Silver and Gold” was also originally sung by Larry Mann, recorded 28 times in Cornelius’ voice, including multiple takes that end with comic sobs. Both narration and the song were reassigned to Burl Ives to complete the show.
- Hermey, the elf who aspired to be a dentist, has left fans in question over his real name. In 1998, some merchandise marketed the elf with the name Herbie instead. However, the elf is named Hermey.
- For decades, fans have focused attention on the little doll on Misfit Island because there was nothing visibly wrong with her. Though some wondered if it was her lack of a real nose, Arthur Rankin has said that she was depressed because her owner didn’t want her anymore and she felt unlovable.
- In the original special that aired in 1964, Rudolph, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius promise to return to visit Misfit Island, however, then never do so. This set fans into an angry frenzy and the studio responded to their bitter letters by changing the script. In 1965, the special added a new short scene at the very end of the show in which Santa and the reindeer deliver the Misfits to new homes.
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