Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rankin and Bass Rule!

DH and I have a mixed marriage. A long time ago, we agreed that we'd respect each other's beliefs and that we'd give GK the freedom to decide which spiritual path he wished to follow.

But one thing I do sincerely confounds DH. For a non-Christian, I watch the holiday specials produced by Rankin-Bass Productions, Inc. with a fervor bordering on religious.

You see Arthur Rankin, Jr., and Jules Bass were commissioned in 1964 to create a Christmas show built around the Johnny Marks' song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  That show has taken on a life of its own and has been shown on broadcast TV for nearly fifty years.

Actually, the character of Rudolph was created in 1939 by Marks' brother-in-law Robert L. May for a Montgomery Ward Christmas coloring book giveaway. They added the characters of Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, and my favorite Hermie, the elf who desperately wants to be a dentist, not a toymaker.

Anyway, every year DH points out that it's a Christmas special. But if the show is about the Christian religion, why doesn't Santa (aka St. Nicolas of Myra) exhibit any Christian ideals? He rejects Rudolph outright for being 'different'.  Yet, it's Rudolph, after repeated isolation and verbal abuse, who saves Santa's ass. My counter-argument is Rudolph is the representation of the Horned God. Maybe, both Christians and Pagans should take the real message to heart--that we all need to work together to make the world a wonderful place.

[On a side note: By the time I got to college, the show had evolved into a drinking game involving downing shots everytime the reindeer's nose lights up. I don't recommend using anything stronger than wine because you really DO NOT KNOW how much that freakin' nose glows in the course of an hour until you play this game.]

With the success of Rudolph, Rankin-Bass produced more holiday specials. Except for Aaron in The Little Drummer Boy, the Christian heroes in Rankin-Bass usually can't succeed without a little pagan help.

Kris Kingle needed the Winter Warlock's magic corn to give his reindeer the power of flight in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. In the Rankin-Bass version of L. Frank Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, the producers stick with Baum's explanation that Claus was given the Mantle of Immortality by the Spirits of Nature. After a fierce debate, the spirits grant Claus, a lowly human, this amazing gift due to his kind and giving nature so he may continue his service to children.

But the best Rankin-Bass special ever is The Year Without a Santa Clause.  C'mon, the Miser Brothers, the avatars of winter and summer? How can you not sing along with them? And even better is when Mrs. Claus has a little woman-to-woman chat with Mother Nature to get the boys to cooperate.

Yes, Messrs. Rankin and Bass are too much! (And not a little pagan as well!  *grin*)

Happy Yule, Everyone!


  1. I loved those specials too. :) And yes, I always thought that the older reindeer and Santa were massive jerkwads for how they treated Rudolph -- oh, until they saw how letting him into the club benefitted them. [eyeroll] They all need a good smacking around.


  2. You know, Angie, I'm still trying to figure out what message the writers were really trying to send with Rudolph. It was created during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, so some friends look at Rudolph as the equivalent of Mamie.