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This month marks the 50th anniversary of one of the technical marvels of modern-day geek culture. Ns am, of course, referring to the man Rankin/Bass tv special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

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Unlike A Charlie Brown Christmas and also Dr. Seuss’ just how the Grinch Stole Christmas (which mark their five years in 2015 and 2016, respectively), Rudolph to work the painstaking, and Lego minifig friendly, an approach of stop-motion animation.


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So as soon as the #Rudolph hashtag flashed across the display screen during this year’s gold jubilee broadcast on CBS, that wasn’t simply a quaint effort by nostalgia to be nerdy. It was an echo of exactly how state-of-the-art Rudolph itself was as soon as it aired.

Rick Goldschmidt is probably the can be fried Rudolph scholar and authored The do of the Rankin/Bass holiday Classic: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (yes, I have a hardcover first edition from 2001). That points the end that the television special, bankrolled by GE for its General electrical Fantasy Hour, took around 18 months to complete and also cost an ext than $500,000 to produce, an amount that would certainly exceed $4.5 million today. It was “a smash hit” in its very first airing, watched by 55% of tv viewers. Subsequently, it became what’s defined as the longest-running, highest-rated distinct in tv history.

Yet together Rudolph developed into the viewing tantamount of familiar holiday comforts like pumpkin pie, pine scent and also post-relative-visit doctored egg nog, it’s straightforward to forget the technical achievements, challenges and also environment it stood for as a TV special.

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Three locations stand out, both from Goldschmidt’s writings and emails ns exchanged with gold Books household Entertainment as soon as Rudolph, Yukon Cornelius and Hermey leapt the VHS-to-DVD chasm in 1999 complying with its 35th anniversary digital restoration.


Animagic process. Rankin/Bass, as Videocraft International, contracted v Tokyo’s pioneering Tad Mochinaga because that the stop-motion “Animagic” animation. Scripts, pre-recorded voices and also sounds do their way to Japan, and also an approximated 82 puppet figures were created. The average elevation was eight customs (a notable exception was the comparatively huge Abominable Snowmonster, or Bumble), and also most sets were no bigger than six by eight feet.

The Japanese animators “were finding out on the job,” and also the puppets were generally composition rubber dolls the “would last around 16 months, tops,” recalled Arthur Rankin to Goldschmidt. Human being puppets had actually mouth shapes attracted on Japanese file that to be pasted on and also removed to enhance dialogue. Rudolph’s head, torso and also hooves were carved wood, however his red nose was a custom-made 12V irradiate bulb.

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You may notification that the numbers have only three fingers and also a thumb. The was, Rankin said, “just enough for castle to master things” and also not clutter the animation. Oh, and also the man water? Cellophane.

Sound recording. While the animation was a product that Japan, almost all of the audio – consisting of the personality voice gibbs – were commodities of Canada. The one exemption was Sam the Snowman, carry out by Burl Ives (whose Anacortes, WA home was decorated with large wooden cutouts the Rudolph figures for countless seasons). Conversation was videotaped in Canada, and songs for the soundtrack with the mostly Canadian actors were reportedly videotaped in brand-new York top top a single day.


Bill Giles, sound technician at RCA Victor’s studios in Canada, had actually the only Canadian infrastructure equipped because that two- and also four-track recording, Goldschmidt notes. Giles supplied Ampex ice recorders and a special Western electric microphone “suitable because that the audio tracks to be moved to film.” Despite, or perhaps since of, the primitive equipment, Giles said, “The artists performed much better, as they know how they performed would certainly be what the public would hear and also not electronically enhanced.”

The sponsor to be mass-market giant basic Electric, and it decided to usage three figures from the special as pitch-elves for both print ads and also three animated 60-second commercials.”

Advertised products. While not a technical advance, Rudolph gives us a window into consumer modern technology of the era. Store in mental the sponsor was mass-market giant general Electric, and also it decided to use three numbers from the unique as pitch-elves because that both print ads and three man 60-second commercials.

The (sometimes literally) warm products? A cordless electrical carving knife, electrical blanket, electrical toothbrush, deluxe electric can opener, electrical skillet, and deluxe electric toaster cooktop – this critical prompting the elf who shields his eyes v sunglasses as Rudolph’s nose glows come don castle once more for the ad.

True Rudolphians will keep in mind the television special i

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tself has readjusted several times over the years.

From 1965 to 1997, the song “Fame and Fortune” replaced “We’re a pair of Misfits,” and the close up door Island that Misfit playthings sequence was added in 1965 ~ viewers protested they never actually witnessed the playthings being rescued by Santa (in 1998’s restoration, 1964’s “We’re a couple of Misfits” returned). But only on DVD have the right to you uncover the fabled, original peppermint step that defines why Yukon keeps licking his pickaxe after tossing it into the air.

Despite all the revelations, technological and clinical mysteries remain. Why carry out Bumbles bounce? and what bioluminescent reaction strength Rudolph’s nose and also causes it come whine, without poisoning the reindeer or steering those in ~ earshot mad?

I hope us don’t have to wait one more 50 year to discover out.


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