Monday, December 01, 2008

The Exploitation Of Rudolph, It’s Animagical!

It’s that time of year when those famous Rankin-Bass cartoons and stop-motion puppet (Animagic) specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty can be seen on TV as frequently as wreaths on long-haul truckers’ rigs. I think the only person that comes close to having produced more Christmas fare than Rankin-Bass was Johnny Mathis, who I’m pretty sure just released his 100th Christmas CD, or something close to it. The ABC Family Channel usually airs most of the Rankin-Bass productions all December long and my girls watched a few of them last night. Among them was ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year’ and ‘The Christmas without a Santa Claus.’ It got me thinking that at a certain point, the Animagic Christmas treatment may have been stretched a little too thin.

Obviously, ‘Rudolph’ is as much a part of the holidays as Bing Crosby and fish-stockinged leg lamps giving us the glow of illuminated electrix sex in our windows. It has to be good television for it to have been broadcast over network TV for the last 42 years. Although I seriously doubt that there has been an American child named Rudolph since the first airing of the special in 1964. There probably has also not been a child named Adolf for even longer, but that has nothing to do with deer that have red light bulbs screwed into their noses. It's just that the two names rhyme and my mind tends to wander when I write. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the TV classic. It’s the other Rudolph shows that prove maybe there can be too much of a good thing. Apparently, Rudolph has to find Baby New Year after he runs away in ‘Rudolph’s Shiny New Year.’ It seems the little baby ran away because he was embarrassed by his big ears. Of course, Rudolph could sympathize (as could I, unfortunately) because he has that nose and all, but really, is that worth an hour children’s program?

Then there’s the very confusing ‘Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas in July,’ which just leaves me speechless. I’m still not sure what it was about but it featured Frosty for the first time as a stop-motion puppet. Should this be aired in the summer or in December? Combining the two seems to make as much sense as having Hank Williams, Jr. do a slow and reverent version of ‘Away in a Manger.’ Although if Hank did cover a version of it, please let me know so I can add it to my collection. At least Rudy was left alone for a while until ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys’ came along. That was done digitally though so I won’t consider it for the sake of this post. Also, it was really bad and very annoying and Lucy and Ethel insist on watching it far too often. The phrase "gratuitously often" comes to mind.

There were however, several holidays that Rankin-Bass apparently chose to have Rudolph not celebrate. Maybe they figured having a reindeer and snowman enjoy the 4th of July together was the bottom of the barrel. Think of all we missed if they had decided to continue milking Rudolph. (I'm sure there is something extremely inappropriate I could say after just using the phrase 'milking Rudolph," but I am going to resist the temptation. That would be udderly disgusting. Dangit! I couldn't resist.) There could have been ‘Rudolph’s Thanksgiving’ where he has to coax Tom the Turkey back to the turkey farm so he can be euthanized and ‘processed’ for Thanksgiving dinner. What about ‘Rudolph’s Haunted Halloween’ where he befriends a ghost who is afraid of dark haunted houses but has to haunt someone before he gets his official ghost status? Yep, they cook up a scheme with Yukon Cornelius to pretend to be scared by the timid ghost. It sounds a lot like Casper, but Casper is friendly and this ghost is timid. Trust me, if just for litigation purposes only, there is a difference in the two.

Rudolph would shine (if you’ll pardon the phrasing) in ‘Rudolph and the Leprechaun.’ In that one Rudolph searches for the pot of gold that Louis the Leprechaun lost in a cock-fighting bet. ‘Rudolph’s Meaty Memorial Day’ would follow the reindeer as he rounds up enough meat for Santa’s big ‘Start of Summer BBQ.’ Unfortunately, Santa feels like grilling venison this year. The hour long finale to the Rudolph dynasty would be ‘Rudolph’s Long Lazy Labor Day,’ where he sleeps all weekend before escorting the kiddy elves to their first day of school, but slips on a skateboard while on the way and breaks his leg, resulting in the need to put him out of his misery. Oh the mayhem that could ensue in that one. Wow!

As you can see, while he may have been exploited after the success of his original holiday special, it could have continued and been much worse. The lackluster Rudolph sequels seem to have done little to tarnish the little misfit’s street cred though (you know, that's the first time I've ever used that phrase. I feel empowered by it. Maybe using it just helped my street cred. Ohhh, I'm liking this...) . They are making Rudolph themed everything these days. I actually saw a Rudolph version of Monopoly the other day. As Burl Ives would say, it seems that Rudolph is worth a whole lot of ‘silver and gold,’ no matter what he’s asked to do. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go open another roll of Rudolph toilet paper for the twins.


**The Wonderful World of Nothing Worthwhile’s useless observation for the day: Have you noticed in the original ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ that all of the hands on the puppets are dirty? Especially Santa’s. I don’t know why this is, but you can only watch something so many times until you start looking at things other than the plot…

18 comments:

Patti said...

That's a red light bulb screwed into Rudolph's nose? Are you sure?

Thanks for visiting! It was good to see you again.

cmk said...

While I enjoyed the entire post very much, your observation at the end about the dirty hands made the time spent reading well worth it. I ALWAYS appreciate people who can point out 'useless' information--just adds to the useless info I have stored in my head! Thank you. ;)

citizen of the world said...

I am a sucker for the old Christmas specials. Even though I always found the hwole Rudlf story disturbing - Santa apparently condoned the other reindeer bullying Rudolph until he became useful. That bites!

JennyLu said...

wow he has been exploited. I never noticed that about the hands but I will look next time one of them is on.

Selma said...

Dirty little puppets with their dirty little hands. You just don't know where those puppets have been. Shocking.

m said...

"fish-stockinged leg lamps giving us the glow of illuminated electrix sex in our windows..."

Ah yes, it is "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year..."

meleah rebeccah said...

oopps...blogger published my comment before I was done signing it.

JennyLu said...

mc- ask the twins if they have holes in their belly buttons. Hee hee. LOL. Lulu about died the other day over that.

The dirty hands on the cartoon - it is actually a mistake. I was reading on that and it was and editing mistake/artist mistake. So, I brought it up in my psych adjustment class and everyone seemed to know about this except me and you and the six posters here. lol. Oh well.

JennyLu said...

mc- ask the twins if they have holes in their belly buttons. Hee hee. LOL. Lulu about died the other day over that.

The dirty hands on the cartoon - it is actually a mistake. I was reading on that and it was and editing mistake/artist mistake. So, I brought it up in my psych adjustment class and everyone seemed to know about this except me and you and the six posters here. lol. Oh well.

Cathy said...

Hilarious, I am watching Rudolph right now and until I read your useless little tidbit, I'd never noticed and so decided to make a point of looking for it and sure nuff LOL Too funny!

okiesister said...

This entire post had me snickering. You are too funny. Thanks for the laughs.

Employee No. 3699 said...

Michael, when I’m here, you’re not, and when you’re here…you get the picture. I’m going to get N Sync…This I Promise You.

Anyhoo, how about ‘Rudolph Goes to Washington’ and not only saves Christmas…but the economy? Yeah, it was a stretch.

Hannah said...

Dirty hands? Really?

I am going to look for that next time I watch.

Mel Heth said...

How did Frosty not melt in Christmas in July? I don't think I ever saw that one...

And what about 'Rudolph's Sadsack Valentine's Special'? Where he flies around pretending to be cupid, setting up sad and blue single people?

Bridget Jones said...

Liked your About Me intro, but this post was a bit long to go through... Me try the next one!

Oh, btw Cheeky is my middle name ha! ;)

JennyLu said...

just a friendly reminder that it is december, post damnit! hee hee
Jenn

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