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439 Washington St. • Dedham, MA 02026 Inside THIS ISSUE 1 Meaningful Gifts Create Smiles and Memories 2 Decorate Your Gingerbread House Like a Pro Don’t Overthink It, Just Take a Picture 3 Embrace Being Wrong With Adam Grant’s Help
DIY Holiday Eggnog 4 How Rudolph Became a TV Institution
BEHIND THE EVERGREEN CHRISTMAS SPECIAL Rudolph, You’ll Go Down in History
You know Dasher and Dancer, and you definitely know Rudolph. Everyone’s favorite red-nosed reindeer was first born as a 1939 short story, but he truly shot to fame when his tale was adapted into a song by Gene Autry in 1949. Rivaling even the song’s fame is the Rankin/Bass stop-motion special that airs like clockwork every year around Christmas. Generations have now grown up with Rudolph, so it may be surprising to learn that his journey to the small screen started as a General Electric promotion. The company had a running television special on NBC called the “GE Fantasy Hour,” which they used to market their products directly to viewers. The better the story they told, the more viewers they got — and the more toasters they could sell. The script introduced crucial new characters like Hermey the elf, Yukon Cornelius the
prospector, and of course, Bumble the abominable snowman. GE hired innovative Japanese animators to create the film using stop-motion techniques that were highly advanced for the time. GE invested the modern equivalent of $4.5 million into the production of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and the special first aired in 1964. Those who are familiar with the film know that it ends with Rudolph enlisting Santa to save the Misfit Toys from earlier in the movie — but it didn’t originally. The version that aired in 1964 concludes with Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh but forgetting all about his homeless friends. The backlash was swift, and viewers wrote in to express displeasure at the heartless resolution. GE decided the special had to be corrected and played again with the proper ending in 1965. And so, a tradition of annual airings was born.
Today, “Rudolph” is the longest-running Christmas special in history, and our favorite misfit deer shows no signs of slowing down after 57 years. The movie has transformed into a marketing bonanza, with new Christmas decorations, figurines, and toys being produced each year. Though it’s somewhat shocking to our modern sensibilities to see Santa bullying his reindeer employees and their children, fond childhood memories mean that parents continue to pass the special down to their kids. Even as we recognize its flaws, the dazzling animation and famous songs continue to bring joy and Christmas spirit to households around the country. Just as sure as Santa comes every year, so does Rudolph.
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