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Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa – Interesting Facts About Classic Holiday TV Specials

There’s probably a good chance you’ll catch ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ or ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ on TV during the holiday season. Viewers have been watching these holiday specials on television for decades. Many adults make it a holiday tradition to watch these shows, which they remember from their own childhoods, with their children and grandchildren. Some adults even watch them without children and grandchildren!

The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass
Miser Bros. Press

Rick Goldschmidt is the official historian for Rankin/Bass Productions, which created nearly all of the timeless holiday TV specials we watch year after year. Rick has written several books on Rankin/Bass, including: ‘The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass: 15th Anniversary Edition’ and ‘Rankin Bass’ Mad Monster Party.’ He shared some interesting facts with us about the Rankin/Bass holiday specials:

  • The success of ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ opened the door for Rankin/Bass to do holiday specials for all three major networks simultaneously: ‘Frosty the Snowman” has been on CBS since 1969 and still airs to this day.  ABC featured ‘Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,’ ‘The Year Without Santa Claus’ and ‘Here Comes Peter Cottontail.’
  • Producer Arthur Rankin, Jr. went to Japan and saw the wonderful stop-motion they were able to do by people like Tad Mochinaga and Hiroshi Tabata.  He knew that this would be something special in the US Television and film markets and coined his version of it as “Animagic.”
  • The specials were created in New York and the main staff of Rankin/Bass was based in New York, but the animation was done in Japan under the direction of Tad Mochinaga and the voice work was done in Canada under the direction of Bernard ‘Bunny’ Cowan for many years. So these specials that we have all grown to love as part of the American culture, were globally created.
  • ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is the longest-running, highest-rated TV special (not just holiday) of all-time!
  • The version of ‘Rudolph’ shown on CBS today is extremely time compressed. The original 1964 version featured a different ending with an elf throwing packages off the sleigh that featured ornate end credit designs. Santa Claus did not go back to the Island of Misfit toys to pick up the MISFIT TOYS and the last scene before the end credits was what I call “The Peppermint scene.”  Yukon throws his ice pick up again and licks it and finds peppermint outside of Santa’s castle.  ”The Peppermint Scene” is on the BLU RAY and DVD but still does not appear on CBS and hasn’t been on network television since 1964.

Goldschmidt says that the Rankin/Bass specials have a timeless quality, which has led to their enjoyment by multiple generations, “The Rankin/Bass specials had heart and warmth that is sorely lacking from today’s entertainment. There is a magic quality about them that has stood the test of time.” Goldschmidt says that the modern holiday specials seem to be missing some of the charm of the classic shows. “There is a charm to animagic and again, a warmth.  I get a very cold feeling watching today’s CGI, with the exception of PIXAR’s earlier work.”

Goldschmidt’s books, and a number of products based on the Rankin/Bass holiday specials, are available online from Miser Bros. Press.

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