Okay. This is gonna suck either way so let's get this over with.
You know waaaay back when, when I was but a lad I used to watch this and our next movie this week even if it wasn't Christmas time. In fact I watched tons of Christmas movies long before or after (depending on your point of view of time) December. And I have not watched this special in years. And boy howdy, is it much much weirder than I remember. You all know the story of Rudolph, the young reindeer who is born with a neon red nosed who is shunned by his parents, friends, Santa and just about everybody except for a nice elf who breaks conformity and ventures to be a dentist, before saying "Peace bitch!" to the North Pole and travel the wastelands of the arctic evading a genuinely unsettling snow monster while meeting a prospector who soon find themselves on an island of odd and yet somehow really friggin' awesome toys led by a winged lion whose title is King Moonraiser, before returning to Christmas Town to save Christmas when a devastating snowstorm blows in. It's just like the song! So yeah....a touch different than most people would remember this special, but I take ever so slight issue with this than just story. Mainly the fact that everyone in the North Pole aside from one elf, a girl reindeer, and a enthusiastic prospector are a bunch of jackasses! This is a very mean spirited movie, not quite as abusive as Chicken Little, but when the message of a movie is if you're born different you will not be accepted by society unless your unique trait is useful, is kinda f***ed up! But is there more than just general disdain for the story in this special? Actually yes. Burl Ives is a nice narrator, he has a warm and inviting voice and can sing incredibly well, the animation though far from Kubo And The Two Strings quality has a charm and style all it's own (and surprisingly was done in Japan), some of the backgrounds with certain effects and lighting can look very moody and pretty, and my favorite character is the Abominable Snowmonster. This guy makes the movie for me, not only is the design and how he moves and react strange but effective, the fact that they pose him as a threat and he kinda works as a threat is something you rarely see. He's no moustache twirling villain who wants to destroy Christmas, he wants to wreck your stuff and eat your girlfriend because he's a terrifying beast. Perfect. This creature is known for being a force to be reckoned with and should be stayed away from and you feel that, his roar is actually unsettling, and I wouldn't wish meeting such a beast on even my worst enemy. You want to know the best part of the movie? Him. But gah, I just can't get over just the cruel and unusual punishment Rudolph has to take from these people! He's a good kid and despite clearly being segregated and ostrecized still tries to do the right thing so I think the special is trying to impart, don't be a part of society if they judge you and don't want to be around you and look for a group of people who respect and appreciate you as yourself, and to not settle for anything less. Which is commendable but that took some inference on my part to come to that conclusion so the special tells it very sloppily if that was the intended subtext. Geez I guess it just shows what America in the mid-60s viewpoint was on people who were a bit different huh? And this never bothered me as a kid...much, it still pissed me off that they treated Rudolph and Hermie the elf so poorly when they were perfectly fine folk, but everything else I took at face value. So do I recommend this movie? I'm not entirely sure I can. I don't even think it's a Christmas classic, though tons of people watch it every year. Now I know the Rankin/Bass specials have a place around this time of year, but this one tries to fly and lands face first into the ice for me. I sense this is just the beginning for a month of, less than great shall we say, movies to talk about. Better than It's A Wonderful Life. But only by a smidge.