Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a department store creation, created by Mongomery Ward in 1939. (Ward's is now an online only store based out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa). The character was adapted into a song by Johnny Marks and recorded by Gene Autry in 1949. But it wasn't until 1964 when Rankin/Bass produced its now-famous stop-motion tv special.
The story of the reindeer with the shiny nose followed the song very closely but added many subplots, such as an elf that wants to be a dentist, the island of misfit toys, and the abominable snowman.
Son of the famous reindeer, Donner, Rudolph has a bright red nose that Donner believes to be a flaw. Ashamed of his son, Donner covers the nose in mud so that Rudolph would appear 'normal'. But his nose is revealed during the Reindeer Games and Rudolph is shunned for being different. Meanwhile, Hermie the Elf is also having problems fitting in as he wants to be a dentist rather than an elf. Together, the pair head out to find out where they belong. The journey takes them on many adventures including a land where all of the misfit toys reside. They also face and, with the help of Yukon Cornelius, defeat the Abominable Snow-Monster.
This special airs every year on NBC making it the longest running Christmas TV special. And special it is. The lovable characters and fun songs make this a classic show for kids of any generation. The care that Rankin/Bass put into the stop-motion animation gives the viewer a feeling that heart and soul went into this production and even though details like lipsync seemed to be not important, the overwhelming charm made this incarnation of the misfit reindeer a timeless classic.
The main theme of this show is one that everybody can relate to. The story of one who is hated a feared for having extra gifts is something that everyone goes through at least once in their life. That is the connection that draws everyone in. Everybody has gifts and you should not be ridiculed for using them.
In many ways, this is the story of the X-Men. Rudolph is a mutant and should be a superhero. That's my inner geek talking.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer can be found in the Original Television Christmas Classics DVD box set.