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The Wingspan

50 Facts for 50 Years of Rudolph


Words: Nathan Stitely, guest writer

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of everyone’s favorite holiday special about the importance of accepting misfits for whom they really are and fixing dolls teeth, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And to help celebrate this amazing milestone, I present 50 little-known facts about the animated classic! Enjoy!

1.  The first, original broadcast was on December 6th, 1964 at 5:30 PM on CBS.

2. If you look closely, Sam the Snowman’s pocket watch never changes time throughout the show. It always reads 2:00.

3.  Yukon Cornelius discovers a peppermint mine on his third prospecting attempt. No. Really. That actually happened. Look it up.

4.  All of the elves in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer have 4 fingers. It seems 4 was the magic number.

5.  Yukon Cornelius’ dog sled is pulled by 5 dogs: A Collie, a Dachshund, a Cocker Spaniel, a Saint Bernard, and a Toy Poodle.

6.  In 2008, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was restored for Blu-Ray. Enhancements were made to both the audio and picture, including the removal of scratches and artifacting.

7.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer featured 7 original songs that written for the special. They are, in order: “Jingle-Jingle-Jingle,” “We are Santa’s Elves,” “There’s Always Tomorrow,” “We’re a Couple of Misfits,” “Silver and Gold,” “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year,” and “Holly, Jolly Christmas.”

8.  The Santa model stood 8 inches tall.

9.  Santa’s sleigh is pulled by 7 reindeer at the end of the special. But really, there are actually 9 reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and, of course, You-Know-Who.

10.  In 2006, the original Rudolph and Santa models were auctioned in an episode Antiques Roadshow. Pre-renovation, they were valued at $8,000-$10,000!

11.  There are 11 voice actors credited for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. They are: Burl Ives, Larry Mann, Billie Mae Richards, Paul Soles, Stan Francis, Alfie Scoop, Janis Orenstein, Paul Klingman, Carl Banas, Corine Conley, and Peg Dixon.

12.  Rudolph’s famous red nose was made with a 12v light bulb painted red.

13.  In 1998, a deleted scene was uncovered featuring an instrumental break in “We are Santa’s Elves.” It has been included in the special ever since then.

14.  Though he appears quite big on screen, the Bumble Snow Monster model stood 14 inches tall.

15.  Janis Orenstein was only 15 years old when she voiced Clarice.

16.  “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” has been sung by Bing Crosby, the Jackson 5, The Wiggles, The Simpsons, and many others.

18.  In the 1965 broadcast, the song “We’re a Couple of Misfits” was replaced with this song, “Fame and Fortune”:

19.  Production for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer took place in the United States, Canada, and Japan.

20.   There are 20 bells that make up Donner’s sash.

21. Rudolph did not revisit the Island of Misfit Toys in the original broadcast. The scene was added a year later after a letter writing campaign.

22.  22 Sets were built for the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer production.

23. Sam the Snowman was voiced the legendary Burl Ives. By 1964, Burl had 23 film and television credits to his name.

24. It took 24 frames to create one second of filmed animation for the show.

25.  Hermey is the only elf without pointed ears.

26.  All of the characters in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer were built with joints so that any part of their body could be moved, including the eyes, mouth, and ears.

27.  The song “Silver and Gold” was originally going to be sung by Yukon Cornelius (Larry Mann). Sam the Snowman ended up singing it when Burl Ives was brought on board.

28.  The first draft of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer script was finalized on October 28th, 1963.

29.  The same actor provided the voices for Donner and Coach Comet.

30.  There are 30 teeth that make up the Bumble Snow Monster’s mouth. Before Hermey yanked all of them out of course!

31.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had been recorded in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, and Dutch.

32.  In one of the original drafts of the story, a stork delivered Rudolph to his parents.

33.  The writer for the special, Romeo Muller, also wrote many other Rankin/Bass holiday classics including “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

34.  Rudolph’s nose glows in 33 shots in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

35.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was originally shown as a part of the General Electric Family Hour. At that time, Rudolph characters were also featured in GE commercials.

36.  Producers Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass worked together for 35 years and were responsible for many hit specials including “Mad Monster Party,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”

37.  An instrumental version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” can be heard during the Reindeer Games scene.

38.  The opening sequence features newspaper headlines from New York Herald Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Mail, Daily News, and San Francisco Chronicle.

39.  The voice for Boss Elf, the elf dressed in green, changes dramatically from his normal, gruff voice to a whiny, SpongeBob-like voice during the Elf Practice scene. It is believed that a line was added late in production and was voiced by a different actor.

40.  Jon Favreau, director of the movie Elf, took different inspirations from Rudolph. Most notably, with Buddy’s costume design.

41.  Gene Autry was only 41 years old when his single for “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” first hit the charts.

42.  Rudolph was actually voiced a woman named Billie Mae Richards. Although her name was misspelled as “Billy” in the end credits.

43.  There are 43 animals featured in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: 1 fish, 2 rabbits, 2 raccoons, 2 owls, 2 squirrels, 2 bird, 3 baby birds, 3 polar bears, 3 seals, 5 dogs, and 18 reindeer.

44.  The yearly broadcast for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer runs 44 minutes long.

45.  Sam the Snowman was originally envisioned as roly-poly, Guys and Dolls-type character. Sam became a more “folksy” narrator when Burl Ives was brought on board.

46.  During the end credits, the Train with Square Wheels on his Caboose gets dropped out of Santa’s sleigh without his famous caboose. Also, the Bird who Doesn’t Fly but Swims actually learns to fly without an umbrella parachute when dropped out of said sleigh in said credits.

47.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer holds the record as the longest running Christmas television special.

48.  During “The Fairly OddParents” special, “Channel Chasers,” one of the TV shows the characters get sucked into is the world of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, with the reindeer pooping on Cosmo and Wanda! No. Really. That actually happened, too. Look it up.

49.  Rudolph’s name is mentioned 48 times in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

50.  Inspiration for the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer special was from a story by Robert L. May and the song by Johnny Marks.

51-? Every one of the beautifully decorated Christmas trees seen in the opening credits is now available as flooring at Home Depot. (Okay, okay! So I made that fact up!)

My sources:
-Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 50th Anniversary DVD
-The Fairly OddParents: Channel Chasers DVD

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