Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Rudolph's Shiny New Year

First aired December 10, 1976

"You know Rudolph who guided and pulled Santa’s sleigh and who saved Christmas by lighting the way but there’s more to tell Rudolph saved the new year as well..." - Father Time

Rudolph (Billie Mae Richards) and Santa Claus (Paul Frees) arrive home at the North Pole after delivering toys on Christmas Eve. Santa has received a letter from his old friend Father Time (Red Skelton). Happy, the Baby New Year has disappeared. Santa explains that if Happy isn't found before Midnight on New Year's Eve, the New Year will never arrive, and the world will be stuck on December 31st forever. Since it still foggy out, Santa tells Rudolph is the only one who can save Happy and the New Year.  ""Rudolph with your nose so bright, you’ve 6 days left to set things right," says Santa!

General Ticker and Rudolph making their way to Father Time's castle
With the guidance of General Ticker (Frees again), one of Father Time's foot soldiers, Rudolph embarks on his journey, through snow and ice and a desert called the Sands Of Time. They encounter a Camel named Quarter Past Five (Frank Gorshin), who offers them a ride across the desert.

Aeon the Terrible swoops towards Rudolph and friends
 They're suddenly attacked by a giant vulture named Aeon the Terrible (Frees yet again). His "aeon" is up and he will turn to snow and ice when the new year arrives. If Rudolph can't find Happy, Aeon will live on forever.
Father Time looks a lot like Red Skelton (who voices the character)
 They escape Aeon and reach Father Time. He tells them Happy ran away because his ears were larger than average and caused people to laugh at him. Rudolph can relate, since his nose was also laughed at. Father Time says Happy can be found in the Archipelago of Last Years.

Father Time explains about the Archipelago of Last Years
It contains island for every year, the "Baby New Years" of each year retire to the island and it remains that year forever.

Rudolph meets Big Ben
Rudolph sets out for the Archipelago in a sail boat, only to be attacked by Aeon once more. He is rescued by a whale named Big Ben (Harold Peary) and they make their way to the islands.

Rudolph and friends, old and new
Rudolph is eventually joined by a caveman named One Million BC (Morey Amsterdam),  a knight known as 1023 (Gorshin again) and even a Ben Franklin-ish fellow called 1776 on his journey. Aeon also continues his search for Happy and continues to divert Rudolph's search. Will Rudolph find Happy and get him back home before the New Year?

Will there be a "Happy" ending?
J.A. Morris says:
There's a lot going on in this special. The business about each past year having its own island and each year having a personification is either very imaginative or very convoluted (depending on your perspective). And it's not exactly a classic. But it's generally a fun ride. It's nice to hear Billie Mae Richards voice Rudolph again, and Paul Frees and Frank Gorshin are great in multiple roles.  Gorshin's exhortations as 1023 still make me (literally) laugh out loud.

Sir 1023:  " Thou looketh for the wee babe Happy?...comest with me, comest! We seeketh!"
This story here may not be as good as the 1964 Rudolph special, but the "animagic" is even better than the original. The new songs by Johnny Marks aren't as good as his classic Christmas songs, but they're enjoyable. The lyrics about the passage of time are very poignant, I appreciate them more in my 40s than when I first heard them.

"The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on ..."
 There's an interesting bit of "traditional" animation that appears near the end.  Rudolph tells Happy his "origin" story and we get a new cartoon short that accompanies the "Rudolph" song.

This special has sentimental value for me, as I can remember watching Rudolph's Shiny New Year when it was brand new. But I imagine children still enjoy it. It features a talking Sperm Whale and dinosaurs that sing and dance! How cool is that?!

 My rating:
3 and half champagne flutes.

RigbyMel says:

This is a fun special, although perhaps not required annual viewing.   As J.A. Morris says, there is an awful lot going on here -- perhaps too much, but it's still a fun journey.

Baby Happy visits 1776
I like the idea of the Archipelago of Last Years a lot and also quite enjoyed the creativity employed with bringing in fairy tales on 1023's island and the 4th of July on 1776's island (1976, the year this special first aired, was the U.S. bicentennial, after all).

Baby Happy meets Baby Bear (of the Three Bears) on 1023's island

There are a LOT of songs in this special, but most of them are not particularly memorable, which keeps me from rating it a "classic" like the 1964 Rankin Bass "Rudolph" special.   That being said,  "Have A Happy New Year" and "It's Raining Sunshine" are ear worms, despite being a bit fragmentary in nature. 

I remember watching and enjoying this special when it aired on the Disney Channel in the 1980s.  I liked learning of Rudolph's further adventures, but it bothered me a bit that the young reindeer seemed to have been regressed age-wise.  (I guess the powers that be at Rankin-Bass decided a younger looking Rudolph was cuter?)

1964 Rudolph at the end of the the original Rankin Bass special
A more youthful looking Rudolph with Santa at the beginning of the 1976 special
The supporting characters are all a lot of fun -  even ones in relatively minor roles.   I felt a bit sorry for Baby Bear not getting to hang out with his new friend for very long.
I also LOVE the dinosaurs that appear on One Million B.C.'s island especially a baby pterodactyl that Baby Happy encounters.

A pterodactyl baby!!!

"Cast" photo

RigbyMel's rating:
3 champagne flutes

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