Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a fictional reindeer, created by Robert Lewis May, usually depicted as a young calf who barely has antlers, with a glowing red nose, popularly known as “Santa’s ninth reindeer”. When depicted, he is the lead reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. The luminosity of his nose is so great that it illuminates the team’s path through inclement winter weather.
Rudolph first appeared in a 1939 booklet written by Robert L. May and published by Montgomery Ward, the department store.
Let’s see some facts about him!
1. The story chronicles the experiences of Rudolph, a youthful reindeer buck (male) who possesses an unusual luminous red nose.
2. Mocked and excluded by his peers because of this trait, Rudolph manages to prove himself one Christmas Eve after Santa Claus catches sight of Rudolph’s nose and asks Rudolph to lead his sleigh for the evening. Rudolph agrees, and is finally treated better by his fellow reindeer for his heroism.
3. Rudolph made his first screen appearance in 1948, in a cartoon short produced by Max Fleischer for the Jam Handy Corporation that was more faithful to May’s original story than Marks’ song, which had not yet been written. It was reissued in 1951 with the song added.
4. Perhaps the most well-known version of all the Rudolph adaptations owed for its most popularity is the Rankin/Bass Productions version of 1964. Filmed in Japan, with all sound recordings done in Toronto, Canada, the show premièred on NBC.
5. In the 1964 stop-motion movie, Rudolph is born to Donner the Reindeer and Donner’s wife. He is discovered by Santa to have a shiny, glowing red nose. Donner, regardless of Rudolph’s defect, trains him to be a normal reindeer with skills such as gathering food and hiding from the “Abominable Snow Monster”, a giant, furry white beast. To hide Rudolph’s nose, Donner puts dirt on it to cover it with a black coating. This causes Rudolph to talk in a funny accent, as told by the Rudolph’s peers
6. While filming Mochinaga, Rankin/Bass’s chief animator, and his assistant Hiroshi Tabata spent two days at Nara National Park studying thousands of wild deer to observe the movement for their animation and to inspire their image of Rudolph and his setting.
7. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998) is an animated feature film. It received only a limited theatrical release before debuting on home video. Its inclusion of a villain, a love interest, a sidekick, and a strong protector are more derivative of the Rankin/Bass adaptation of the story than the original tale and song (the characters of Stormella, Zoey, Arrow, Slyly, and Leonard parallel the Rankin/Bass characters of the Bumble, Clarice, Fireball, Hermey, and Yukon, respectively).
8. A live-action version of Rudolph (complete with glowing nose) along with Donner and Blitzen appears in the Doctor Who Christmas special, Last Christmas, which was broadcast on BBC One on 25 December 2014. In this special, Santa is able to park him like a car and turn off his nose.
9. The TV special changed May’s original Rudolph story slightly by making Donner Rudolph’s father and Comet the coach of the reindeer team.
10. At first, May did not hold the copyright to Rudolph since he had created it during his employment with Montgomery Ward. Therefore, he received no royalties from the licensing; the company did. But in 1947, still trying to pay bills incurred from his wife’s terminal illness (which had killed her around the time he’d created Rudolph), May convinced Sewell Avery, Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, to give him the copyright.
11. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may have started out as an enticement for shoppers, but that little reindeer endeared himself to everyone who heard his tale.
12. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was first printed commercially in 1947, but what really made Rudy a hit was when Johnny Marks, May’s brother-in-law and a songwriter, created melody and lyrics.
13. Japan has long been known for its love of animation (anime anyone?). But did you know that ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ was actually filmed in Japan? Yep! In fact, many of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion “Animagic” specials were produced in Japan.
14. Rudolph almost didn’t have a red nose! Because red noses were generally associated with drinking and drunkards, May’s boss initially felt such a symbol wouldn’t be appropriate for a Christmas story.
15. May wanted his reindeer to have an alliterative name. Other choices he contemplated were Rollo and Reginald before deciding on Rudolph. (He felt Rollo was too upbeat of a name for a misfit character and Reginald was too British.)
16. In 1949, Gene Autry recorded the song. It sold two million copies that year, and ended up being one of the best-selling Christmas songs ever. (Only “White Christmas” tops it. Also, it was Gene Autry’s most popular hit.)