on December 26, 2004
First televised on NBC-TV on Sunday, December 6, 1964 (but usually associated with CBS-TV due to that network's many airings of the program throughout the succeeding years), the animated color TV Special "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" has now turned forty years of age (as of this writing), and has endured for all those years as an annual staple in many American homes.
The DVD edition I'm reviewing here is the one issued by "Sony Wonder" and "Golden Books Family Entertainment" (1-Disc version). It provides a very good-looking Full Frame (1.33:1) video image of the perennial "Rudolph" Christmas Special; with a Dolby Digital soundtrack recorded in 2-channel (original) Mono.
This particular version of "Rudolph" is quite unique actually, in that it is the "unaltered" version of the TV Special, as it aired originally in 1964. Which means that one song which has been routinely cut out of subsequent broadcasts of the program is presented uncut within this DVD version. That song being "We're A Couple Of Misfits", sung by Rudolph and dentist-to-be "Hermey" near the beginning of the show. This song was replaced in 1965 with the "Fame And Fortune" song instead.
The alternate song used in that scene ("Fame And Fortune") is included, however, as a separate Bonus Feature on this DVD. .... To tell you the truth, I prefer the "Fame & Fortune" number to the original "Misfits" tune. And I can see why the producers of the Special decided to make the switch during the second broadcast of the program in 1965. "F&F" is a better ditty, IMO. And, obviously, others thought so as well. Hence, the substitution.
This DVD contains the complete, uncut version of "Rudolph" (with a total run time of 51 minutes, 32 seconds). This is significant (and most welcome), because after the first few broadcasts on network TV, as we all know, many cuts and edits were made to the original print, so that more and more commercials could be jammed into the one-hour network timeslot over the years. It's doubtful we'll ever encounter this original "51-minute" version on network television again, due to the ever-increasing sponsors' demands for prime-time air time.
All of the rarely-seen snippets of the "Rudolph" Special are re-inserted into this full-length DVD version -- clips like: the "Peppermint" scene at the tail-end of the special, where Yukon Cornelius discovers "a peppermint mine! Yahooo!" .... And: the complete musical numbers ("Jingle, Jingle, Jingle!" and "We Are Santa's Elves") are fully intact on the DVD; whereas, in many chopped-up prints, one (or both) of these songs have either been severely truncated or cut out entirely. It's nice to be able to see the "whole" show via this nicely-done "Sony" DVD release.
This disc has a few nice add-on bonus supplements, too. In addition to the aforementioned bonus song ("Fame And Fortune"), there's also a Rudolph trivia game, an original TV promo, some ads for other "Golden Books" holiday DVD titles, and a fun and informative 11-minute "introduction" by producer/creator Arthur Rankin.
In addition, you can access English Subtitles in two different ways on this disc -- there are the traditional "captions"/(subtitles) that can be turned on at the bottom of the screen. Plus, this DVD offers what is called "Read-Speak Action Captions", which show the words on the screen in a unique, 3-D kind of fashion, displaying the words in large print right beside the mouths of each character speaking, one word at a time. An interesting alternative to the normal captioning process.
Chapter breaks are also included on this disc, with a whopping total of 27 "Scene Selections"! My goodness, some three-hour movie DVDs don't have this many Chapter Stops! :) *
* = NOTE: The "Read-Speak" Captioned version of "Rudolph" (which can be accessed via the Bonus Features area) does not have any "Chapter" breaks included.
An added word or two about the "TV Promo" on this disc --- This is a nice little bonus, which runs for 59 seconds and exhibits very good color and overall picture quality. It's an original 1966 NBC-TV promo that informs the viewers that "Rudolph is coming on Sunday, December 4th, on the General Electric Fantasy Hour" program.
A word about the DVD Menus ..... I'm not a big fan of "Animated Menus" on DVDs, but this disc's Menu system is an exception. For some reason, I really like these Menus, which offer up cheery music and cute animated sequences. The Main Menu puts the viewer right into the Christmas spirit, featuring falling snow, a decorated Christmas tree, and "Rudolph" looking skyward, complete with batting eyelids and a bright glowing nose. While the various Sub-Menus also have animated moving pictures and a "falling snow" background as well. Each Sub-Menu features a different character from the "Rudolph" Special.
Some additional "Rudolph" Notes and Trivia and Miscellaneous Ramblings :-) ..................
>> The voice talent for "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was supplied by Burl Ives (Narrator/"Sam"), Billie Mae Richards ("Rudolph"), Paul Soles ("Hermey"), Larry Mann ("Yukon"), and Alfie Scopp ("Head Elf").
>> I hadn't realized this trivial tidbit until recently ...... Comet (the reindeer coach) was voiced by Don Adams (of "Get Smart" TV fame).
>> I've often wondered how many little kids who have watched this "Rudolph" Special were suddenly scared to death that Christmas might be "cancelled" (as feared in the show due to foul weather). LOL!
>> Has anyone (besides me) ever noticed with amusement that the gruff voice of the "Head Elf" dramatically changes, somehow, just before he begins to direct his "Elf Chorus" in the song "We Are Santa's Elves"? Throughout the majority of the show, Mr. Head Elf is the very coarse-sounding 'meanie' -- when he dishes out some of my favorite lines from the show, such as: "Now you come to Elf Practice and learn how to wiggle your ears, and chuckle warmly, and go "hehe" and "hoho", and important stuff like that! A dentist! Good grief!" .... And yet, in the "chorus" scene, his voice changes completely. He sounds a bit wimpish when he utters: "Now let's try out the new elf song I wrote; and remember, it's for Santa." (LOL!) This sudden and drastic vocal-cord switch always cracks me up when I watch this program.
The "Rudolph" TV Special is truly an American tradition. A must-see each December. And now, via this nice uncut DVD edition, the adventures of our antlered hero with the crimson-colored snoot should remain crystal-clear and in pristine condition forever.