Saturday, December 23, 2006

Rudolph reconsidered

The other evening I watched part of the movie, “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer” with my daughter. It brought back memories. I saw it when it first came out, way back in 1964. It was an event back then, for it was in color. We didn’t have a color TV back then. Most of my friends didn’t have a color TV. But there was one family in the neighborhood that had a color TV and they invited the whole block over. A hoard of us kids crowed into their living room, sitting on the floor in front of the television, rooting for the misfit reindeer as he fought with rejection and battled the evil abominable snowman. To a kid, it was scary. I have to smile the other night as I watched the terrifying parts. It doesn’t seem nearly as scary or nearly as real it did back then.

I’ve been cynical when I’ve thought about this show. After all, Rudolph was created for a 1939 advertising campaign for Montgomery Wards. It looks like the character might stick around longer the institution that created it. I know there are some who think there’s a major onslaught against Christmas in our culture and in some ways, they should use the character of Rudolph and this movie in particular as an example. After all, there’s nothing in the movie about the birth of a Savior. But watching a part of the show again, as a middle-aged adult, I’ve reconsidered my position and realize that I may have been a bit harsh. Yes, it is true that the movie takes the focus off Christ and places it in the North Pole. But Christ-like values are seen throughout the film. The misfits find a place to fit in. You have an elf that wants to be a dentist, a reindeer with a bright red nose, toys that are exiled on an island as misfits. In the movie, they all find a place. The dentist elf pulls the teeth of the feared abominable snowman. Rudolph’s nose allows Santa to fly in inclement weather. The misfit toys find homes. And even the feared abominable snowman becomes tame and is able to help out, decorating Santa’s large tree without a ladder. There’s a place for everyone. Yeah,, it’s a kid’s movie, but it’s also a movie about redemption which is at the heart of the Christian message.


  1. wow, that's interesting. My grandfather used to call it "Monkey Wards".

  2. That's a very good assessment of the movie. I didn't know that it was a creation for/of Montgomery Wards. It will outlive it, if it hasn't already. Does MOntgomery Ward still exist some where?

  3. Peri, Monkey Wards, that's pretty good.

    Kenju, I changed a sentence to hopefully make it clearer. The movie wasn't done by Monkey Wards, but the character was created for one of their ad campaigns. From Wikpedia, it says that all their stores and catolog operations closed in 2001 with bankrupty, but an online internet store under hte name opened up in 2004 (and I found that via google). It also appears that it's not Wards but Ward! Learn something new every day!

  4. Plus you have the king, the Lion, who loves and cares for the misfits. That too me always had alot of symbolism. And you are so right, now when I watch I can't believe how the abominal snowman is so not-scary! Graphics have certainly changed....but I am still afraid of the monkeys in the Wizard of Oz!

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

  5. Nice post sage, very nice........ :-)

    Did your daughter hide behind daddy for the scary bits?

    Merry Christmas, my dear!!

    Michele - well, you know!

  6. WOW- that's a GREAT walk down memory lane. I remember that Rudolph special, Frosty and A Charlie Brown Christmas as being highlights of my childhood Christmas memories. Maybe I'll write a post about my Christmas memories...

    Have a Great Holiday Season!!

  7. PS. I agree with Deana- those flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz freaked me out too! For months whenever I went outside, I would look up for the little hairy guys to see if there were any waiting for me. Also, saw the movie 'Gremlins' when I was 11 and for a few years, I would back way up and take a flying leap onto my bed for fear there were tiny Gremlins under my bed just waiting to grab my ankles!!!

  8. I knew that Ward didn't have an s on it, and in my comment, one of the times it doesn't....LOL. the other time, it should have had an apostrophe. I once had a friend from Kansas who called it "Monkey Wards". We had one in my town, but my mom never shopped there, so I was not very familiar with it.

    Michele sent me again. Merry Christmas, Sage!

  9. Hey, I love kid's movies! So uncomplicated!

    Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family.

  10. Thanks for the post. I learn a lot coming by here.

    Have a merry and blessed Christmas!

  11. Sage, could you email me your email address sometime? I thought I had filed your email address from long ago when you wrote me; but I can't locate it now. Thanks.

  12. Hey, Sage: yes, indeed, us non-Christian types have values, too! For instance, I like Mr. Heatmiser, I do! (Does that count as a "value"?)

    Have a very merry Xmas with lots of snow!

  13. Deana, I was never afraid of the monkeys in the Wizard, but I had dreams of tornadoes all through my childhood!

    CQ, my daughter didn't seem that afraid of the snow monster, maybe it's because he looks so unbelievable today.

    Trailady, I see you have some good memories posted!

    Gautami, there is something to be said about simplicity!

    Tim, may you have a wonderful Christmas too.

    Ing, I certainly hope you didn't take my post as saying that non-Christans don't have values. As for Mr. Heatmiser, I am humbled. I had to look it up and the IMDb (movie database: says: "If you were alive and cognizant during the 1970's, you must remember the "Heat Miser..."
    WOW, that was a slap! I was alive then, I was in the 12th grade Christmas of 1974! But I was in TV withdraw (the only thing I remember watching in this era was SNL and I think it started early in '75). I didn't watch TV and only listened to the alternative music played on FM!

  14. I'm still hoping to post, sometime this afternoon, the story of Williston's White Christmas and ways to extend one Christmas holiday...

  15. i am singing this year which is good if you are me, and BAD if you are my kids. Now i will sing Rudolph the rednose reindeer (burger) with Gusto.
    You were ALIVE in '64? Whoah man, very freaky!
    Merry christmas! Gods rich blessings on you and yours

  16. ps I worked at Monkey wards for a while and was partly responsible for its terrible "bottom line" I later repented and paid them back for the stuff I took.
    I was a bad bad boy. Now I am just a bad man with a good Lord saving my sorry rear end.

  17. sage - last night I watched another movie from 1964 - Mary Poppins. It was a nice reminder of what a delight it was both as a child and even as an adult.

  18. David, your comment, "I am just a bad man with a good Lord saving my sorry read end" is one of the best definitions of a Christian I've come upon recently.

    Diane, I remember going to see Mary Poppins (I was wounded at the time, hobbling along, as my bare foot had been caught in the spokes of my cousin's bike). A spoon full of sugar didn't make things any better (or is that in the Sound of Music?)

  19. i have serious issues with the rudolph show.

    firstly, there is nothing 'christ-like' about santa and co. ostracizing the young reindeer for what amounts to a slight birth defect... nor in the hack-job the dentist pulled on the snow-creature.

    the show has always been b.s. in my book.


    have a good holiday, my friend

  20. Prego, that's a good observation! Santa and the rest of the crew certainly doesn't come off in the show as godly, but eventually things change for the better for the "misfits."

  21. Seems like I watch some or all of Rudolph every year. I can't wait to watch it with my daughter. Of course, by then, she will know about the true meaning of Christmas.