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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 12/18/01

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

reviews by Todd Doogan of The Digital Bits

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (2000)

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
1964 (2000) - Rankin/Bass (Golden Books/Sony Wonder)

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/B+

Specs and Features:

65 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, introduction by Arthur Rankin, Fame and Fortune song, Pillsbury commercial, original TV promo, trivia game, ReadSpeak captions, animated film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (27 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English, Closed Captioned

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (1999)

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
1964 (1999) - Rankin/Bass (Golden Books/Sony Wonder)

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B-/C

Specs and Features:

65 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, trivia game, film-themed menu screens, scene access (22 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: English

"That nose. That beautiful, wonderful nose!"

Rudolph is your standard "bullied kid with a disability turns worshipped hero" tale. And it's got all the makings of a classic. It has your typical ingredients: a misunderstood potential hero (Rudolph), a community that scoffs at him (Santa and his workshop elves and reindeer) and even a villain (The Bumble). It also has a few unaccountable variants, like a skinny Santa (who whines and complains all day long), a gay dentist (in the tradition of Paul Lynde), and an island of misfit toys (that any kid would be out of their mind to not want to own). See... it has all the makings of a classic! And guess what? That's exactly what it's become over the years.

Rudolph, as the song goes, is a reindeer with a very shiny nose. Actually, if you ever saw it, you would even say it glows. All of the other reindeer in Rudolph's little community in the North Pole would laugh and call him names. They never had the gumption to allow him to play any reindeer games with them. Taking it all on the chin, Rudolph hooks up with a new friend, a misfit elf named Hermey, who really wants to be a dentist. Together, they both head out into the cold dark unknown. On their adventure, they find Yukon Cornelius, a prospector with a heart of gold (and a nose for silver AND gold). They also find the monster known as the Abominable Snowman, (but you can call him Bumble). And of course, they stumble upon the Island of Misfit Toys, a wondrous place governed by King Moonchaser, a flying Lion who wants all the misfit toys to have a loving home. Together, Rudolph and Hermey (with the help of Cornelius) must find a way to overcome their misfit status, save Christmas and find a home for the misfit toys and the Bumble. Can they do it? Oh... for the love of God, I hope so.

Rudolph is plenty old. Originally seen on CBS in 1964, Rudolph has been kicking around for quite some time, so the source print used for the DVD transfer is damaged in spots. It's obviously been remastered, both audio-wise and on the video side. Some of it works and some of it doesn't. The video transfer is the original 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, and it looks good for its age. The opening 3 minutes are pretty worse for wear, with spots, rips and scratches prevalent throughout. But once you get past that, you're left with a clean, colorful and slightly edgy picture (with mild digital noise in the background). It does the job, but it could be a bit better. The sound, on the other hand, is a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo track. It's very hissy, muted and the restoration work done for this version of the film is noticeable. Anyone else notice the voice change of the Head Elf during the We are Santa's Elves song? Ultimately, video and sound quality is passable. The defects here aren't likely to make anyone not want to own this DVD, but they're noticeable nonetheless.

Rudolph was first released on DVD in August of 1999 as a straight movie-only edition. It featured the same transfer as the newer edition, but the only extras were a trivia game (which is also on the newer edition). But the newer edition, released last year, is definitely the one to get (which is good, because it's the only one left available). It features a few additional fun extras. There's a 10-minute video introduction from co-producer Arthur Rankin, that mainly recaps the entire film with some informational gems sprinkled through. It's nice to see Mr. Rankin, but I wished he gave more behind-the-scenes stuff, like how hard it was working with Rudolph as his star was rising, or how they got the Bumble to remove his teeth for the film. We've all heard the legends, but it would have been nice to get his unique perspective on some of the myths. Then there's the song Fame and Fortune, which replaced We're a Couple of Misfits after the 1965 airings of Rudolph. Also thrown in is the original CBS promo, a commercial for Pillsbury products (which opens the film) and another commercial for other titles in the Golden Book series from Sony Wonder. Capping the extras off is a very useful feature called ReadSpeak. ReadSpeak is captioning for kids who want to read along with the film. Just don't pay the captions any mind during the We're a Couple of Misfits song. Whoever was transcribing the song here really screwed the pooch. Check it out and see if you catch it. For those who love normal captioning, both the Rankin intro and the feature are captioned in English (which is a step up, considering the original disc wasn't).

Rudolph is one of the greatest holiday specials ever created. I can't have a Christmas without it, actually. My thanks to Sony Wonder for preserving it on DVD for us. The age of the film prevents it from being crystal clear, but it still shines bright and it's definitely worth picking up for the holidays.

Todd Doogan
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Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer (2000)

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