Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reflections on Rudolph's Shiny New Year

Feeling kind of run-down this morning, that's because I stayed up late last night watching TV.

But I had to tune in! Rudolph's Shiny New Year was on, and I hadn't seen that since one snowy New Years Eve when I was 7 years old. I had only fuzzy recollections of it, so I had to see how much I actually did remember.

For those who've never heard of it, Rudolph's Shiny New Year is the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer New Years special. It was made by the exact same people who made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and it is kind of cute.

It's Christmas Day, and Santa has just gotten back from delivering presents, when he gets a note from his old colleague, Father Time. It seems that the Baby New Year has gone missing, and Father Time wants Santa to assist in the search. Since the North Pole is fogged in, Santa delegates Rudolph to do this task, as Rudolph is the only one who can navigate through the fog.

Rudolph makes his way across the Sands of Time to Father Time's castle, where Father Time plays the role of Captain Exposition. Father Time explains that the Baby New Year was gifted with abnormaly large ears, that cause most people to burst into laughter. This hurt the Baby's feelings, and he ran away. And, if the Baby New Year isn't crowned the New Year at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve, then it will remain December 31 forever. Father Time suspects that Happy (the Baby New Year's name...short for "Happy New Year") might be hiding out on the Archipelago of Last Years. This is where the years go to retire after their reign as a year...each one chooses an island to be their home, and "time stands still" on that island, where it is that sovereign's year forever.

So Rudolph makes his way to the Archipelago, with the help of a talking whale named Big Ben. (Yup, there are all kinds of time-related puns in this special.) Rudolph visits many islands searching for Happy, and he soon gains assistance from the previous years:

- One Million BC (or O.M. for short). He's a caveman, and his island is populated with dinosaurs.
- 1023, a shining knight who is addressed as "Sir 10-2-3." His land is a fairy tale kingdom.
- 1776, or "Sev" for short. He looks a lot like Benjamin Franklin, and on his island, it's constantly the Fourth of July.

Each one tells Rudolph a similar story: Happy visited their island, made lots of friends, but as soon as Happy removed his hat and his large ears flopped into view, his new friends laughed, and Happy ran away with hurt feelings.

But soon, tragedy! Happy is soon abducted by Aeon the Vulture! Aeon lives for exactly one aeon, and then he turns to ice. His aeon is up at the stroke of midnight. With Happy as his prisoner, the new year will never come, and Aeon will live forever! Rudolph and his new friends make their way to Aeon's home, the Island of No Name. Rudolph makes his way to Happy, and they have a chat. See, Rudolph also knows what it's like to have people point and laugh because you're different, and Rudolph explains that he grew up and got over it. He continues to explain that, if someone is truly your friend, they'll eventually stop laughing and get to know you. To prove this point, Rudolph urges Happy to remove his hat. Happy's big ears flop out, and Rudolph chuckles. Rudolph explains that he was so filled with joy, that it had to come out somehow. Happy, learning to get over it, vows to go home with Rudolph and become the New Year.

This does piss off Aeon, but when Aeon sees Happy's big ears, he bursts into laughter. And Rudolph assures Aeon that no one who's heart is so full of laughter need never fear that he'll turn to ice.

But, oh noes! The clock begins striking midnight! It's too late! Or...is it? Santa finally appears, and says that if he can deliver presents to all the boys and girls of the world in one night, he can get Happy back to Father Time's castle before the clock finishes striking midnight.

They get to Father Time's castle, Happy is officially crowned the New Year, and they all lived happily ever after!

And that's how Rudolph saved New Years!

I thought it was kind of cute, and I loved having all my memories of being 7 or 8 come back to me. But, in retrospect, was this truly a good message to send to the kids? I mean, at the end of the day, the moral is, "It's OK to point and laugh at someone who's different." Or was the moral, "You'll get pointed at and laughed at because you're different, so get over it?" It could be taken either way.

But it was a fun special, and I see that tonight, another classic aniamted New Years special that I haven't seen since I was seven or eight is on again: Happy New Year, Charlie Brown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I watched this show at a similar age to you. I tuned in just as Rudolph starts laughing at the kid with big ears. I felt so embarrassed I had to leave the room. I had big ears too and I knew exactly how that laughter felt, like you wanted to just crawl into a hole where nobody could see you or make fun of you. 30 years later the memory still lives so strong, that I just googled the scenario to try find the name of the cartoon. Constant teasing and insults made my life so unhappy for so long. Eventually I had an operation. All the unnecessary unpleasantness people had shown me for so long stopped overnight. But 30 years on from being a young kid watching that cartoon, I'm still haunted by the memory.