Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a Christmas television special produced in stop motion animation by Rankin/Bass Productions and distributed by DreamWorks Classics. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States. The special was based on the Johnny Marks song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer which was itself based on the 1939 poem Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer written by Marks’ brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS, and this year is the 50th anniversary of the production.
Santa Claus’s reindeer Donner’s wife gives birth to a fawn named Rudolph, but the two are shocked to discover that Rudolph’s unusually red nose is capable of glowing. When Santa Claus visits their cave to meet the fawn and sees the glowing nose, he warns Mr. & Mrs. Donner that Rudolph won’t be able to pull the sleigh if he continues to carry this trait for the rest of his life. Consequently, Donner tries to conceal Rudolph’s nose at first with mud and later a small round cap.
A year later, Rudolph’s parents take him out to the reindeer games where Rudolph will be trained to fly and pull Santa’s sleigh when they get older. Rudolph meets a friendly reindeer named Fireball and they quickly become friends. The pair then sees a group of does including one named Clarice, who seems to love Rudolph. Fireball then encourages Rudolph to speak with her. She thinks he’s cute which causes Rudolph to perform a dazzling leap into the air and fly.
Clarice, who is not the least bit bothered by Rudolph’s secret, catches up with the sulking Rudolph to try to comfort him; but Clarice’s father forbids her to hang around with Rudolph, which breaks his heart and he runs away. Rudolph meets up with an elf named Hermey dreams of becoming a dentist rather than making toys. His supervisor is outraged at his persistent disruption with his dentistry studies. Feeling ridiculed and misunderstood, Hermey also decides to run away. The pair decide to set off together.
A huge blizzard blows in and threatens to cancel Santa’s flight. While announcing the news to the elves and reindeer, Santa is caught by Rudolph’s gleaming nose and decides that its light could cut through the storm. Meanwhile, the Misfit Toys, grieving about being left out and unloved, are cheered up when Santa and Rudolph arrive to pick them up. The special ends with Santa wishing the viewers a merry Christmas as he and Rudolph fly off into the night.