Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976) – a Rankin-Bass Production – Starring Red Skelton, Frank Gorshin, Billie Mae Richards, Morey Amsterdam, Harold Perry, Paul Frees, Don Messick, Iris Rainer.
Continuing in their obsession with genetic oddities, Rankin-Bass has created a new character with massive ears: Happy the Baby New Year. Happy hides his ears beneath a mess of curly blonde locks and a top hat, because Baby New Year’s like to wear top hats right from birth. It’s a thing – don’t judge. These massive ears of his – and they are as massive in their own way as Nestor’s was in his, though at least Happy’s don’t droop – get the kid laughed at.
His ears are so ridiculous that everyone laughs at the mere sight of them, so Happy does what I’d do – he beats the crap out of them. In his mind. And then he runs away. In reality.
(Man, why hasn’t Family Guy done a Rankin-Bass parody, yet? Get on that, Seth MacFarlane.)
Father Time, who’s in charge of making sure Happy is around to make the new year start and the old year go away, runs time but can’t find a missing kid, so he writes a letter to Santa. No kidding. A letter. Now, granted, the special was made in 1976, so we can’t blame him for not hitting Santa up on his iPhone, but isn’t there a better way for Father Time and Santa to chat – especially in an emergency? They don’t have some better kind of system worked out involving, I don’t know, a telephone? Maybe Father Time has to wait until Santa gets home from the present run to chat since this special starts just after the New Year’s Eve sleigh run is over, but if you’ve got something as important as saving the time-space continuum, I don’t know, I’d want to get ahold of the Big Red Suit as quickly as possible. Heck, we know from The Year Without a Santa Claus that the Miser Brothers have a video telephone system, but Santa doesn’t?
Weak, Santa, weak.
Santa gets the letter and he doesn’t want anything to do with Father Time’s trouble. Oh sure, he says he’ll help and that he’s concerned, but all he does is send Rudolph to help out because it’s still foggy outside. But, I mean, c’mon, just sending the kid with the glowing nose in order to save the time-space continuum?
I bet as soon as he sent the kid on his way he went whining and moaning to Mrs. Claus about Father Time this and Father Time that.
Luckily, we don’t have to watch any of that because Rudolph heads on over to Father Time’s castle, which is located on the opposite side of the Sands of Time, which is really just a big desert. Rudolph is completely dedicated to his task, though he spends a lot of time walking instead of flying. Maybe he’s tired from bringing presents to everyone in the entire world and flying is hard. Maybe he doesn’t want to carry General Ticker on his back.
The whole running visual theme of SHINY is characters with clocks on them. I think this is where Flava Flav got the idea. Yeah, I distinctly remember reading Vibe back in the day and he was all, “Where did the clock around my neck come from? That whale with a clock on his tale! Big Ben in the M*therf*cking house, yo! But seriously, yeah, if I can digress, I totally wanted to call myself The Great Quarter Past Five after the camel but Chuck threatened to kick me out of the group and this was before I’d really done anything, so I couldn’t do like I did with Brigitte and ask him, “Who else are ya gonna get to sing 911 is a Joke? Kool Moe Dee? Not happening. Our vocal stylings are totally incompatible.”
Maybe my favorite part of the special is when Rudolph politely asks The Great Quarter Past Five if it’s alright if he calls him “Quart.” “Quart” says, “I’d rather you didn’t.” He lets him later, but that initial knockdown always gets me.
As they’re moving across the desert, Aeon the Terrible attacks them. Aeon is a vulture who wants to kidnap Happy to stop the next year from coming because some silly rule says Aeon can only live an eon and then he dies and this is the year his time is up.
Look, Aeon isn’t a nice guy. He’s a kidnapper, and the only kidnapper that’s cool is Burt Reynolds, but you really can’t blame a bird for not wanting to just hang out for the final week of his life and then turn to ice and die like a good vulture.
Rudolph, General Ticker, and Quart get to Father Time, who lays it all out to Rudolph and then sends him on his way without Ticker or Quart. Thanks, guys.
Thanks to an assist from Big Ben the Whale, Rudolph heads to the Archipelago of Last Years, where years go to live on islands. Honest. Rudolph looks all over for him and ends up picking up a caveman who calls himself One Million B.C., then head to 1023 where they meet a bunch of fairy tales and find out Happy had been hanging with the Three Bears after Goldilocking their porridge and bed. On 1023 they meet up with a knight called, er, 1023.
See, the islands are named after years and Rudolph just happens to run into the caretakers of the islands, and caretakers are also named after the years.
I don’t get it, either.
Everywhere the group goes, they run into people who laughed at Happy’s enormous soundcatchers.
Eventually, Aeon captures Happy and takes him to a mountain and Rudolph and Company go save him. Rudolph gets Happy to trust him by convincing the baby that it’s okay when people laugh at your physical deformities because seeing you makes them happy. Yeah. It’s not that they’re jerks, it’s that you’re filling them with joy and laughter.
Happy takes his hat off and Aeon laughs and Rudolph leaves, telling everyone that there’s no way Aeon will turn to ice and die since he’s so filled with laughter.
The New Year is saved. Hooray! Hooray?
Riddle me this, 1023 (get it?), should they have bothered? What would be so bad about it being December 31 forever and ever?
That sounds like fun.
A good special with great characters that’s derailed a bit by Rudolph’s logic that it’s okay to laugh at kids with big ears and that it only means the laughers are people filled with love. Which I think is silly. It wasn’t okay for anyone to laugh at Nestor but it’s cool to laugh at a freaking baby? I think I get what Rudolph is getting at – that you’ve got to accept yourself for who you are and that if you’re comfortable in your own skin then it doesn’t matter what other people say or do, but the idea that, “Hey, the people laughing at you are totally right, you’re just misinterpreting their actions” is a bunch of crap.
Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.