Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/1/11
Directed By: Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass
Cast: Roger Miller, Paul Frees

A short and minor holiday special from Rankin/Bass that weighs too heavily on Christian mythology for mass appeal. Written by Romeo Muller, the story is about a long-eared donkey named Nestor who gets teased and made fun of by the other animals. What is it with big ears and social misfits? Muller's "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (1975) explores the same theme, and Nestor bears many of the same qualities as Rudolph. Anyway, after a shockingly traumatic childhood incident, Nestor is left alone in the world to fend for himself while everyone mocks his giant ears. But fate has something special in store for Nestor, as he is destined to bear a pregnant Mary through a fierce sandstorm on her way to Bethlehem. Only his enormous ears can hear the singing of angels which lead him to his sacred destination. As witness to the birth of Jesus, he becomes a hero and everyone loves him.

Once again, the classic Rankin/Bass animation and aesthetic are a wonder to behold and the show is technically one of their best outings. Unfortunately, even though it's understated and artfully done, the religious tone and execution leaves a bit of a bad taste. The voice acting is excellent and Roger Miller provides thoughtful narration and a warm singing voice.