Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1975)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 1/1/11
Directed By: Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass
Cast: Red Skelton, Frank Gorshin, Paul Frees

After the disappointing "The Year Without A Santa Claus" (1974), this Rankin/Bass holiday special re-introduces Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer and dramatically improves the production values and animation quality. The baby New Year has run away from home because everyone laughs at his big ears, and it's up to Rudolph to find him before time stops and it's December 31st for all eternity. With the aid of Father Time (Red Skelton), Rudolph journeys to the Archipelago Of Past Years and relives several fairy tales in a manner similar to "Here Comes Peter Cottontail." Rudolph finally manages to convince baby New Year to come home with him, and Santa's sleigh shows up just in time to get him back to Father Time's castle. Father Time curiously says "We made it without a bong a spare!" which is sure to raise eyebrows and generate a few giggles. Just what was Romeo Muller thinking when he came up with this story? Anyway, despite the fact that the animation has vastly improved, the story is weak and the characters are mostly uninteresting. It also features a brief and jarring retelling of Rudolph's origin story as a traditional 2D hand drawn animation sequence, which is awkward and feels extremely out of place. Overall it's a fun outing, but not an endearing holiday classic.