ByKristy Anderson, writer at
Kristy Anderson

Anyone who has ever celebrated Christmas has likely seen or at least heard of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the beloved 1964 stop-motion special produced by Rankin-Bass. What you may not know is that the special spawned two lesser-known sequels. To stretch things a little further, you could even say there was a prequel, of sorts. Surprised? Most people are. Let's take a look at these lesser-known Rudolph specials.

'Rudolph's Shiny New Year' (1976)

In this special, teams with a host of characters resembling historical figures of years past on a quest to find the missing Baby New Year, Happy, before January 1st, or the current year will never end. Rudolph feels an instant bond with Happy, who had run away after being teased for his abnormally large ears, just as Rudolph had been teased over his nose.

While released nearly 12 years later, the events of Rudolph's Shiny New Year are intended to occur just one year after the original special, though there are some discrepancies, as the slightly redesigned Rudolph appears younger in Shiny New Year than he did at the end of Rudolph. Many fans were disappointed that Hermey The Elf, Yukon Cornelius, and other characters were absent from this special.

'Rudolph And Frosty's Christmas In July' (1979)

This 90-minute feature brought many of Rankin-Bass's most beloved characters together in one epic Yuletide adventure. After agreeing to perform in a circus for their mutual friend Milton the ice-cream man, Rudolph and Frosty The Snowman become caught up in the plans of the evil Wizard, Winterbolt.

The special is rarely re-aired, easily considered the weakest special of either Rudolph or Frosty's canon. It is, however, notable for featuring Frosty's first and only appearance in stop-motion, and for being the final Rankin-Bass special to showcase either of these characters.

'Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey' (1977)

This special is a play on the Nativity story, taking place through the eyes of Nestor, the Donkey who bore Mary to Bethlehem. Nestor, like Rudolph, was teased and rejected by his peers for his freakishly long ears, which often caused him to be clumsy. No one wants to buy him, until Mary and Joseph appear. Mary, drawn to Nestor's kind eyes, chooses him. Nestor, of course, goes on to carry Mary safely to Bethlehem, using his ears to shield Mary from a sandstorm.

There are quite strong arguments for placing Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, as a prequel to the original Rudolph special. Rudolph (as he appears in Shiny New Year) is seen and referenced by name, at both the beginning and ending of Nestor, and thematically, the the two specials are quite similar. Just to tie it all up even more neatly, Rudolph And Frosty's Christmas in July established a shared universe within the Rankin-Bass specials that only strengthens Nestor's position as a precursor to Rudolph. All That stops Nestor from being aired more often today are its religious themes.

Did You Know About Rudolph's Sequels?


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