Robert L. May created Rudolph in 1939 as an assignment for Montgomery Ward. The retailer had been buying and giving away coloring books for Christmas every year and it was decided that creating their own book would save money. May considered naming the reindeer “Rollo” and “Reginald” before deciding upon using the name “Rudolph”. In its first year of publication, 2.5 million copies of Rudolph’s story were distributed by Montgomery Ward. The story is written as a poem in the meter of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Publication and reprint rights for the book Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are controlled by Pearson Plc.
May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, adapted the story of Rudolph into a song. Gene Autry’s recording of the song hit No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart the week of Christmas 1949. Autry’s recording sold 2.5 million copies the first year, eventually selling a total of 25 million, and it remained the second best-selling record of all time until the 1980s.
In 1964, the tale was adapted into a stop-motion Christmas special by Rankin/Bass. Filmed entirely in Japan with all sound recordings done in Toronto, Canada, the show premiered on NBC, drastically altering the original telling of the story. This re-telling chronicles Rudolph’s social rejection among his peers and his decision to run away from home. Rudolph is accompanied by a similarly-outcast elf named Hermey, whose dreams of becoming a dentist are shunned by the other elves, along with a loud, boisterous, eager prospector named Yukon Cornelius who was in search of wealth. Additional original characters include Rudolph’s love interest, Clarice; the antagonistic Abominable Snowman; and, as narrator, the anthropomorphic Sam the Snowman, voiced by Burl Ives.
After the story’s initial broadcast, its closing credits were revised. Images of wrapped presents being dropped from Santa’s sleigh were replaced by “Misfit” Toys being dropped to the homes of children below, where they were found by children who loved them. The changes were prompted by viewer feedback pleading for a happy ending for each toy. The special now airs annually on CBS, rather than NBC, and is hailed as a classic by many. The special’s original assortment of trademarked characters have acquired iconic status, and its alterations of the true storyline are frequently parodied in other works. The sequel Rudolph’s Shiny New Year continued the reindeer’s journeys.
Aaaand. Here’s the rest of the music from the tv special….