We all know the most classic Rankin/Bass Christmas shows: "Rudolph," "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," "Year Without a Santa Claus." (I'm happy to report that my just-turned-four-year-old has been indoctrinated into the Cult of Heat Miser and Snow Miser, by the way. I didn't know what to expect -- they're kind of freaky -- but she took to the little guys right away. She's less enthused about Rudolph -- go figure.)
But have you checked out the second tier of Rudolph specials? Last weekend I caught a bit of two that I hadn't seen in years: "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" and "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July."
Together, these two contain some phenomenal nuggets of nostalgia, including appearances by Red Buttons, Ethel Merman, Shelley Winters, Morey Amsterdam and Frank "The Riddler" Gorshin. They're worth it for the voice talent alone. But then you add the odd plots -- Rudolph teams with a caveman, a knight and Ben Franklin to go find Baby New Year, for instance -- and you've got yourself some must-see holiday TV right there.
Check out some clips, and decide for yourself whether these hold up against the more popular stop-action specials: