Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

Max Fleischer’s Original 1947 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Animation

How Santa’s ninth reindeer made his on-screen debut.

In 1939, Robert L. May conceived of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in a poem, published in a booklet by iconic department store Montgomery Ward. But “Santa’s 9th Reindeer” didn’t become etched into the nation’s collective imagination until May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, adapted Rudolph into a song in 1949. (What makes the story all the more curious and poetic is that Marks was Jewish, yet he created some of the most popular Christmas songs we know today.)

But Rudolph made his first screen appearance two years earlier, in 1947, in a cartoon short produced by animation pioneer Max Fleischer. The film was later reissued by the Handy (Jam) Organization — who also brought us such gems as a manifesto for makers (1960), cinematic homage to mid-century design (1958), and an animated explanation of how radio broadcasting works (1937) — with the song added in. The 8-minute animation, now in the public domain, is a vintage treat of the most delicious variety:

Fleischer’s film was eventually adapted into a lovely children’s storybook in 1951, illustrated by Richard Scarry.

Published December 23, 2011




Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated