Betcha didn’t know that Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t part of Christmas-past for very long. – certainly not as long as Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen… Rudolph is the creation of a department store, Montgomery Ward. He started out as a character in a coloring book in 1939, created to be given away to shoppers at Christmastime. 2.4 million copies of that coloring book were handed out. It wasn’t until 1948 that Rudolph’s story was told on film. Max Fleischer produced a theatrical cartoon short which I’ve included below for your viewing enjoyment. This was the first Rudolph cartoon!
The song we all know so well didn’t get written until a year later in 1949. It was penned by Johnny Marks and recorded by Gene Autry – a #1 Billboard smash in December of 1949. From there came all kinds of merchandising – comic books, children’s books and then the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated TV special we’re all so familiar with.
Because the song was such a huge hit, Fleischer even reissued his film with the song added in. Here is the original version: