* AdaptationDisplacement:
** "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" originated with a book published in 1939 for a department store's Christmas marketing, which pre-dates the Rankin/Bass special by over twenty years, the song by ten years, and is almost forgotten. The book has little in common with the Rankin & Bass special and focuses only on Rudolph being shunned for his nose before Santa asks him to lead the reindeer team. Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snowman, Yukon, and Clarice were all created for the Rankin & Bass special & do not appear at all in the book. Ask anyone if they know Rudolph, and they'll either answer with the song or the Rankin & Bass special, and be very surprised if you mention the original book.
** The song is another example of this for the book, by the Rankin & Bass animators. Even though it was written in 1949 by Johnny Marks, the brother-in-law of the book's author Robert May, the song was the basic inspiration & theme-music for the Rankin & Bass special, as the animators had only heard of the song.
** The trope is averted by the first animated short of Rudolph by [[Creator/MaxAndDaveFleischer Max Fleischer]], released in 1948, which predates the Rankin & Bass special and the song. Fleischer's short is based on & true to the original book, though it was later re-released in 1951 with the song added to its soundtrack.
* AlternativeCharacterInterpretation:
** Santa is in fact a big jerk in the original film because he never even "liked" Rudolph (if you can call it that) until he realized that he could exploit his nose. In other words, Santa only cares about Rudolph's ''nose,'' not Rudolph.
** Rather than being an "abusive" parent, it could be argued that Donner, having grown up in that environment, knew the pain and suffering in store for Rudolph and wanted to spare him.
** Did Comet exclude Rudolph from the reindeer games out of prejudice, or was it for the good of the other young reindeer who might be distracted and he chose the wrong words in Rudolph's presence?
* AccidentalAesop: ''Rudolph's Shiny New Year'' has one about embracing the things that make you unique, but it sort of blurs into "if your physical deformity makes people laugh, let them. Be glad you're making them so happy".
** Given that this is the 60s, no ''way'' was the message of tolerance intentional, but Hermie's desire to be a dentist untintentionally resembles a ComingOutStory.
* BeamMeUpScotty: One line floating around the Internet is Mrs. Claus' demand, "Eat Papa, Eat. Nobody likes a skinny Santa." This exact line is not uttered in the special. She says the former sentence towards the end by itself, and earlier says, "Whoever heard of a skinny Santa?", but never both at the same time.
* BrokenBase
** The sequels.
** "We're a Couple of Misfits" vs. "Fame and Fortune".
** Which ending is better? Yukon striking peppermint or the elves delivering the misfit toys? The DVD version [[TakeAThirdOption includes both]] - as has at least one broadcast.
** The original 1964 stop-motion Rankin/Bass special vs. the 1998 traditional-animated Goodtimes entertainment film.
*** Plus the 1944 Fleischer Brothers cartoon, which is public domain.
* CounterpartComparison: One has to wonder if viewers thought of Lotso Huggin' Bear while hearing the backstory of The Toy Taker, after ''WesternAnimation/ToyStory3'' came out.
* DarknessInducedAudienceApathy: One of the major criticisms with this special in modern times is that the majority of the characters are absolutely cruel to both Rudolph and Hermey, including [[SantaClaus Jolly Old Nick]] himself, making it difficult to root for most of them.
* EarWorm: Several of the songs. Maybe "We're a Couple of Misfits" especially.
** "Silver And Gold", to the point that it's become a holiday standard on its own.
** "A Holly Jolly Christmas".
** We are Santa's elves / Filling Santa's shelves...
* EnsembleDarkhorse: The Misfit Doll (AKA "Dolly for Sue"), whose total screen-time would amount to less than a minute, '''''and''''' remains nameless, has become a fairly popular and iconic character in the special.
** [[MemeticBadass Yukon]] [[ShroudedInMyth Cornelius]]. Just look at that ''[[BadassMoustache moustache!]]''
** King Moonracer, Also doubles as a OneSceneWonder.
** The Toy Taker [[spoiler: aka. Mr Cuddles]] seems to be considered one of the better elements of the 2001 sequel.
** The Boss Elf, thanks to his [[MemeticMutation memetic]] "WHY WEREN'T YOU AT ELF PRACTICE?!" line.
* FamilyUnfriendlyAesop: No one (except your mother and maybe a few others, apparently) will love you for your uniqueness, unless those traits are useful to them. Your differences will always be punished unless they can be exploited. Rudolph would still be an outcast and not a celebrity, if his defining trait could serve others no purpose.
* FanonDiscontinuity: The sequel, ''Rudolph's Shiny New Year'', suddenly has a completely different Rudolph puppet, despite starring the same character and taking place immediately after this special.
** Not to mention he's also young again in ''all'' the sequels.
*** Or did he get his antlers trimmed once in a while?
** Fans of both the traditionally animated 1998 movie and the "originals" will agree that the computer animated ''Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer & the Island of Misfit Toys'' never should have happened. Arguably a song or two and using the original designs the other sequels altered are the only saving graces, if even that.
* FirstInstallmentWins: None of the sequels will ever hold a candle to the original 1964 special. Note however, [[SequelDisplacement it is not the first Rudolph film altogether]] (that honour goes to the Max Fleischer short, which is received well, but is far more obscure).
* FountainOfMemes: Yukon Cornelius. Being a LargeHam and the only adult who isn't a JerkAss helps.
* HilariousInHindsight:
** The villain of ''Misfit Toys'' [[WesternAnimation.ToyStory3 is a teddy bear who turned evil after being abandoned by his owner.]]
** "What's the matter, haven't you ever seen a talking snowman before?". Well, there is ''WesternAnimation/FrostyTheSnowman'', of course, but [[Disney/{{Frozen}} later...]]
** The 1964 TV special enjoyed regular annual rotation on NBC before they lost the broadcast rights to CBS in 1972. 44 years later, NBC's parent company [=NBCUniversal=] bought special rights-holder Creator/DreamWorksAnimation, not only making NBC the ''owner'' of the special, but also [[TheDogBitesBack leading to a possibility of]] [[WhosLaughingNow CBS losing the rights in the future]].
* MemeticMutation:
** "You eat what you like, and I'll eat what I like!"
** "I'm cute! I'm cute! She said I'm CUTE!"
*** Preferably said as though one has a stuffed nose: "She said I'm CYUUUUUUUUUDE!"
** For whatever reason, the phrase ''[[SuddenlyShouting "WHY WEREN'T YOU AT ELF PRACTICE?"]]'' inexplicably exploded in popularity in December 2017.
** "Bumbles BOUNCE!"
** "No! This is [[StayInTheKitchen MAN'S]] work!"
* NightmareFuel: The Abominable Snowmonster Of The North (aka The Bumble)! He's mean, he's nasty, and he hates everything to do with Christmas! And dear God, that roar!!!!
** Not to mention when [[spoiler:Hermey [[TheToothHurts plucks out all of his teeth]] while he and Cornelius save the reindeer]].
*** Rudolph and Hermey caught out in that storm ...
* NightmareRetardant: If you don't find the Bumble to be NightmareFuel, you'll probably see him as a big, white Muppet.
** And of course once Bumble been touched with the Spirit of Christmas, he becomes the cutest thing ever.
* OlderThanTheyThink:
** Rudolph was a book long before it became a song, and even longer before the Rankin & Bass special aired. The original book, "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" was published in '''1939''' as Christmas marketing for Montgomery Ward, a US-based department store. The Johnny Marks song didn't come about until a decade later, in 1949, with the Rankin & Bass special not appearing until '''1964'''. The Rankin & Bass version has little to do with the original story, as the animators didn't have a copy of the book & only had the song lyrics to go by.
** The Rankin & Bass special wasn't even the first animated telling of the tale. That honor belongs to Max Fleischer in 1948, even before the song was written. The Fleischer short was re-issued in 1951 with the song added to the soundtrack. On top of that, DCComics issued multiple annuals retelling the story in the late '50s.
* SpecialEffectsFailure: Hermey's mouth movements frequently don't match the words he's saying, which at times can be unintentionally hilarious.
* UglyCute: The Bumble! You can't deny that underneath all that stop motion fur he's kinda cute.
* UncannyValley: The stop-motion animation has ''not'' aged well, and most of the character movements are unsettlingly stiff and jerky.
* ValuesDissonance:
** There were a few sexist lines in the original that were cut in later broadcasts. Among them Donner telling his wife that finding Rudolph was "man's work" and "The best thing to do is get the women back to Christmas Town."
** The scene where the reindeer coach prohibits Rudolph from playing reindeer games has come under controversy in TheNewTens for promoting a bullying environment.
*** The story itself (See FamilyUnfriendlyAesop). It's amazing how EasilyForgiven Santa and AllOfTheOtherReindeer are, though this is partially a product of TheHaysCode.
* ValuesResonance:
** Clarice is one of the few genuinely likable characters - she actually treats Rudolph nicely and is, aside from his parents, the only one who actually is looking for him.
** The plot itself involves a group of misfits who band together. Just like the internet did.
* TheWoobie:
** Rudolph. Every interpretation of the character.
** Hermey, and everyone on the Island of Misfit Toys in the Rankin-Bass continuity.
** From ''The Island of Misfit Toys'', we get [[spoiler:the Toy Taker, because he's actually a worn-out teddy bear named Mr. Cuddles, who felt like he was abandoned, but it turns out he wasn't]].
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