Western Animation / The Little Drummer Boy

"Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God"
"Drummer boy, you may not believe me, but this... is the luckiest day... of your... life!'
— Ben Haramed (José Ferrer), The Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer Boy was a Rankin/Bass Stop Motion puppet animated (called "Animagic") Christmas Special first aired in 1968.

The script is by Rankin-Bass's favorite writer, Romeo Muller; the music follows the favored R-B formula, starting with a classic Christmas tune and adding original songs by Maury Laws and co-producer Jules Bass. A touch of distinction is added by the choral work being performed by the Vienna Boys Choir.

A television sequel entitled The Little Drummer Boy: Book II was produced in 1976, also narrated by Greer Garson, but this time featuring Zero Mostel as the voice of Brutus.

This story has inspired several imitations and variations; for example one Puerto Rican TV Christmas Special was about a little boy who wanted to visit the Nativity to ask Baby Jesus to cure his dying father (in the apparent belief that the event repeats itself every year). A Christmas Miracle happens, of course. Similarly, the Spanish Christmas song Burrito Sabanero is about a boy riding a burro to reach the Nativity.

This Christmas Special provides examples of:

  • Anachronism Stew: Though set in first century Judaea, the kings wear costumes more suggestive of 15th century European paintings of the Adoration of the Magi.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: During the song "Why Can't the Animals Smile?," Baba the lamb pretends to be a lion, a frog, and a hog; Joshua the camel pretends to be an alligator and an elephant; and Samson the donkey pretends to be a caribou.
  • As the Good Book Says: The show begins with Greer Garson reading from the beginning of the second chapter of Luke, with further readings from the infancy narratives throughout, ending with Matthew 5, 8.
    • Slightly subverted in the fact that the Bible itself contains no mention of anyone remotely resembling The Little Drummer Boy; It started as a song in 1949, based loosely off a French legend only two centuries older than that.
  • Christmas Special
  • Darker and Edgier: Rankin Bass took some guts in making this their most darkest stop-motion animated special. Aaron's parents getting murdered by bandits and Aaron becoming bitter and full of hatred for other people.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Ben Haramad may be a hopelessly inept showman, but he knows good acting when he sees it, and when Aaron can't keep up his facade to the human audience any longer and ends up causing a riot, Ben Haramad is rather irritated with him.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death: The main character's father being scene stabbed to death on screen, and his mother being burnt alive.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Aaron is friend to all living things — except humans.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Aaron, who realizes when the Child smiles at him that his hatred for humanity has been wrong.
  • Humans Are Bastards: What Aaron is convinced of, after his family is murdered by bandits.
  • Money Song: In Book Two.
  • Narrator: Miss Greer Garson was cast as Our Storyteller.
  • Karma Houdini: The two bandits who rob then murder Aaron's parents go unpunished for their crime.
    • Ben Haramed kidnaps a child, forces him to work against his will, sells a camel that doesn't belong to him... and ends up getting quite well paid for his efforts.
    • The tax collectors in the sequel are not punished for burning Aaron's drum.
  • Large Ham: Zero Mostel in Book II, but then, what did you expect?
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Joshua the Camel, Samson the Donkey, and Baba the Lamb.
  • The Power of Music: How Aaron taught his animals to dance.
  • Star of Bethlehem: How Aaron knows where to find Joshua.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: The members of Ben Haramed's show caravan are all completely inept.
  • Villain Song: Ben Haramed has "When the Goose is Hanging High."