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Western Animation / Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

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"Your ears can do wondrous things no other ears can do. The sounds they hear will guide you on a path that's straight and true, and then you will save another, as your mother once saved you."

Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is a Christmas Special produced in Stop Motion puppet animation (called "Animagic") by Rankin/Bass Productions and based on the song of the same title by Gene Autry, Don Pfrimmer and Dave Burgess. It was first aired in 1977.

The film is narrated by Santa Claus's donkey, Speiltoe, voiced by country singer Roger Miller. He tells the tale of his ancestor, a donkey with abnormally long ears named Nestor, who lived in the days of The Roman Empire. Every animal in the stable disliked Nestor because of his ears, and they inadvertently lead to his exile from his farm. After losing his mother, Nestor makes a great, perilous journey with the help of a cherub, and soon goes to fulfill his destiny as an integral part in the birth of Jesus Himself.

Compare with Disney's theatrical release The Small One for a somewhat similar premise.

Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: As usual for a Rankin/Bass Christmas Special. The original 1975 song just has Nestor suffering from All of the Other Reindeer bullying because of his ears, but then becoming a hero by carrying Mary to Bethlehem. The special's plot points of Nestor being thrown out of the stable, his mother's death, and his journey with his cherub guide Tilly are all new additions. The length of his ears is also expanded from "ears down to his knees" to "ears that dragged the ground."
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Nestor at first is made fun of his long ears by all other animals, including the other young donkeys.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Downplayed, while traveling through the forest with Tilly, Nestor encounters a bear who makes fun of him, but then he gets scared of a spider prompting Nestor to laugh at him in turn. Upon realizing that it was wrong to make fun of him, the bear just smiles and waves Nestor goodbye.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Nestor becomes the donkey to carry the pregnant Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
  • Brainwashing for the Greater Good: The crooked donkey salesman looks at Mary, and her aura of holiness compels him to give Nestor to her for free. Once they leave, he wonders why on earth he did that.
  • Christmas Special: It tells the story of a donkey who helped Mary get to Bethlehem. With all the cute animals and angels, one might think this a cheery, happy kind of special but it really isn't.
  • Darker and Edgier: Between all the bullying and danger that Nestor faces and the death of his mother, this special is second only to The Little Drummer Boy as the darkest of Rankin/Bass's Christmas specials.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After spending most of his life abused, mocked, and having other various hardships, Nestor becomes a revered hero in helping Mary get to Bethlehem and is welcomed back to his old home with open arms.
  • Easily Forgiven: At the end, Nestor goes home to Olaf, the stable owner who threw him out into the storm, and the other animals who made fun of him, and seems perfectly happy to see them all now that they're welcoming him back as a hero.
  • Ethereal Choir: Actually a plot point; Nestor's large ears let him hear the singing angels despite the sandstorm making it impossible to see, thus guiding him to Bethlehem.
  • The Exile: Nestor gets banished by Olaf when he inadvertently causes the Roman soldiers to buy the donkeys for free and leaves Olaf with nothing.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Santa‚Äôs donkey Spieltoe is the descendant of Nestor, the donkey who carried Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
  • Get Out!: When Olaf is forced to give all of the donkeys for free due to Nestor's interference, he tells the latter to "Get out and never come back!" and throws him out into the storm.
  • Hero of Another Story: Almost said word for word about Rudolph when Spieltoe is naming Santa's reindeer, as he muses that Rudolph's story is for another time.
  • Jerkass: Pretty much everyone is this to Nestor, save for his mom, Tilly, Joseph, and Mary.
  • Mama Bear: Nestor's mother kicks free from her pen after Olaf throws out her son, and charges into the blizzard to look for him. Unfortunately, when she finds him, she can only shield him from the snow with her own body, which leads to...
  • Missing Mom: She pulls a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Our Angels Are Different: Apparently "angels" visit humans, while "cherubs" visit animals.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Nestor's mother freezes to death in a blizzard using her body to protect her son, forcing him to go on alone.
  • Snow Means Death: Nestor's mother dies after covering him with her body and keeping him warm for all night during a blizzard.
  • Star of Bethlehem: What the story concludes with.
  • Stop Motion: The film's animation style.
  • Talking Animal: The animals speak English to each other, but not to the human characters.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Near the beginning after being treated nicely for a change by the other animals during the day, that night a Roman centurion arrives to the farm to take Nestor and his peers away as beasts of burden. Which triggers a series of events that end up with his mother sacrificing her life for him.