In the first one, Robbie, the son of Rudolph arrives at the North Pole in August to become the leader of Santa's sleigh. Unfortunately, he' out of shape and not particularly dedicated. Blitzen in particular is angered at the lazy reindeer, who also is in love with Blitzen's girl, Vixen. Robbie gets kicked off the reindeer team and has to work humiliating odd jobs, but he can't even do those right and thus considers himself a failure until Donner convinces him to participate in the Reindeer Games.
Robbie is then coached by Old Jingle, whose mental faculties are in question. Although he does get shaped up somewhat, Robbie ends up lagging in the race after having to rescue Old Jingle from his falling house. After a kiss from Donner, Robbie then starts breaking records in all of the Reindeer Games events. It comes down to a photo finish; Blitzen won by a nose, but is disqualified for taking drugs, so that means, of course, that Robbie won!
The first special was well received in the UK, where it's a Christmastime staple on the BBC. It was comparatively unknown stateside (having aired on Fox Family and all) until 2002, when CBS re-dubbed the entire special with American voices (and of course, a few dialogue changes). Ben Stiller took the title role, and other celebs who particpated include Brad Garrett, Britney Spears, James Belushi, Hugh Grant, Dick Enberg and Ben's dad, Jerry Stiller. The Americanised dub has been fairly popular in its own right and has re-aired several times through CBS.
Two sequels have followed: Legend of the Lost Tribe (2002) and Close Encounters of the Herd Kind (2007). In the former, Robbie discovers a tribe of lost Vikings, and in the latter, Donner is kidnapped by aliens. Clearly, neither special was Christmas-oriented.
Tropes present in Hooves of Fire:
- And This Is for...: Blitzen pushes Robbie with a reasoning of "this is for you", then moves one of the race obstacles while saying "and this is for daddy!"
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: A variant; the female reindeer clearly have breasts and presumably nipple-hiding fur á la Sally Acorn.
- Betty and Veronica: Donner and Vixen for Robbie.
- Chekhov's Gun: The toys Robbie puts together from spare parts in the elves' factory are later used to rescue Old Jingle from being crushed by his house.
- Christmas Special: Duh, it is a special about one of Santa's reindeer, after all.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Old Jingle.
- Dartboard of Hate: Blitzen has one with Robbie's picture on it.
- Disney Death: Parodied. Robbie's mentor, Old Jingle, appears to die tragically in his arms. Then Jingle starts snoring.
- Disproportionate Retribution: A surprisingly dark example. Alan Snowman comments that he always said Robbie had it in him to be a champion, Des Yeti points out that he couldn't have always said that as they only just learned of Robbie's existence and attempts to melt Alan to death with a portable heater for lying.
- Disqualification-Induced Victory: Blitzen wins a race but runner-up Robbie is declared the winner once Blitzen is disqualified for racing while under the effect of drugs.
- Eccentric Mentor: Old Jingle.
- Exposed Animal Belly Button: Robbie and Prancer.
- False Friend: Blitzen acts like he wants to be Robbie's pal, but it's just a facade. "Any problems, come see me. No problems? See me anyway, and we'll celebrate your lack of problems."
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: In the British version, but removed from the American dub:Vixen: I'm chilly. I wish someone would stoke my fire.Blitzen: My my. Looks like Christmas has come early.
- Gilligan Cut: With Old Jingle: "I'd have to be raving mad to push my house up the hill." Guess what he does in the next shot.
- Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Shows up during the Reindeer Games; Vixen, Donner, and Robbie are all wearing only shirts. Old Jingle wears a pair of Y-fronts and nothing else.
- Hartman Hips: Every female reindeer.
- Hufflepuff House: Dasher, Dancer, Comet and Cupid are seen hanging around in the background but get no characterisation, plot, or dialogue. Blitzen describes them as "and the rest" after introducing himself, Vixen, Donner and Prancer.
- Humanlike Foot Anatomy: Averted; they have relatively normal hooves. Their hands, however...
- Inksuit Actor: Or possibly typecasting - Santa (in the British version) is voiced by Ricky Tomlinson, who is in fact a big fat man with a beard.
- Jerkass: Blitzen really has it out for Robbie.
- Love Triangle: Robbie and Blitzen are both in love with Vixen. Robbie falls in love with Donner at the end though.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: British sportscasters Alan Hansen and Des Lynam are caricatured as Alan Snowman and Des Yeti.
- Pop-Star Composer: Mark Knopfler did the music.
- Power of Love: After receiving a Big Damn Kiss from Donner, Robbie starts to outperform Blitzen at every other event.
- Rasputinian Death:Blitzen: Let's crush him, trample him into dust, then throw the remains of the dust to the wolves, then blow up the wolves!Prancer: You don't like him, do you?Blitzen: Not especially, no.
- The Resenter: Blitzen hates Robbie because he's jealous and frustrated by all of the fame and attention Robbie's dad got after that One Foggy Night. "I've been captain of the Sleigh team for years, but Robbie's dad, ohhh no, he's the famous one!"
- Same Language Dub: The CBS dub.
- Santa Claus: Naturally.
- The Scottish Trope: One Running Gag involves Blitzen preventing anyone from saying Rudolph's name (due to copyright issues).
- "Shut Up" Kiss: Between Donner and Robbie near the end.
- Standard Snippet: "Chariots of Fire" in one montage.
- Stealth Pun: Seal, the musician, as a singing seal.
- Stop Motion: Yep.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: "Prancer, Vixen. We have a new reindeer on the team. And as senior reindeer, I would like it if you could make it Hell for him!"
- Tempting Fate: Robbie thinks his red nose will exempt him from having to earn a spot like the others but technology marched on and Santa's sleigh now has a device that turned the red nose obsolete as a navigation system.
- Training Montage: Robbie goes through one under Old Jingle in preparation for the Reindeer Games.
- Villain Has a Point: Blitzen may have been actively sabotaging Robbie's chances for making the sleigh team by encouraging his lazy habits, but the older reindeer is right that it wouldn't be fair if Robbie got on simply because of his dad, and a more fit reindeer had to be cut.
- Through a Face Full of Fur: Happens to Robbie when Donner kisses him for the first time.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Due to copyright issues, Robbie's father cannot be referenced by name. Whenever someone tries to, Blitzen interrupts them.
Tropes present in Legend of the Lost Tribe:
- Amusement Park of Doom: Blitzen's Reindeer World theme park. He plans to use Robbie's friends as tourist attractions.
- Big Damn Heroes: Just as Robbie is about to fall into a Death Trap at Reindeer World, the tourists on the ride turn out to be the Vikings, who save Robbie in the nick of time.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Old Jingle claims that the last Viking was so desperate for someone to fight, he ripped his own arm off and beat himself to death with it.
- Furry Denial: "No one wants to stay in huts, they're not animals! Well, they are animals, but that's beside the point."
- Hair-Raising Hare: Long-Eared Jack and his rabbit thugs.
- Horny Vikings: Subverted; the Vikings aren't terribly interested in pillaging.
- I Know Karate:Robbie: You can't escape, Blitzen!Blitzen: Is that right? Do you know what I practiced every day in prison?Robbie: Was it the flute?Blitzen: No!Robbie: Conversational Spanish?Blitzen: No! Kung fu!Robbie: Oh, I was hoping it wasn't gonna be that...
- Master of Disguise: Parodied with Long-Eared Jack, who is supposed to be one and has a succession of Latex Perfection masks that all look practically the same. Until it turns out he's actually Carlos the Hamster.
- Mid-Battle Tea Break: While Robbie is fighting Blitzen, Donner complains to him about how she feels he doesn't appreciate her, and Robbie just tells her they'll talk later. Finally, tired of hearing them quarrel (because "How can we have a decent fight if you're going to have some ghastly heart-to-heart?!"), Blitzen ends up pausing the battle so they can settle things between them.
- Planet of Steves: The vikings are all called Magnus. Even the women.
Tropes present in Close Encounters of the Herd Kind:
- Alien Invasion
- Casting Gag:
- I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin