Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (lost original Larry D. Mann narration audio of Christmas special; 1964)

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Rudolph the rednosed reindeer title.jpg

Title card for the special.

Status: Lost

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 animated TV special that was directed by Larry Roemer, produced by Rankin/Bass Productions (known at the time as Videocraft International), and distributed by NBC. The special was based on the 1949 Gene Autry song of the same name, and focuses on the titular reindeer's upbringing and eventual triumph over the mockery he receives because of his red nose. The special was initially broadcast on December 6th, 1964, and has since been regarded as an all-time classic special of the Christmas season, being continually reaired every year since 1964 (making it the longest continually running Christmas TV special), and being referenced and parodied in pop culture for almost as long.

Despite the the special being sponsored by the multinational American conglomerate General Electric, it was produced under a surprisingly small budget (as a result of Rankin/Bass being financially stretched following production of their 1961 Tales of the Wizard of Oz animated series), with many cost cutting measures having to be made during production. This included hiring Canadian voice actors who would work under lower labour costs, among whom was Larry D. Mann, who provided the voice of the friendly Arctic prospector Yukon Cornelius.

However, Larry was also initially pegged to narrate the special as well. From what others have said, Larry reportedly narrated the special with a heavy Brooklyn accent quite unlike the gentle narration heard in the final special. Mann also originally performed all of the songs in the special himself as well, with the song "Silver and Gold" being performed in character as Cornelius. 28 takes of this version of the song were recorded, many of which ended with Mann giving comic sobs.[1]

However, General Electric were dissatisfied with the cast as it was, as many of the actors would be unfamiliar to a wide American audience, and so they demanded that a big name star be added. At their behest, popular American actor and country singer Burl Ives was brought in at a substantially higher pay rate (being the only member of the cast to receive royalties) to perform the narration and songs himself, with the character of Sam the Snowman being added into the special to give Burl's narration a physical presence within the story (with Sam's appearance being heavily modeled off of Burl).[2]

This would ultimately turn out to be the right call, as Burl Ives' songs for the special have proven to be among the iconic and enduring parts of it, with many of them continuing to annually chart on the Billboard Holiday charts up to the present day.[3] To date, none of Larry D. Mann's narration audio has been released.

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