Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Trouble With Rudolph

"They only use him when it's foggy."
"He's just taking a break this year."
"He's busy working the talkshow circuit."
"He started to gloat and now needs to learn his place."

Parents, what excuses do you use when your kids ask why Rudolph isn't in this Christmas movie? Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen, etc. Santa's eight reindeer. (Bullying twats.) They're laughing it up in every movie. Why not Rudolph?

Kids love Rudolph. Who wouldn't? They laughed and called him names, then he showed them all what a gin blossomed nose can do. Kids all over the world now dream of a day when their freckles, stutters, and embarrassing parents will reveal their practical applications. Until that day they're left to wonder why Tim Allen, Ernest, et al, have once again left Rudolph back at the stable. Is this some form of sobering, accountant-style advice about bullying? Bullying is not solved in just one night kids. It requires real institutional reform, Dr. Phil, yada yada yada.

Actually it takes changes to copyright laws. Or actual nice people.

Rudolph was created by Robert L. May in 1939 and published by Montgomery Ward. Today he's owned by The Rudolph Company, LP.

"Santa would harness up Rudolph, but there's too much paperwork to fill out."

 I had mistakenly thought Gene Autry created him with his song version, but apparently not. Autry didn't write the song (that was Johnny Marks, May's brother-in-law) and wasn't even the first to sing it commercially (that was Harry Brannon). Autry's is, however, the most successful and recognizable version. Much, I'm sure, to the delight of the Rudolph Company.

But here's the problem and it's similar with the "Happy Birthday" song which is owned by the Warner Music group until 2030— Rudolph has become a cultural icon. A part of Christmas folklore. Just as the other reindeer came to accept him, so have children all over the world. They will tell you that Santa doesn't have eight reindeer, he has nine!

Still, we can't deny his capitalist roots. He was commissioned by a retail chain to shill products. Red lightbulbs. Bells. Rudolph-brand body spray. Why should the Rudolph Company release him to the world anymore than Disney should unchain Mickey? Maybe they shouldn't. I can't find a lot of info on the Rudolph Company. Unlike Disney, it doesn't appear that the Rudolph company is particularly large. It's not a corporation. If they gave up Rudolph, it's not like they have theme parks and movie studios to fall back on.
Santa's Village in Muskoka, Ontario. If the lawyer asks, the front car is pulled by Rudolph Guliani.

In 1946, the president of Montgomery Ward "touched by the beauty and simplicity of the Rudolph story," handed the rights to the creator, Robert "Bob" May. It was he who founded the Robert L. May Company, which later became the Rudolph Company, which is, apparently still owned by May's children. Maybe it's the underdog story of Rudolph that makes me kind of happy that Rudolph is owned by the family of Rudolph's creator; that he hasn't been bought up by Disney or Time-Warner.
This abomination courtesy of Etsy. (Not, you know, that weekend ski trip Mickey and Vixen took in the Catskills)

But that still doesn't solve the problem with Rudolph's copyright preventing him from inclusion in popular Christmas movies and TV shows. So what should happen? It would be nice if the movie studios just acknowledge that Rudolph is necessary and pay up. But I doubt that will happen. He's not like the Grinch or Frosty. You can tell Santa stories without them. With Santa, you need Rudolph, that's it. So, I think someone like Warren Buffett or Oprah needs to buy Rudolph from the May family. For a staggering amount. But instead of then profiting off of everyone's favourite deer (yeah, Bambi, I said it), they need to give him to the world. Release him into the public domain. For Christmas this year, I'd like an emancipated Rudolph.
You're getting RUUUUUDOLPH!!!!!!!!

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