Today's featured Christmas special is a religious reworking of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer." Because, you know, why change the formula if you already know it's successful? Apparently based on a song by Gene Autry, "Rudolph" becomes "Nestor," "Red-Nosed" becomes "Long-Eared," and "Reindeer" becomes "Christmas Donkey." Riiight...
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (Rankin-Bass, 1977)
The Main Players:
- Speiltoe, Santa's donkey (what, you didn't know Santa had a donkey?) and our singing narrator.
- Nestor, a clumsy young donkey with freakishly long ears. Like, down to the ground.
- Olaf, a mean donkey breeder who doesn't feed Nestor because he's always tripping over his ears and breaking things. (Which, seriously? How many breakable objects could there possibly be in a barn?)
- Nestor's mother, whom you probably shouldn't get too attached to.
- Tilly, a cherub sent to inspire Nestor. (You see, angels inspire humans, while cherubs inspire animals!)
- Mary and Joseph. Yeah, that Mary and Joseph.
Speiltoe informs us that way back in the day, a clumsy, long-eared donkey was born. We join Nestor and his family at Olaf's stable, where (after some sad backstory about everyone making fun of Nestor because of his ears) a soldier from the Roman Empire has come to take away the normal young donkeys in the barn, leaving Nestor behind. Olaf kicks Nestor out into a blizzard, and we get a bit of a Bambi moment where his mother rescues him, but dies in the storm. Harsh, yo!
Nestor survives the winter alone, but is understandably feeling pretty depressed. That is, until he finds Tilly, a cherub who tells him that his ears will someday help him to save someone. It takes a couple of eerie green beams of light from above to convince him, so clearly either God or aliens are in the mix here, but Nestor lets Tilly lead him all the way to the outskirts of Bethlehem. There, an animal dealer takes him in, but no one will buy him because of his ears. It's hard out there for a long-eared donkey.
Finally, Mary and Joseph show up and pick him instead of all the normal donkeys because of his "gentle eyes." You know, I'm not one to poke holes in a story, but wouldn't you want a donkey that could walk without falling down to transport a heavily pregnant woman? Anyway, that magical green beam of light convinces the dealer to give Nestor away, and Nestor somehow manages to carry Mary most of the way to Bethlehem.
But then, DISASTER! A sandstorm obscures the star that's been guiding them! (Again, not one to poke holes, but wasn't that star for the wise men? I'm a little rusty on my bible stories, but I seem to remember that from the song...) Happily, Nestor's ears are able to hear the way to Bethlehem, with Tilly's and his dead mother's help. And also some singing angels, of course. The giant ears also serve to wrap around Mary and protect her, which is a bit of a weird image. Once they make it to Bethlehem, it's a bit tough to find an inn (do you see where this is headed?), so Nestor takes them to a stable. I'm pretty sure you know the rest.
Nestor returns home a hero, and everyone is nice to him. So, wait, Olaf took him back? Nestor wanted to go back?! Olaf basically killed his mother! WTF?! Sigh...anyway, um, yay, Nestor! Whose achievement was not at all a religious version of Rudolph's!
- A country-tinged introduction about how everyone knows Rudolph, but there's a donkey out there that no one has heard of. (Way to acknowledge the rip-off, at least...)
- A country-tinged ballad about how everyone made fun of Nestor because of his long ears and clumsiness, and wouldn't let him play their
reindeerdonkey games. And, ironically, how his giant ears let him overhear their cruel jokes, making him feel even worse.
- A country-tinged reprise about how all the Bethlehem animals also made fun of Nestor's ears and uselessness. But with a happy ending about getting chosen by Mary and Joseph.
- A country-tinged number about how Nestor found the manger, etc., etc.
- A country-tinged finale about how much awesomer Nestor is than Rudolph, and how everyone should remember him.
- "Now all the world knows Nestor for his laughter and his ears!" -Speiltoe. Um, yeah, not so much. Also, what laughter?
- Whatever happens, you must be brave.
- Even if someone kicks you out into a blizzard, essentially killing your mom, you should go back to live with them. If only to show off your newfound fame.
Bottom Line: A religious, country-tinged "Rudolph."