As Seen on TV: “The Island of Misfit Toys”


People of a certain age remember gathering around the television several times every Christmas to watch the various cartoons that celebrated the holiday.  (I can’t remember, but I think they spread the specials out over about a week.)  There were endless stop-motion animated Rankin-Bass cartoons, featuring a lot of vaguely fuzzy blue-eyed characters singing about how wonderful Christmas was.  From the religiously themed The Little Drummer Boy (featuring newborn Baby Jesus’ first miracle in the form of bringing the drummer boy’s lamb back to life) to the completely fantastical The Year Without a Santa Claus (in which Santa announces his retirement), they were everywhere.  Some of them were shown once or twice, never to be seen again (until the advent of VCRs and/or DVDs).  Some are still shown every year.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was on CBS last week.  It’s always been one of my favorite cartoons, although I can pretty much take or leave the song.  It was written by Robert L. May as part of a holiday marketing campaign for Montgomery Ward.  That might explain the vague sense of materialism that seems to permeate everything about the special.  There’s an unusual emphasis on the stuff of Christmas–delivering the toys, productivity, usefulness, etc.  But there’s also a decided weirdness about everything.  Rudolph, of course, is the ultimate misfit: A reindeer born with a red nose that glows when he’s emotional.  Rudolph leaves home in shame, traveling with his fellow weirdos, until he manages to save his family and girl from the Bumble, and Christmas Eve from terrible weather.

I always liked the Misfit Toys the best.  I remember watching them as a child, and thinking that I’d play with those toys.  They weren’t that weird.  And to a five-year-old, a doll is a doll.

Christmas is next week, and there’s still time to give a toy to a kid who might not get any presents otherwise.  I gave some toys to the Spark of Love drive here in SoCal, and Toys for Tots is still going strong.  (Spark of Love was my choice this year because the Fire Department sponsors it, and I wanted to thank them for helping my dad.)  I know churches and other charities everywhere have toy drives (and food and clothing drives, if you’re feeling practical).  Sure, it might cost you a few extra bucks.  But it’ll make some kid smile like nobody’s business.  (And think about how happy it’ll make those toys.)

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