Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1944 animated short film and the first appearance of Rudolph in any screen media.
On Christmas Eve, a group of reindeer children are ice skating, tree climbing and even decorating a Christmas Tree. One of the reindeer decorating the tree notices a red object and curiously tickles it with a leaf. Out of the tree falls another reindeer named Rudolph and the red object is revealed to be his nose, which causes him to be teased by the other reindeer. Just then, Rudolph's mother calls for him and the other reindeer say "go on home Red Nose your mama's calling you". A saddened and hurt Rudolph goes to his home where he is greeted by his mother who tries to cheer him up and reminds him to hang up his stocking for Santa Claus. Rudolph quickly does this and imagines Santa giving him a lot of toys, before going to bed but is still hurt and saddened about being taunted and teased by the other reindeer and sadly cries as he sleeps.
Meanwhile, in the North Pole, Santa notices heavy fog and knows it will be tough to get through on his own. When his clock strikes midnight, Santa gets his reindeer ready for the travel ahead. As they travel through the fog, Santa warns his reindeer that they have to fly low to get through the fog only to crash into trees. Luckily the reindeer get loose and try again, but they and Santa nearly crash into a plane and later crash onto a rooftop, but are able to break free.
Upon reaching Rudolph's house, Santa gives presents to a set of reindeer children, but is caught of guard by the light from Rudolph's nose. Seeing this, Santa gets an idea and wakes up Rudolph. At first, Rudolph tries to hide his nose, but is stopped by Santa who tells him that he needs him to help get through the fog. Rudolph agrees to help him and leaves a note for his parents before leaving with Santa and leads the other reindeer throughout the rest of the night.
The next morning, news of Rudolph's journey reaches his hometown and the other reindeer race to a stadium where Santa appoints Rudolph as the leader of his team. Rudolph now finally accepted by the other reindeer says "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night".
- Unlike other Rudolph adaptions, the animals here have a mixture of normal and anthropomorphic attributes as Rudolph's mother wears a dress and apron and stands on her hind legs, the young reindeer also stand on their hind legs and play human games and the Sleigh Team eat dinner at a table.
- Another difference is that unlike later Rudolph adaptions, the Rudolph in this film is a normal reindeer and isn't related to any of Santa's reindeer, as in the 1964 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Rudolph is the son of Donner whilst in the 1998 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie, Rudolph is the son of Blitzen.