Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a stop motion television Christmas special, released 6 December 1964, by Rankin/Bass, following the story of Rudolph, a reindeer who is bullied because of his red nose. It is based on the song of the same name, by Johnny Marks, and the poem that followed it in 1000 of the same title, by Robert L. May.
Sam the Snowman narrates the story of Rudolph, the son of Donner, Santa Claus's lead reindeer. The day Rudolph is born, Donner and his wife Mrs. Donner are shocked to find the Rudolph has a glowing red nose in place of a normal one. Santa visits their cave to meet the new fawn, and upon finding out about Rudolph's nose, warns Donner that if the nose does not stop glowing as soon as Rudolph grows up, there'll be no chance of Rudolph making the sleigh team. This is leads to Donner trying to hide Rudolph's nose with dirt.
Meanwhile, Hermey, one of Santa's elves, is in a predicament of his own. He wishes to be a dentist, not a toy maker. The elf foreman is outraged at Hermey, and he and the other elves chastise him for his interest in dentistry. Despite this, Hermey continues his studies.
A year later, Rudolph's parents take him to the Reindeer Games, where he and the other young bucks are trained how to fly pull Santa's sleigh when they get older. Donner is still trying to hide Rudolph's nose, this time with a cover, which makes Rudolph sound as if he is extremely stuffy. He befriends two reindeer, Fireball, a blond buck, and Clarice, a beautiful doe, who tells him he's cute. Rudolph is overcome with joy, and as such propels himself high into the air. When involved in some horseplay with Fireball, his cover is knocked off, revealing his nose. Fireball recoils in fear and shock, telling Rudolph to get away from him. The other bucks mock and tease Rudolph, and the coach Comet bans him from participating in the Reindeer Games. Clarice follows Rudolph when he runs off and tries to comfort him, but they are interrupted by her father who forbids Rudolph from being seen with her.
Rudolph runs away and meets and befriends Hermey, who doesn't mind Rudolph's nose and together the two leave their town. They meet Yukon Cornelius who helps them escape the Abominable Snowman Bumble. The trio eventually reach the Island of Misfit Toys and are allowed to spend the night there by the island's ruler King Moonracer. That night when Hermey, and Yukon are asleep, Rudolph leaves, believing that his nose's light is causing Bumble to go after them. Rudolph briefly befriends other animals, but is soon rejected because of his nose. Meanwhile, back home, Donner, Mrs. Donner and Clarice go to search for Rudolph.
Months later, a now young adult Rudolph decides to return home, but is teased by three bucks who call him Old Neon Nose. He returns to his family's cave and finds it empty. Santa arrives and tells Rudolph that his family and Clarice left to look for him. As Santa needs Donner to do his Christmas Eve duties, Rudolph sets off to find his family and Clarice. He eventually finds them in Bumble's cave, being terrorised by the Snowmonster. Rudolph battles Bumble, but is knock unconscious in the process. Luckily, Hermey and Yukon arrive and knock out Bumble and pull out his teeth. Upon regaining consciousness, Bumble tries to attack the group, but Yukon sacrifices himself and sends himself and Bumble off a cliffside, much to the sadness of the others.
The group return home, where they are warmly welcomed by Santa and the other reindeer and elves. Yukon is revealed to have survived his fall and brings a now reformed Bumble with him. Santa reveals to everyone about the fog that could affect this deliveries, but upon seeing Rudolph's nose light up, he asks him to help him guide his sleigh through the fog. Watched on by his parents, Clarice, his friends and the other reindeer and elves, Rudolph guides Santa and the Sleigh Team through the fog and stops off at the Island of Misfit Toys in order to take the toys there to new homes.
- Mel Blanc in Uncredited as Bumble The Abominable Snow Monster of the North
- Jack Mercer in Uncredited as Tall Elf, a minor character who appears in the "We Are Santa's Elves" and "Holly Jolly Christmas" scenes. This tall, thin, and bespectacled character was an integral part of the stop-motion commercial and subsequent print ads produced for General Electric for the inaugural broadcast. In Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys, he is renamed Hank.
- Corinne Conley voices Dolly, a seemingly normal girl rag doll. Her misfit problem is never explained on the special; many decades later, on NPR's Wait Wait… Don't Tell Me! news quiz show (broadcast December 8, 2007), Rudolph's producer, Arthur Rankin Jr., noted that Dolly's problem was psychological, caused by being abandoned by her owner (named as Sue in the special) and suffering depression from feeling uncared-for.
- Jingle Jingle Jingle by Stan Francis
- We Are Santa's Elves by Santa's Elves
- There's Always Tomorrow by Janis Orenstein
- We're A Couple Of Misfits by Billie Mae Richards and Paul Soles
- Fame and Fortune by Billie Mae Richards and Paul Soles
- Silver and Gold by Burl Ives
- The Most Wonderful Day Of The Year by The Misfit Toys
- Have a Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Burl Ives
Three sequels were made for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Rankin/Bass produced two sequels: Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979) whilst Goodtimes Entertainment (the makers of the 1998 film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie) produced Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Island Of Misfit Toys (2001). However, despite all three films being set after the original film, Rudolph is shown to be young in these films rather than a young adult which he became at the end of the 1964 film.