A quick glance at the facsimile puppets above is likely to instill a deep pang of nostalgia in anyone 40 and over, and now two those figures — the originals! — have landed in a place where they can be enjoyed in person.
The pair of puppets used in the 1964 stop-motion classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer — Rudolph and Santa — are the only known survivors, and after a fevered auction in November ($368,000 hammer price!), they are now on loan to the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.
It's been a long journey for the figures. The other figures were given away to crew members, and many apparently wound up "melting" in someone's attic before they had any idea they were cooking away a future fortune.
In 2006, Rudolph and Santa were taken to Antiques Roadshow for an appraisal. A nephew of a Rankin/Bass (originally Videocraft International) employee who had been holding on to the items was thrilled when they were appraised to be worth about $10,000.
Kevin Kriess of Time and Space Toys in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, bought and restored them — and reaped the real financial windfall in November.
The winner of the auction, who remains anonymous, said in a statement, “These were beloved characters of my childhood and I can think of no better place for them to ‘retire’ than in the trusted care of the Center for Puppetry Arts, the first and largest nonprofit organization in the U.S. solely dedicated to the art of puppetry.”
As soon as Rudolph and Santa are further restored, they will go on display. Check the institution's site for updates.
The original special aired December 6, 1964. Based on the Johnny Marks (1909-1985) song of the same name [and a 1939 poem by his brother-in-law Robert L. May (1905-1976)], the special has been an annual treat on CBS, and in 2005 was digitally remastered. It is the longest continuously running Christmas special on TV, besting the likes of Charlie Brown, and features the voices of Burl Ives (1909-1995), Larry Mann (1922-2014), Billie Mae Richards (1921-2010) and Paul Soles (b. 1930), who is 90 and still with us — here he is as the titular star of My 90-Year-Old Roommate: