Rudolph and Santa Claus stop-motion puppets up for auction

The Associated Press
Created: October 15, 2020 05:54 PM

Rudolph is getting a new home, and it's bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.  

The starring reindeer and Santa Claus figures used in the perennial stop-motion animation Christmas special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" are going up for auction on Nov. 13.

Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch Rudolph and an 11-inch Santa, used to animate the 1964 TV special, are being sold together and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000.

Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York thought they might be the only thing in his coterie he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children and grandchildren.

The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming at Tadaito Mochinaga's MOM Productions in Tokyo.

They're made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph's nose, after some light maintenance through the years, still lights up. The realistic bristles of Santa's beard are made from yak hair.

Lutrario, who bought them after seeing them appraised on "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS, says that even after well over five decades you can manipulate them as the original animators did.

The show, produced by Videocraft International, which would later become Rankin/Bass productions, first aired Dec. 6, 1964 on NBC in the United States. It's been a TV staple ever since with its tale, based on the 1939 song, of a year when Christmas was almost canceled, the misfit reindeer who saved it, an elf with dreams of being a dentist, and an island full of cast-away toys.  

The figures would make their way to the New York offices of Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. Rankin gave them to his secretary, who gave them to her nephew who owned them until Lutrario bought them in 2005.  

Rankin/Bass would go on to make several more beloved stop-motion Christmas specials, including "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town," "Frosty the Snowman" and "The Little Drummer Boy."


The Associated Press

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