In the original TV version of the show, Rudolph, Hermey the elf and Yukon Cornelius visit the Island of Misfit Toys and promise to help them, but the Misfits are never mentioned again. After it was shown, the producers were inundated with letters from children complaining that nothing had been done to help the Misfit Toys. In response, Rankin-Bass produced a new short scene at the end of the show in which Santa and his reindeer, led by Rudolph, land on the Island and pick up all the toys to find homes for them, which has ever since been the standard version of the show run during the holidays.
Copies of both the Santa and Rudolph puppets were recently found in storage in the attic of a woman that used to work for Rankin-Bass. The puppets were in remarkably good condition, considering it was estimated they were in storage since the late 1960s, with only a little yellowing of Santa's hair, beard, and white trim on his coat. The pair now travel the country to various trade shows and conventions.
According to brother Ken Muller, Romeo Muller actually intended the elf to be named "Herbie", after a childhood friend. Rudolph's sweetheart was named "Clarice" in honor of the bride-to-be of another close friend.
Although the animations were filmed in Japan, the entire soundtrack for Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) was recorded in a studio near Yonge Street in Toronto, Ontario; most of the singing and speaking cast were Canadian.
When Yukon Cornelius throws his pick axe into the ground and takes it out and licks it, he's checking neither for gold nor silver. The original concept for the special stated that Yukon was in fact searching for the elusive peppermint mine, which he found eventually. This scene was inserted into recent DVD and blu ray releases.
Original puppets of Santa and young Rudolph from the 1964 production went on tour in November 2007. When purchased by their new owner, both were in poor condition - Santa had mold under his beard and half of his mustache was gone, while Rudolph's nose was gone. The owner took them to stop-motion animation studio Screen Novelties International, who restored them "as a labor of love" for expenses only-$4000. The puppets originally cost $5000 each in 1964.
Rudolph was to have been delivered to Donner and his wife by a stork, but when General Electric brought in Burl Ives as the narrator, the scene was scrapped and never filmed, so that it now appears that Rudolph was born naturally.
When the film was first released, in 1964, the technology of using an articulated metal armature inside the figures was considered so amazing that TV Guide devoted four pages to the story. They failed to mention that the "new" technology had been pioneered 31 years before, most prominently inside the gorilla King Kong (1933).
The Santa puppet is 8" tall. Young Rudolph is only 4" tall. Rudolph's nose really lights. The puppets are made from wood, wire, and fabric, and are quite fragile. The Japanese company that handled animation made several copies of each puppet, since they didn't last long under the constant handling of stop-motion posing. None of these copies are known to exist.
Although the Rudolph puppet - which still exists - appears to be about three feet tall when viewed on screen, it's only an illusion: in reality, "Rudolph" is palm-sized - approximately the same size as a very small kitten.
While most of the elves look identical, one very distinct elf who stands out amongst the rest is a tall elf with glasses. He appeared subsequently in ads for General Electric during TV broadcasts of this special. It wasn't until 2001 when in "Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys" when his name was revealed to be Hank.
Rudolph, Clarice, Donner, Yukon Cornelius, Charlie-in-the-Box, Bumble, and Santa Claus all appeared in a holiday TV commercial for AFLAC in 2007. The Island of Misfit Toys, featuring the Misfit Girl Doll, the Spotted Elephant, and Charlie-in-the-Box, appears in a 2009 commercial for Verizon cell phones.
In That '70s Show: An Eric Forman Christmas (2001), Michael Kelso dreams of meeting Rudolph, Santa, and the Little Drummer Boy (who starred in another Rankin-Bass holiday special), and lamenting to them that his friends think he's too old to watch Christmas cartoons. The characters disagree, telling Kelso to keep right on watching every year, if he still enjoys them.
In 2004 Destiny's Child Recorded a version of the popular song for the re-issue of their 2001 holiday album accompanied by a video which was completely in stop motion animation which features scenes from the original special as well as new scenes of the band members interacting with the original characters.
"Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" which is another song by Johnny Marks, can be heard in the underscore where Donner is teaching Rudolph about being a reindeer before the Abominable Snowman first appears and in the scene where Rudolph first meets Fireball.