The black and white live action footage at the beginning of the show, presumably portrays the bad snowstorm mentioned late in the story. Since the cars in the footage are of mid-to-late 1950s vintage, apparently the story in the 1964 special takes place in the then-recent past.
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.
Why is Dolly for Sue, who is apparently a perfectly ordinary doll, living on the Island of Misfit Toys? This gripping debate raged on for decades, until official word from Rankin-Bass recently decided the issue: Dolly for Sue is a "misfit" because she has psychological problems - she feels unloved.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
When the elf drops the blue train from Santa's sleigh, he no longer has the caboose with square wheels, the one thing that made him a misfit. Also, the bird who couldn't fly is shown leaving the sleigh without an umbrella. Though not stated, it could be implied that Santa was able to use his magic to fix these Misfit Toys' problems.
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.
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.
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.
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.