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Today, for the first time in twenty years I sat down and watched five
Rankin-Bass Christmas specials from the 60s and 70s that I had only dim
memories of. Of the five, "The Little Drummer Boy" came away the best.
While the Rudolph and Frosty specials are the only ones of this era that
still endure on network TV today and provided me with a smile or two, this
one actually reduced me to tears because in its tale of Aaron the drummer
boy, we learn the story of what Christmas is really all about: The birth of
Christ and how through Christ our feelings of hate and anger can be purged
by the power of His love for all of us.
This is one Christmas special that deserves to be seen again and again.
Each year as the Christmas season unfolds I look forward to the showing of The Little Drummer Boy. Aaron, along with his drumming of the movie's title music always brings tears to my eyes, but they are happy tears because of the love and compassion that fills this little child. It is a wonderful story that I believe everyone should do themselves a favor and watch at least once. I find myself humming the title song for days after seeing the film.
I hadn't seen this in years and watched it recently since I now have the Christmas DVD collection. It never occurred to me until now, as an adult, that this brings out the true meaning of Christmas. It is such a simple story yet touched me in a way no other 'Christmas special' (as others are so loosely called) has. It puts Christ back into Christmas and as far as I'm concerned, and in that sense, it's the best special ever created. As an added bonus, the choir music is angelic and very touching. It is a shame that in this day and age, nothing comes close to stories like these any more. Our country is slowly and methodically being turned into a God-less society and it's quite apparent in the media. I hope many of us will take a stand again and return to the simple morals and values that were once mainstream.
Although less highly regarded by many than the masterful "animagic" hour
"Rudolph", this 27-minute gem throbs with the joy and heartache of living
that is timelessly captured by Rankin/Bass and the brilliant detail of the
Dentsu Company miniature sets and artistic direction (so often overlooked
these productions). A hearty and rich score, especially the underscoring
the tragic death of the boy's parents, is unforgettable. Ferrer, Frees,
Eccles are delightful and the often cloying "Miss" Greer Garson delivers
narration with a gentle stroke that is soothing and sincere. The nativity
scene is overwhelmingly moving and the film ends on a perfect note. There
was a pointless and meandering sequel years later,"Little Drummer Boy-Book
II" which is best left unopened- a lifeless and repetitive tale justly
obscure. The original, common on video but shown infrequently now during
the Christmas season, showcases that deep color film tone that NBC employed
so effectively in the mid-60's, which today adds to the nostalgia.
Children's prime-time specials once heralded a great era in the success of
the medium. All that remains are these video souvenirs.
****out of ****
I remember seeing this for the first time in the late 60s when I was a child. A timeless message that I still enjoy 31 years later. It's a shame that the true message of Christmas has been lost on a generation and this, and other, religious Christmas programming can only be found on the "family" stations. Time was, this was shown on the networks.
Christmas special based on the song of the same name. Narrated by the great Greer Garson, it tells the story of an orphan boy named Aaron. Aaron has had a tough life and is resentful towards humanity. His only friends are animals and his only joy in life comes from playing his drum. Through a series of events he finds himself at the birth of baby Jesus. As in the song, he has no gift for the baby so he plays his drum instead. I love Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. The stop-motion animation, great voice work, memorable music, and beautiful stories make them timeless classics that I can watch year after year. The Little Drummer Boy is a moving, sincere story and I would recommend everybody check it out.
This holiday classic is still refreshing to see even after almost 40 years. The story line is of course about the little drummer boy who ends up coming to grips with his hatred of people. In the end he has to play his drum for the baby Jesus and even though he is certainly no Buddy Rich it does come from the heart which, as we know from years of watching these type of films is what really counts and in the end the little drummer boy receives a change of heart.It's pretty much the same holiday format that for some reason one can never grow tired of no matter how many times we watch it or different forms it comes in...Certainly a great one to bring the kids up on.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When you think of Christmas, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Santa Claus? Bright, twinkly lights and lot's and lot's of presents? Well, yes Christmas is about that also, but it's really about so much more and this is the story that explains Christmas's backstory. It begins long, long ago. Long before Santa Claus even. The people were being heavily taxed by the Roman Emperor. Some could pay while others could not, and two desert rats, Ben Haramad and his dim-witted assistant Ali, comes across Aaron, the little drummer boy. Haramad had plans to use him in his act. See, he was trying to get rich by entertaining people, but to get Aaron to agree to be in his act would be tough because Aaron hated people. All people. It wasn't always this way. Long ago, he was a happy boy living with his parents on the farm. He received a drum on his birthday once and was very happy. Then one night, some desert bandits crept onto the farm, killed Aaron's parents, stole the sheep and burned the place down. Luckily, Aaron escaped and since then, he'd had a hatred towards people for what they had done, so now his friends were the animals, Bahbah a lamb, Samson a donkey and Joshua a camel. Ben Haramad kidnaps Aaron and takes him into Jerusalem where he sets up his act. Ali starts performing, but ends up making a fool out of himself, but Aaron finally performs and the crowd just loves it, but Aaron still felt hatred towards them.
That night, Ben Haramad saw three wise kings had set up camp and saw fortune in putting on an act for them, but the kings were not interested as they were on a quest: they were following the bright star of Bethlehem in the sky. One of their camels had fallen ill so Ben sold them Aaron's camel and got a handsome payment for it. Aaron was mad so he left them and with Bahbah and Samson, followed the kings. They arrive in Bethlehem and for some reason, a bunch of poor shepherds were coming into town, also following the star. They had all gathered at a stable. Upon getting a closer look, Bahbah was wiped out by an ox-cart and nearly died. The kings could do nothing, but perhaps the new king, the baby laying in the manger, as their was no room at the inn, could help, but Aaron had no gift to bring, however he decided to play for him on his drum. The new king loved it and cured Bahbah and from then on, Aaron's life had changed. He was no longer a people hater. He learned that all hatred was wrong and there was peace on earth and good will to men.
A pretty good Christmas special. It goes right into the hall of fame with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town. Greer Garson narrates The Little Drummer Boy, and this is probably the first Rankin/Bass feature where the narrator is not a character in the movie. The Little Drummer Boy had a sequel: The Little Drummer Boy Book II, which I haven't seen; other voices include José Ferrer, Paul Frees, June Foray and Teddy Eccles. This feature seems darker than other Rankin/Bass specials, but it's still good. It tells the tale of Baby Jesus and how the ritual of Christmas was started, so this Christmas, check it out won't you?
The Little Drummer Boy is a very beautiful and poignant gem from Rankin'/Bass, and it has a great message and conveys so wonderfully the true meaning of Christmas. For me, while I adore this, I don't think it is quite as good as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, two very timeless classics. But this is very overlooked and unjustly, because it is probably the most moving of the Rankin'/Bass Christmas specials. With very detailed miniature sets and art direction, it is a delight to look at, and the music is truly stunning as well, especially with the haunting sound of the Vienna Boys Choir singing the title song. The death of Aaron's parents is truly unforgettable, and is a real tear jerker. And the voice acting is top notch, Jose Ferrer is brilliant as Ben and Paul Frees and June Foray are delightful as Aaron's parents, and Aaron himself is voiced with real sensitivity by Ted Eccles. Special mention though has to go with Greer Garson, who was perfect as Our Story Teller speaking with such gentleness and sincerity that is a rarity nowadays. All in all, beautiful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Aaron doesn't like people and plays his drum for his animal friends
Samson the donkey, Babba the sheep and Joshua the Camel. Bandits killed
his parents and burned down their home. Ben Haramad sees him playing
his drum and kidnaps him. In Jerusalem, Aaron gets angry at the
townfolks and the entire troupe has to run away. Out in the desert,
they come upon the caravan of Three Wise Kings. The Kings aren't
interested in Ben or Aaron's performance. The caravan needs a camel and
Ben sells Joshua to them despite Aaron's protest. Ben is gold drunk and
lets Aaron with Samson and Babba go. They follow the star hoping to
catch up to Joshua. In Bethlehem, Babba is run over by a Roman chariot.
Aaron brings Babba to be healed by the Kings but only the King of Kings
can help him. Aaron has no gift to bring that's fit to give the King.
So he plays his drum and Babba is healed.
This is one of the heaviest kids' Christmas specials. The dark material really works with the Bible's more serious nature. The final turn is heart wrenching and quite compelling. Not every Christmas special has to be kiddie fare. The stop motion is very rudimentary and has an old time charm about it.
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