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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.
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 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?
Even if you're not into all that Jesus malarkey, you have to at least respect the story for giving us such a wonderful time of year. The Little Drummer Boy focuses on a boy filled with hate, and a man filled with greed. Their stories intertwine until they eventually cross paths with the song of God. Loved the songs and the animation has that old-fashioned quality that just doesn't date (if that makes any sense). The voice-work varied, sometimes being annoyingly slimy. It's a sweet tale that captures the meaning of Christmas, without ramming the religious aspects down the viewers throat. This should be an enjoyable watch for all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rankin/Bass created this 25-minute animated short-film for the holiday
season 45 years ago. It features the voices from two former
Academy-Award winners Greer Garson and José Ferrer. Unfortunately, as
good as an actress Garson may be, I didn't think her voice is
particularly suited for narration, which is even a bigger pity as
female narrators were an even rarer than these days. Ferrer, on the
other hand did a great job in voicing Ben Haramed, easily the best
performance from the film. The main character was voiced by Ted Eccles,
which I felt didn't really fit the bell at all. His loud and often
over-the-top voice-acting was downright annoying at times. It did not
so much show the anger of his character than it hurt the soothing
effect of this motion picture coming mainly from the animation style
and the music. Also, I personally felt, it didn't work at all with the
gentle, even if disappointed, way his animated character looked
What i did like a lot, however, was the animation. critics may say there was more defined animation 25 years earlier during the days of World War II already, but I believe it was just different. The style fits the tone of the film very well and I can't deny the way they made the donkey and sheep, I wanted to gently touch their fur from start to finish. I've never been too interested in the story of the little drummer boy and this short film surely did not cause a 180°-turn, but I believe, despite its flaws, it can still make for a decent watch, especially during the holiday season, mainly for Ferrer's excellent work and the music. The Vienna Boys Choir delivers a wonderful performance of the popular drummer boy song.
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