Sunday, December 25, 2011
Of Flying Reindeer, Talking Snowmen, and the World's Greatest Toymaker: The Rankin-Bass Universe Timeline
We grew up with these specials; our children (for those of us who have them) will too. But they were presented to us originally in a hap-hazard fashion: we met Rudolph in Animagic form and Frosty in cel animation before we were told of Santa’s origin. We had a few sequels over the years during the Rankin-Bass heyday in the 1970s, and more recently we were gifted with sequels by people who were fans of the original works. So it makes sense to try and figure out the true order of events of these beloved specials, which amazingly enough, do have a large amount of crossovers. While many of the specials were based on existing songs and stories, the specials do have an interlocking chronology. As such, these should be considered the true events in the TVCU and the Toobverse. Many of these events take place in a pocket universe called ‘North Pole’ by its inhabitants. It resembles Northern Europe in its landforms and climate, with lots of free-standing snow all year-round. Some places do, however, experience a melt-off towards the borders of the pocket universe. The timeline will probably have adjustments made in the future.
Circa 1800 Tanta was born in a small German principality, a tiny place consisting of little more than a small town and its outlying areas. At this time, there is no unified Germany, merely a bunch of principalities and larger kingdoms. (1)
Early 1820s Tanta married a man named Kringle, a toymaker. She joined him in his toy making. Kringle claimed to be an elf and lived with several dwarves (in order of appearance, Dingle, Wingle, Bingle, Tingle, Zingle) who assisted him in his work. Kringle and his friends the dwarves were not from Earth, but from different dimensions. Kringle was actually born in a pocket universe called Alfheim, and he knew of other pocket universes as well. His dwarven friends were actually Munchkins who were originally from one of the several Oz pocket universes. Rumor has it that these dwarves were related to seven that once worked in a diamond mine and had befriended a beautiful princess who had fled an evil stepmother/queen. (Whether or not the rumor is true, the diamond miners had clearly built themselves a lovely hand-crafted home that showed the same skills that Kringle’s friends did.) Tanta became jokingly known as the ‘Queen of the Elves’. (1)
Early 1840s The Kringles were appointed Royal Toymakers to the Prince of the principality they lived in. (1)
1864 The Danish-Prussian War. Prussia and Austria defeated Denmark and took over the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein. The principality of the Kringles is absorbed into Prussia at this time, and the Prince deposed. The Kringles lost their position as Royal Toymakers. A Prussian Junker named Meisterburger was appointed Burgermeister of the town and immediately began making a number of harsh laws. Among them was the outlawing of bright colored clothing, and a high tax on toys. Sales of toys dropped dramatically, and the Kringles were forced out of town. They moved through a dimensional portal on the Mountain of the Whispering Winds, which was the home of an evil wizard known as the Winter Warlock, into a pocket universe which climatically resembled Northern Europe. The place they settled in was nicknamed Rainbow River Valley. After building up a nice stock of toys to take back to their town, which was now being referred to as the German equivalent of Sombertown, Kringle prepared to go through the portal and over the Mountain of the Whispering Winds. Confronted by the Winter Warlock, Kringle defied him, and the wizard killed Kringle. Not knowing what to do, the Tanta and the Kringle elves kept making toys. (1)
1865 A baby boy was born to the widow of a soldier named Claus who had died in the Danish-Prussian war. An attempt to leave him with the Burgermeister Meisterburger failed, and while being sent to an orphanage, the baby boy somehow went through the dimensional portal to Rainbow River Valley, where the Kringles found him. Tanta, who was childless, decided to raise him as her own. She decided to give him the name Kris Kringle. (1)
1885 Now of age, Kris decided to take toys through the dimensional portal, over the mountain, and to Sombertown. Coincidentally, the Burgermeister had decided to outlaw toys because he was injured by one. Before he went through the portal, he befriended a lost penguin, which became his best friend. (Later versions of the story named the penguin Topper, but that is likely due to the influence of Popper’s Performing Penguin Troop. See story by x.) Escaping the wizard, Kris made it to Sombertown. Kris met some kids, and gave away the toys, running afoul of the local laws and meeting the schoolteacher, befriending her. (Again, later versions of the story named her Miss Jessica.) Escaping the Burgermeister’s soldiers, Kris encountered the wizard before he could return through the portal. Kris befriended the wizard, who moved to live in Rainbow River Valley with the Kringle clan. Burgermeister ordered the destruction of the toys. Kris brought more, earning the Burgermeister’s wrath. He eventually had to enter homes by the dead of night to drop off toys in the children’s stockings. The Burgermeister finally captured Kris, and sent his forces through the dimensional portal to capture everyone at the Kringle home. The schoolteacher was the only friend of Kris who was still free, and she tried to get the Burgermeister to release them. Using some of the wizard’s magic feed corn (he himself was captured by a wizard who worked for the Burgermeister), she freed them all with the help of several reindeer that Kris had befriended (Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen) who could now fly thanks to the magic feed corn. The Kringles fled back into the pocket verse, and Kris married the schoolteacher. He adopted the name Santa Claus because he was considered an outlaw. (1)
1886 While preparing an invasion army to go into the pocket universe and put an end to the Kringles for good, Meisterburger the Burgermeister passed away. His replacement as Burgermeister was a kinder person, and changed the laws. Toys became legal again, the taxes on toys were dropped, and the harsh laws against brightly colored clothing were dropped. Meanwhile, Kris had fled farther into the pocket universe, setting up shop in a valley euphemistically called the North Pole. Eventually, the Kringle clan discovered they weren’t outlaws anymore, and Kris began bringing toys to children on Christmas Eve/early Christmas morning. Thanks to the efforts of the wizard, he was able to keep up with the children’s requests for quite some time. The wizard returned to his castle on the Mountain of the Whispering Winds to safeguard the entrance to the pocket universe. Kris expanded his operations to include a castle and a toy factory. (1)
Circa late 1880s-1890s An evil wizard who had previously ruled the pocket universe called North Pole named Winterbolt harassed Kris and the other Kringles. Eventually, Lady Boreal, a fairy, put him to sleep. (12)
Circa 1900 Birth of S.D. Kluger and Prince Bruce in small German towns near the so-called ‘Sombertown‘. (2)
Circa 1900 Birth of Ignatius Thistlewhite in the southern United States. (6)
Circa 1910 Prince Bruce’s parents passed away. Bruce inherited the throne and became known as ‘King Bruce the Frail’, although he really wasn’t a king, merely a German prince. A regency is set up under his maternal aunt, Duchess Lily (nicknamed Lily Longtooth in some versions of the story). The same illness that killed Prince Bruce’s parents also sickened a number of adults in the town were S.D. lived. For a brief while, the children performed the duties of the community; S.D. became the postman. (2)
Spring 1910 The children encounter a talking rabbit from the pocket universe where the Kringles live. Following in Kris’ shoes (or boots), the talking rabbit (nicknamed ‘Sunny’ in later versions of the story) befriended Prince Bruce and enabled him to assert his authority from the tyrannical Duchess Lily. The talking rabbit later returned to the pocket universe and became a Chief Easter Bunny. (2)
Circa 1910 A young child became sick. All of their possessions had to be burned to disinfect the playroom. A beloved stuffed rabbit named Stuffy is brought to life by a fairy, inspiring the story of The Velveteen Rabbit. (The fairy may or may not be the fairy that brought Pinocchio to life, and may or may not be one of the witches named Glinda from the various Oz verses.) Stuffy is sent to a place near Kris’ North Pole community (named Easter Valley or April Valley in later retellings). The Miser Brother called Snow (here called Zero) tried to freeze Easter Valley/April Valley but was defeated by Stuffy. Stuffy is declared the first Chief Easter Bunny. (1, 2, 3)
Circa 1910 The Tramp is in the Southern United States when Kris Kringle visited, looking for some Christmas spirit. Kris met young Ignatius Thistlewhite and Iggy‘s family.. Kris was going to have a holiday from being Santa Claus this year, but later changes his mind after a little girl sends him a heartfelt letter. Two of Kringle’s elves, who actually appear more human than other elves, Jingle and Jangle, also wound up in the same community on a similar mission for Kris’ wife. (The behavior of Jingle and Jangle, as well as their physical appearances, are highly reminiscent of the Immortal Bumblers. If they aren’t elves but are human, that could be explained by their being Olla and Buszla, in yet another job in another part of the world. Alternatively, this could be explained by a story of Olla and Buszla as being apprentice toymakers--but definitely not working for Santa!---being slipped into the special.) Jingle and Jangle, and Kris’ wife, get tangled up with the Miser Brothers , Heat and Snow. (6)
Circa 1920 Inspired by his youthful job, S.D. Kluger becomes a real postman. He is approached by Kris Kringle, and becomes the official postman of the pocket universe. (1, 2)
Circa 1920 Stuffy retired from being the Chief Easter Bunny. Sunny took over, adopting the name Colonel Wellington B. Bunny. He greatly organized and expanded the production of Easter products ranging from eggs to jelly beans and bonnets, as well as setting up a constitution for the operations of the valley‘s government serving the vastly increased population. (2, 3, 4)
Circa 1950 Wellington B. Bunny retired from being the Chief Easter Bunny. A competition between young Peter Cottontail and evil rabbit January Q. Irontail to follow W.B. Bunny by giving away the most Easter eggs sees Peter using the Yestermorrowmobile, the time machine piloted by Antoine the Caterpillar and owned by Seymour S. Sassafras (obviously a pseudonym). Eventually, over the course of a year, Peter succeeds and becomes the Chief Easter Bunny. (4)
1960 Winterbolt awakens from his sleep (12).
1960 Rudolph is born to the reindeer Donner and his wife. (By now, Santa’s community is occasionally called Christmastown.) He has a glowing red nose that Rudolph is sometimes able to control., especially when he concentrates. Lady Boreal transferred the last of her magic into his red nose, which will glow as long as he does not use it for evil. (8, 12)
Spring 1961 When Rudolph is about a year old, he attends the yearling reindeer games, designed to allow them to someday pull Santa’s sleigh. The games are led by Coach Comet. Rudolph meets Dasher’s son, and he befriends another buck named Fireball, and a doe named Clarice. Rudolph is outed and runs away. His mother and Clarice follow him. Rudolph meets another runaway, an elf named Hermey who wants to be a dentist. The misfits team up and encounter a goofy prospector named Yukon Cornelius, who vacillates between searching for silver and gold. They travel for a time, sometimes running into the Abominable Snow Monster of the North (aka the Bumble), a giant yeti/bear/ape/kong creature who is all white. They escaped the Bumble once by using an ice floe as a raft. After that, they visited the Island of Misfit Toys and were rejected for citizenship by King Moonracer himself, Rudolph decides to go back to Christmastown because he is tired of the roaming. He started the return trip by using an ice floe as a raft. (8)
December 24, 1961 Rudolph got back to Christmastown as a humongous storm hit. A talking snowman named Sam sent Rudolph out to find his mother and Clarice. As it turned out, they have been captured by the Abominable. The Bumble knocks Rudolph out, and it looked like the deer were going to be eaten by the Bumble. However, Hermey and Yukon Cornelius show up and create a distraction. After knocking the Bumble out, Hermey removes the Bumbles teeth. Everybody goes back to Christmastown, despite the storm. Rudolph and Hermey actually get a warm welcome, and Hermey was allowed to set up a dentist’s office after New Year’s. Santa’s weather forecasting elves give him gloomy information, and he was about to cancel the holiday, when Rudolph’s nose flared up. This gave him the idea to let Rudolph lead his team through the horrible weather, and so Christmas was saved. The first stop was the Island of Misfit Toys. All those toys were delivered by Santa that Christmas Eve. (8)
Early January, 1962 Hermey opens up shop as a dentist and has as his first appointment, the Head Elf. (8)
Circa 1965 Hermey, now a DDS, paid a house call to King Moonracer of the Island of Misfit Toys. The king needed a root canal. Rudolph went with him. A villain called the Evil Toy Taker was stealing all of the toys from the island. He was defeated by Rudolph, Clarice, Hermey, Yukon Cornelius, and the Bumble. Santa, Mrs. Claus, Coach Comet, and Charlie-in-the-Box appeared as well. A talking snowman named Scoop knew the story. (15)
Circa 1966 Walter Hobbs and Susan Wells conceived a boy. (16)
Circa 1967 Susan Wells gave birth to a boy. He was named William but was given up for adoption. (16)
Circa December 24, 1967 A baby named William crawled into Santa’s bag at an orphanage. He was found after Santa returned to North Pole. They renamed him Buddy and raised him as an elf. (16)
Circa December 24, 1968 Through the use of a magic hat (which was not previously known to be magical), a snowman named Frosty (built by several kids, including one from the Tinkerton family) came to life. A young American girl named Karen and a magician’s rabbit named Hocus Pocus (who, like the hat, used to belong to an incompetent stage magician named Professor Hinkle) accompany Frosty in an attempt to get him to the North Pole. Hinkle forced Frosty to melt, but Santa arrived and restored Frosty. Hinkle is defeated. Santa gave Karen a ride home in his sleigh and then took Frosty to live with him at the North Pole. (10, 14)
Circa December, 1969 Frosty returned to life. A wife was created for him with some kids’ help, and after she was named Crystal, she came to life as well after Frosty gave her a bouquet of snowflowers. Frosty’s young friend Karen appears in a cameo. A kiss from Crystal allows Frosty to live without his hat. Jack Frost bedeviled Frosty and Crystal for a time before they befriended him. (11)
Circa July 4, 1970 Winterbolt decided to make his revenge on Lady Boreal and the citizens of North Pole by tricking Rudolph, Frosty, Crystal, and the children of Frosty and Crystal. His plans included a dumb, evil reindeer named Scratcher. His ultimate goal was to acquire Frosty’s hat to create an army of evil snowmen., while the snow family was attending a Fourth of July Circus. After the tricks have been revealed, the tables were turned on Winterbolt. The circus owner, whose daughter is in love with an ice-cream vending friend of Rudolph’s, destroyed Winterbolt’s scepter. Frosty, Crystal, and the kids were about to melt, but in the nick of time, Jack Frost arrived with Big Ben and prevented the snow family from melting. Santa arrived and took them back home to the North Pole. Rudolph stayed behind to help the circus get out of debt. (12)
Circa December 24, 1970 Father Time requested Rudolph’s help to find the baby New Year named Happy. He crossed a desert called the Sands of Time to reach Father Time’s castle. After receiving the important information, Rudolph sailed the Archipelago of Last Years, which is described as ‘due north of the North Pole’. He visits numerous islands with settlements tied to specific years in the past with several residents of the islands and Big Ben, a whale with a clock on his tail. He eventually gets Happy back to Father Time’s castle with the assistance of Santa Claus just in the nick of time to prevent time from standing still. During the New Year‘s celebration, one of the celebrants is shown to be the mother of Ignatius Thistlewhite, who has not aged in 60 years. Presumably she moved to Father Time‘s castle not long after she met Santa Claus. (9)
Circa December 1971 Frosty visited a town called Beansboro. He met a young girl named Holly DeCarlo. The inventor of a product called ‘Summer Wheeze’ (which makes snow instantly disappear), one Mr. Twitchell, attempted to con the citizens of Beansboro into making him the king of their winter carnival. Holly and her geek friend Charles team with Frosty to defeat Twitchell. (13)
Circa 1978 The boy from the Tinkerton family who helped build Frosty has grown up, and no longer believed in magic. Frosty’s hat is now locked in a trunk. A son was born to him now, named Tommy. (14)
Circa 1980 Chief Easter Bunny Peter Cottontail’s son, Peter Cottontail Jr., is Nougat Supervisor at the Candy Factory. Junior would prefer to be an inventor. Irontail teamed up with Jackie Frost, the so-called ‘Queen of Winter’ (and probably a daughter of Jack Frost), in an attempt to take over the Valley. Junior managed to defeat Irontail. (5)
Circa 1988 Frosty’s hat escaped from a locked trunk in an attic. It landed in a town called Evergreen. Tommy’s father is the Mayor. Frosty wanted to befriend Tommy, but Tommy was afraid of disappointing his father, and so he did not play with Frosty. Tommy’s best friend Walter Wader did start playing with Frosty. One by one, all of the children in town befriended Frosty--Sara Simple, Tommy‘s brother Charlie, and Sonny, Sully, and Simon Sklarew. The school principal, Principal Pankley, does not believe in magic or talking snowmen and so he attempts to drive a wedge between the Mayor and the townspeople to take over the community himself. Pankley tricked Frosty into skating on thin ice, and after he fell into the water and melted, stole Frosty’s hat. Tommy discovered a magic comic book underneath the school library. He learned Frosty’s secrets, including his first visit where he met Karen and the adventure with Professor Hinkle---and that his dad knew Frosty. But Pankley stole the hat and locked it in the trunk, and Tinkerton lost his belief in magic. The kids steal the hat back, returning Frosty to life. Mayor Tinkerton met Frosty again, and believed again. All the parents discovered Frosty and magic, and even Pankley became a believer. (14)
Circa 2000 Tinsel, the Chief Sleigh Mechanic, constructs a Super-Sleigh for Kris/Santa. During a test flight, he is injured during a fight between Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Eventually, it is discovered that another brother of theirs, North Wind, attempted to sabotage the sleigh so he could take over Christmas. Heat and Snow overcame their differences to save Christmas. (7)
Circa 2000 The elf named Buddy learned he is really a human. He left North Pole to seek out his human father, Walter Hobbs, who lived in New York City. As he left North Pole, he spoke to a talking snowman named Leon. He used an ice floe to leave North Pole and emerged through a dimensional portal on Earth, then made his way to New York City. He met Walter Hobbs and his family, and after a series of misadventures, successfully united with him. Buddy also met a nice girl named Jovie. They fell in love. Buddy, Walter, Jovie, and Walter’s family helped to save Christmas. Buddy became a writer, eventually married Jovie and had a daughter, and occasionally visited back to North Pole. (16)
Circa 2003 Tommy Tinkerton has married Sara Simple, an urban planner. (14)
1. Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. Santa’s origin story. Kris Kringle/Santa Claus voiced by Mickey Rooney, S.D. Kluger voiced by Fred Astaire. First aired 1970.
2. The Easter Bunny Is Comin’ To Town. Origin of the Easter Bunny. S.D. Kluger voiced by Fred Astaire
First aired in 1977.
3. The First Easter Rabbit. Origin of the Easter Bunny. Santa Claus voiced by Paul Frees. First aired in 1976.
4. Here Comes Peter Cottontail. Transition of Chief Easter Bunny. Santa Claus voiced by Paul Frees. First aired in 1971.
5. Here Comes Peter Cottontail: The Movie. Adventures of the Chief Easter Bunny’s son. First released in 2005.
6. The Year Without a Santa Claus. Kris Kringle/Santa Claus voiced by Mickey Rooney, Heat Miser voiced by George S. Irving. First aired 1974.
7. The Miser Brother’s Christmas Special. Another adventure of Kris and the Miser Brothers. Kris Kringle/Santa Claus voiced by Mickey Rooney, Heat Miser voiced by George S. Irving. First aired 2008.
8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. How Rudolph joined Santa‘s team. Rudolph voiced by Billie Richards. First aired in 1964.
9. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year. Another adventure of Rudolph. Rudolph voiced by Billie Richards, Santa Claus voiced by Paul Frees, Big Ben voiced by Billie Richards, Big Ben voiced by Harold Peary. First aired in 1976.
10. Frosty the Snowman. Origin of Frosty the Snowman. Frosty voiced by Jackie Vernon, Santa Claus voiced by Paul Frees. First aired in 1969.
11. Frosty’s Winter Wonderland: Origin of Frosty’s wife, Crystal. Frosty voiced by Jackie Vernon, Crystal voiced by Shelley Winters, Jack Frost voiced by Paul Frees. First aired in 1976.
12. Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July. Another adventure of Rudolph, crossing over with Frosty and Crystal. Other characters are involved in cameos. Rudolph voiced by Billie Richards, Santa Claus voiced by Mickey Rooney, Frosty voiced by Jackie Vernon, Crystal voiced by Shelley Winters, Big Ben voiced by Harold Peary, Jack Frost voiced by Paul Frees. First aired in 1979.
13. Frosty Returns. Another adventure of Frosty. First released in 1993.
14. The Legend of Frosty the Snowman. Another adventure of Frosty. First released in 2004.
15. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys. Another adventure of Rudolph. First released in 2001.
16. Elf. A human is raised by the elves of North Pole and believes he is an elf. First released in 2003.