LOS ANGELES – Rudolph and his still-shiny nose are getting a new home, and it’s bound to be a lot nicer than the Island of Misfit Toys.
The reindeer and Santa Claus figures who starred in the perennially beloved stop-motion animation Christmas special “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” are going up for auction.
Auction house Profiles in History announced Thursday that a 6-inch-tall Rudolph and 11-inch-tall Santa used to animate the 1964 TV special are being sold together in the auction that starts Nov. 13 and are expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
Collector Peter Lutrario of Staten Island, New York, thought they might be the only items he would never sell, but when he recently turned 65 he thought about having something to leave for his children.
“I always said I would die with the dolls,” he said. “I’m just putting the family first.”
The figures were made by Japanese puppet maker Ichiro Komuro and used for the filming of the show at Tadaito Mochinaga’s MOM Productions in Tokyo.
They’re made of wood, wire, cloth and leather. Rudolph’s nose, after some minimal maintenance over the years, still lights up. The bristles of Santa’s beard are made from yak hair.
Lutrario, who bought them about 15 years ago after seeing them appraised on “Antiques Roadshow” on PBS, says that even after well over five decades you can manipulate them as the original animators did.
“They’re still malleable,” he said, “and it’s very detailed. Not only can you move the arms, the legs, the head, you can move the fingers, the thumbs.
The show, produced by the company that would become Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment, first aired Dec. 6, 1964 on NBC in the United States. It’s been a TV staple ever since with its tale, based on the 1939 song, of a year when Christmas was almost canceled, the misfit reindeer who saved it, an elf with dreams of being a dentist, and an island full of cast-away toys.
The figures would make their way to the New York offices of Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. Rankin later gave them to his secretary, who gave them to her nephew, who owned them until Lutrario bought them in 2005.
The figures, among several used to make the special, are the first encountered by the auctioneers at Profiles in History, which specializes in selling rare and coveted Hollywood memorabilia.
The company said in a statement that the “rarity of these puppets cannot be overstated.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.