Mailbag: A Rudolph restoration, departed ‘Partners,’ more

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Original Santa Claus and Rudolph puppets from the TV special "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," are seen on display at the Time and Space Toys booth during the Mid-Ohio-Con comic book convention in Columbus, Ohio, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007. Kevin Kriess, owner of the Pittsburgh, Penn., store found the puppets and had them restored after they were used as toys. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: I always wonder this time of year, what became of the original stop-motion miniatures of Rudolph and others from the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” TV special?

A: For a long time, they just decayed. As the Associated Press reported in 2007, no one at the now-legendary Rankin/Bass production company thought the figures would become important artifacts when the 1964 telecast was made. The Japanese animation studio that worked on the film had some replicas that were probably worn out or thrown away, and some of the original figures that Rankin/Bass had were given to people who worked on the special.

A Rudolph and Santa were taken home by a secretary, who gave them to family. And the family didn’t take any special steps to preserve them, using them instead as toys and decorations, the AP said.

“They had Rudolph in a candy dish with candy all around him, just on a coffee table, and people would just reach in around Rudolph’s body and pull out a candy cane or something,” said Kevin Kriess, who bought the figures from the family in 2005 for an undisclosed price. (The deal also said he could not publicly identify the seller.) At the time, Kriess ran timeandspacetoys.com, a site selling collectible items tied to holiday shows and other productions; an attempt to reach him recently was unsuccessful.

When Kriess acquired the figures, the AP said, “Santa’s face was stained, there was mold under his beard and half his mustache was gone, Rudolph was missing the red light bulb from his nose,” Kriess turned to Screen Novelties International, a stop-motion studio, which restored the figures. Animal hair was found to match the surviving half of Santa’s mustache, and Rudolph’s red nose was rewired to light up.

Screen Novelties only charged expenses, which Kriess said were about $4,000. After being fixed, they — along with Kriess and Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt — were displayed in TV interviews and at memorabilia conventions.

Q: I saw a few episodes of the show “Partners” on CBS and thought it was pretty funny. I haven’t seen it on in the last month, and am hoping that it is on a break and not canceled! Any news you can provide?

A: Yes. The show has been canceled.

Q: Is “Ringer” ever coming back?

A: No, the CW decided not to renew the Sarah Michelle Gellar drama after it aired for a single, 2011-12 season.

Q: Is the movie “All the Marbles” with Peter Falk available on DVD?

A: It is. The 1980 movie starred Falk as the manager of women wrestlers (Vicki Frederick and Laurene Landon) and includes scenes shot in Youngstown and Akron, with the latter including a scene were Falk stops at Jaco’s Drive Thru Beverage in North Akron; a drive-through like that was unusual at the time, and a scene was reportedly written just to include Jaco’s. In any case, the movie is on DVD; if your local retailer cannot get it, it is available from online vendors including Amazon.com, Moviesunlimited.com and Deepdiscount.com; Amazon also has it in streaming video.

Do you have a question or comment for the mailbag? Write to the Akron Beacon Journal, 44 E. Exchange St., Akron, OH 44309 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com. Please mark the email or envelope with “mailbag.” Letters may be edited for publication. Please do not phone in questions. Individual replies cannot be guaranteed.

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Twitter and Facebook.


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