Why was it such a misfit?

I use the term "misfit" by Yankee definition, as Robbie the Reindeer was a smashing success in its native country of England. It looks unmistakably like something from the Wallace and Gromit guys (Aardman), yet it was actually done by a team of former Aardman employees. Robbie did well enough to get two sequels.

There are two versions of the first two Robbie specials. Hooves of Fire was shown in its raw British form on cable for a few years; then CBS purchased the rights and redubbed all the voices with American celebrities. Robbie now had the voice of Ben Stiller, and his love interest gained the acting chops and parental skills of Britney Spears.

Look, you can throw an ornament at my head if you want to, but....I have to admit Britney's performance as Donner was actually pretty good. I normally loathe all things Britney, but she somehow found a hidden talent this time. She should do more voice acting, and less of everything else.

Robbie's ace in the hole is that he's the son of the most famous reindeer of all, Ru---oop, can't say his name in this special. Robbie has not only inherited his father's genes, but gained an improved version--his super-nose can pinpoint any place in the world instantly.

Because he takes his destined position for granted, Robbie's a bit lazy. He arrives at the North Pole one April assuming all reindeer do for the 364 days in between Christmasses is party down, and he's disappointed when he finds out they do a lot of exercise and weightlifting instead.

Not everyone's happy to see Robbie arrive. Blitzen, who would have been the lead reindeer if Mister Neon-Nose hadn't stolen his thunder, bears an inherited grudge against Robbie. He immediately starts working behind the scenes on Evil Plans to halt Robbie's career before it starts.

Donner takes a liking to Robbie, but her feelings go unrequited: Robbie only has eyes for femme fatale Vixen. And Vixen's working with Blitzen, so nobody wins.

"She's so beautiful....yet I have this thing where I can't talk to girls if I love them!"
"You can talk to me, though."
"Course I can; we're mates!"

By that he means the UK term for "friends." Across the sea this means "lovers," and there are other such parts in the original special where dialogue could be misunderstood--or just plain not understood. From that perspective, I guess an American redub would make sense.

Especially when we get to Santa Claus. HOLY NIGHT, he barely resembles himself. Instead of the customary deep "HO HO HO" voice, they used a high-pitched Englishman with a thick accent. This is to say nothing of that outfit. Is this really the Claus you buck-toothed Brits hope will come down your chimney? 'Swrong with you?

At a summer party hosted by a few of the elves, Santa debuts his new sleigh model...installed with, for the first time, a sattelite navigation system. It was Blitzen's idea, and Robbie reacts in horror. How can there be any place for him on the team now? To tighten the screws on Rob and make things worse, Blitzen gleefully announces his plan to narrow the roster down: the reindeer that will be left behind on Christmas Eve.....will be the one that is least fit. And Robbie's been lying around eating cheeseburgers!

That night, Robbie paces in despair by the fireplace and the giant portrait of Rudolph. "I failed you, Dad," he sighs. Blitzen approaches to rub it in and execute the final portion of his scheme.

"Ah, don't worry,'ll make it onto the team anyway! And do you know why? Because of your dad! They'll just kick off someone who's been training a lot harder than you and deserves it more. And when you end up slowing the team down, and a few million children don't get their toys, who will they blame? Not you....your dad! For putting you on the team in the first place...."
"You''re right, Blitzen," Robbie sobs. "You've opened my eyes." Robbie packs his things and heads out into the cold.

There then occurs a moment that only takes place in the BBC version where Vixen says seductively to Blitzen, "I'm chilly. I wish someone would stroke my fire." Blitzen runs upstairs and says "My my. Looks like Christmas has come early." O_O Wow.

If he's too unfit to be a reindeer, perhaps Robbie can find work as an elf. He gets a job painting lipstick onto dolls, but after a mishap on the conveyor belt, he winds up in a package himself. Robbie is demoted to janitor, but he fouls that up too, so he's demoted again. "But what's lower than janitor??" he asks.

Being used as the claw to the mechanical forklift, that's what.

Donner stops by the elf workshop, and is shocked to find Robbie there.

"You're not finished yet, Robbie. I know a way you can get back on the sled! Every year, 'round Christmas, there's a big sports tournament for reindeer....the Reindeer Games! If you go all out to win a can get your place back! But you'll need a trainer. I looked in the phone book under Old Codgers Who Can Save The Day....and 'round here, there's only one. Old Jingles."
"Old Jingles?? He was old when my dad was young. Is he still around?"

Old Jingles IS still around, but barely, in the mental sense.

"Jingles, ya gotta help me beat Blitzen!"
"You know Blitzen?"

At that point, Old Jingles' house finally falls off its perch (this is seriously where he lives) and slides down the mountain. It passes a polar bear and snatches his dinner away, causing the bear to yell in cockney frustration "Yer gonna get a reach slump for that hose!" Don't ask me what that means in American; I lost my copy of the dubbed version.

"There's one event you can excel at, pupil, and that's the Steeple Chase. Your great strength, Robbie, is in your nose. Bounce with your nose, Robbie! BOUNCE with your NOOOOSE!"

As the months go on, and Jingles and Donner coach him, Robbie sheds his excess weight and gains muscle mass. This portion of the story should be familiar to anyone who's seen a sports movie. Ya need a MONTAAAAGE! MONTAAAAGE!

Finally, the day of the Reindeer Games arrives. Dez Yeti and Alan Snowman are the sportscasters, overlooking the entire event on a cliff. Behind the scenes, Blitzen secretly slips a little something into his own drink and flexes his muscles in the mirror.

While Blitzen aces the other events, Robbie arrives to prepare for the Steeple Chase. Blitzen is furious that Robbie even had the guts to show up, but Vixen says "Leave it to me."

"Hello, Robbie. You love me, correct? You'll do whatever I tell you to, right? Well, don't run in the Steeple Chase. There, you worship me, so you won't run; it's settled."
"I'm....sorry, Vixen, but this is something I have to do. I found the perfect trainer..." Robbie and Donner blush.

If not even Vixen can stop Robbie from competing, then who can?

At that moment one of the elves arrives in a snowmobile and urgently announces to Robbie that Old Jingles was trying to put his house back uptop the hill, but it slid back down on top of him. He needs a healthy, muscular hero to lift the house up and save him! Yet the Steeple Chase is about to begin!

Robbie races right out of the stadium as fast as he can. "He'll never win the race in that direction. Now that's inexperienced," remarks the snowman.

Robbie saves Jingles from his house-y fate, but was he too late?
"Ohh, Old Jingles...."
"Stay strong....very strong. Goodbye....old friend...."




"Oh for pete's sake."
"Hey, when does this race start?"

Blitzen is in a wide lead, now on his third lap. Robbie enters to begin his first. Blitzen is fast, but Robbie is faster! The gap closes; soon Robbie is two laps behind, then one! On the final lap, he is neck and neck with Blitzen, who starts hitting him in the face to slow him down!

Robbie stumbles over the last steeple and Blitzen takes the lead! What can be done now? The voices echo in Robbie's head...."THE NOOOSE BOUNCE! USE THE NOOOOSE BOUNCE!"

Robbie nose-bounces halfway across the track, and catches up to Blitzen just before the finish line! It's down to the wire! The winner, BY A NOSE, is....

...Blitzen. But while he's celebrating, his drug tests come back, and he turns up positive. Blitzen is disqualified, and Robbie is declared the winner.

Why didn't it fit in?
This is a very well-written special and its success in its native country is deserved. There's only one thing it gets wrong, and that's the pacing--a fault of most modern specials that try to cram too much into one half-hour. Things moved even faster in the shorter American cut, which lost seven whole minutes of footage. Perhaps it's time to adjust for longer commercial times and start giving new Christmas specials the breathing room of a full-hour time slot.

Because other than that, this special's great.