What Was Wrong With The ‘Dolly For Sue’?

The original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer story was written as a giveaway for the Montgomery Ward department stores by Robert L. May in 1939. In 1949, May’s story was made into a song by Johnny Marks, who also wrote ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ and ‘Holly Jolly Christmas.’ Johnny also wrote Chuck Berry’s sequel hit ‘Run Rudolph Run.’

Rudolph The Red-Nosed reindeer is the longest-running holiday special in the world (How the Grinch Stole Christmas came out in 1969, and the Peanuts Special for ran on Thanksgiving night, 1965). There have been several changes to the broadcast version over the year. Did Yukon Cornelious really fire off his guns in that Christmas special? Did he ever find that Peppermint mine? The answer is yes, depending on which edited version you’ve seen.

She started out as a “Dolly for Sue,” and ended up as one of the great mysteries of Christmas in the late 20th century. Her first appearance in 1964’s ‘Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer’ lasted only a few seconds as a tertiary character on the Island of Misfit Toys, ruled by good King Moonracer, a flying lion.

Some of the misfit characters included a polka-dotted elephant, a Charlie-in-a-box, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a grape-jelly gun, a plane that doesn’t fly… you get the point.

‘Useless toys’ in the traditional sense, but definitely fitting the ‘misfit’ label.

In the 1965 (and all future airings), the Misfit Toys had a bigger role; in the original airing, the Island of Misfit Toys were simply forgotten. The network got questions, even complaints, as children wondered what happened to these poor, unwanted toys. With the additional time to complete their part of the story, the toys were given more “on-air” time. That air-time was added by having Santa save some time himself by delivering gifts by parachute instead of sneaking into people’s homes.

That extra attention has made many people ask what made that little doll such a misfit. I am reasonably confident that I have finally found the answer.
The original Misfit Toys were all for boys (this was 1964!). With the fleeting scene during the first airing, my theory is that they needed a ‘girl toy,’ so the “Doll for Sue” was created.

In 2007, on NPR’s “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me,” Rudolph producer Arthur Rankin Jr., said that Dolly’s problem was psychological, and was caused from being abandoned by her mistress (Sue?) and suffering depression from feeling unloved. Backing that up, when sold at CVS in 1998, her tag said ”I’m a little rag doll who just wants a friend. I think that will help my broken heart mend.”

Many people accepted that answer, but putting 21st century psycho-babble into a stop-motion animatron created for a few seconds of air-time on a children’s television special from nearly fifty years ago just doesn’t make sense.

The reality: She was a last-minute add-on misfit toy so the young girls watching had a toy they could relate to.

What made her a misfit toy?

It’s as plain as the nose on your face. More precisely, it’s the nose missing from her face.

Mystery solved.

People often ask, why  is Hermie often referred to as ‘Herbie’ in the film, and why does Santa take off at the end with 7 reindeer, counting Rudolph, instead of the full nine mentioned in the song?

I think these people have too much time on their hands.

Just enjoy the special!

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