CBS Stars Get Animated for Rudolph

To celebrate the 40th anniversary airing of the holiday classic, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, CBS will launch an animated on-air promotional campaign that will team Rudolph, Sam the Snowman and the Abominable Snowmonster with 3D, stop-motion caricatures of the network’s top personalities.

TV stars Marg Helgenberger, Kevin James, David Letterman, William Petersen, Jeff Probst, Doris Roberts, Ray Romano and Charlie Sheen, and sports announcers Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms will appear in animated form for a series of holiday promotional spots leading up to the Wednesday, Dec. 1 (8:00 p.m. ET/PT) broadcast of Rudolph.

The Rankin and Bass-inspired campaign, to launch in late November, will also include a two-minute, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the unique, elaborate stop-motion Rudolph spots on American Airlines’ in-flight broadcast, CBS Eye on American.  

"What [better] way to involve the CBS family in a special holiday celebration than to tie into this classic animation style for a first-of-its kind promotion," comments George Schweitzer, exec VP of CBS’s marketing and communications.

In the Network promos, the ever-jubilant Sam the Snowman proclaims "This is going to be the best holiday ever, Rudolph." Rudolph then asks, "Yeah, but where’d you find those new elves?" The elves turn out to be the CBS stars who are helping at the North Pole-based CBS Holiday Workshop, working alongside the reformed, benevolent Abominable Snowmonster.

The animation for the new spots was produced at Portland, Oregon-based Bent Image Lab. Based on a series of sketches, puppet fabricators sculpted 8- to 10-inch tall wax models of the CBS personalities. The 30 seconds of stop-motion animation then took weeks to complete. The project was supervised by Ileene Mittleman, VP of CBS advertising and creative services, and Michael Pollack, executive director of CBS advertising and promotion.

CBS affiliates will have the opportunity to broadcast customized versions of the spots, as well as a modified version to promote their local toy/charity drives.  

Directed by Larry Roemer, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was produced by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass. Romeo Muller wrote the television adaptation from a story by Robert L. May. The longest-running holiday special was first broadcast on CBS in 1972 and now returns to the Eye after an eight year run on another network.