A stop motion animated Christmas special, Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey from 1977, from Rankin/Bass today. I was surprised to read in my research that they’d actually closed up shop before Thundercats, probably their biggest hit series, had concluded airing. Funny how that happened with a lot of studios with big series in the eighties, nothing implied.
So, Spieltoe is the donkey that pulls Santa’s plough and looks after the place while Santa and his reindeers are away, and Nestor is his relative who was present when Jesus was born. When they say long-eared they mean long-eared. They’re down to his feet and he’s tripping over them all the time, so he doesn’t get any food from his keeper, existing off leftovers from his mom. “There’s NOTHING he can do!”, comments a bitchy little donkey.
The story is told through a series of country songs, as the special itself is based off a Gene Autry song. The Roman Emperor needed donkeys and it gets quite sinister when all bar Nestor are taken by a soldier. He’s thrown so far that he lands under snow in the forest. His mom recovers him and then DIES keeping him safe at night, just to make it even heavier, leaving him all alone. Heavy!
He heads off on a journey and meets a cherub, which is clearly defined from an angel. They head to Bethlehem, where life for him isn’t much better there either. Luckily, Mary picks him out to escort her and Joseph the rest of the way to Bethlehem. Not saying anything, but they procure him from a guy with long, dark hair, a long nose and a desire for money! Definitely wouldn’t get that one past now!
As his long ears are sensitive enough to hear anything, he hears the calls of the angels through a storm, completing the journey. He’s present when Jesus is born and through all the visitors and able to return home (although goodness knows why) a hero.
The Bottom Line: Really good special that could’ve gone longer and could’ve been bigger, but I understand why it wasn’t seeing as it’s a quirky idea. Watching through Dailymotion was arduous, though, so I’ve skipped another special on there today and will be looking at some Filmation Christmas episodes via YouTube ahead of a review tomorrow.