The Little Drummer Boy (1968)

the little drummer boy poster 1968 christmas special
4.0 Overall Score
Story: 4/10
Acting: 5/10
Visuals: 5/10

Classic stop-motion animation

Not the best story

TV Show Info

TV Show Name: The Little Drummer Boy

Studio:  Rankin/Bass Productions

Genre(s): Cartoon/Seasonal

Release Date(s): December 16, 1968

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

the little drummer boy 1968 star aaron samson baba

“A freakin’ star…my family’s dead I just want to remind you”

Aaron hates the world. His parents were killed in a raid, and all he has is his drum and his animal friends. When Aaron is abducted by a group of travelling performers led by Ben Haramed, he’s forced to interact with people and perform…but Aaron finds that his hatred still grows.  A chance encounter with three kings headed to Bethlehem changes Aaron’s life forever as Aaron learns what is truly important.

Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., The Little Drummer Boy is a holiday animated special.  The Christmas special originally aired on December 16, 1968 on NBC. Like Rankin/Bass Productions’ previous Christmas special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy was shot in stop-motion animation.

the little drummer boy 1968 aaron plays for jesus

I’ll drum…but my family is still dead

Honestly, The Little Drummer Boy did not air much when I was young.  The networks were dominated by Rudolph, Frosty, and Santa Claus, and more religious Christmas specials were kind of on the decline.  The Little Drummer Boy would air occasionally, but it did not get as much primetime play as the other specials…probably for good reason.

I cannot say I particularly enjoy The Little Drummer Boy.  Aaron is kind of a jerk through most of the special, and when you compare it to other holiday specials, it just lacks the appeal.  The Little Drummer Boy‘s story obviously has more of a religious base than Rudolph or Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and the parts of the special where Aaron’s parents are killed could be a bit traumatic to younger kids. The story overall has a nice message, but this message cannot carry the special.  Even when Aaron meets the Three Wise Men, he isn’t changed and the only thing that is able to change him is Jesus’ kindness to save his lamb.

the little drummer boy 1968 aaron sheep ending

All I love is you…you are one hot lamb

I still love claymation.  In this field Rankin/Bass really excelled (which is why I kind of look down on Frosty for skipping the style).  The art for the special still has a lot of depth and texture which does slightly elevate the product (plus, the voicework of Jose Ferrer, Greer Garson, and the classic song’s performance by the Vienna Boys Choir).

The idea of sacrifice is a bit heavy for a kids’ animated special, but those seeking more of a religious based special to enjoy with the family will like the message. The clarity of the special in most transfers isn’t the best, but now it can be caught running a lot of the Christmas season due to proliferation of cable TV and the need for holiday programming.  This really gave new life to The Little Drummer Boy…and much like Aaron’s sheep it provided a resurrection for the special. The Little Drummer Boy is one of those specials that is only for fans of the genre and can be watched once and forgotten. It was followed by a sequel called The Little Drummer Boy, Book II in 1976.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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