After being ousted from his own studio in the early 1940s, animation innovator, Max Fleischer, wound up working for Jam Handy, the Olympic Swimmer turned industrial filmmaker who produced instructional and commercial films.

The Jam Handy Organization produced a lot of films for the Army and Navy during WWII, and after the war, they were hired to produce an animated short for Montgomery Ward. That short turned out to be the first ever adaptation of the poem, Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer that Robert May had written as a giveaway book for Montgomery Ward in 1939.

A year before May’s brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned the story of Rudolph into a hit song, and sixteen years before the Rankin-Bass stop-motion-animated TV special that everybody knows, Max Fleischer brought May’s poem to life on the big screen. Above you see a newly-restored version that uses the 35mm print that belongs to The Library of Congress.

This restoration was done by Fabulous Fleischer Cartoons Restored!, who have a Patreon page you can support HERE.