The Little Drummer Boy (1968) – a Rankin/Bass Production – Starring Greer Garson, Ted Eccles, Jose Ferrer, Paul Frees, and June Foray.
Aaron is the Little Drummer Boy and he hates people. He really hates people and he is not without reason. People, you see, killed his parents and torched his house and so Aaron was let orphaned. He roams the desert with a sheep, a donkey, and a camel. They’re a motley crew, of course, but their life seems to work for them – Aaron plays his drum, and the three animals dance.
The money-grubbing Ben Haramad comes across them and figures he can make a buck off the kid in his traveling caravan act, so he kidnaps the kid and his animals and takes them to the city.
Aaron flips his lid over hearing that he’s going to the city because he blames all people for the death of his parents. While it’s understandable, of course, that he’s angry about being orphaned, Aaron doesn’t exactly come across as sympathetic. I mean, if you were standing there, he’d hate you even though you probably feel bad for what the poor kid went through. When they get to the city, Haramad’s acts bomb so he sends Aaron and his dancing animals out to perform. Aaron is full of hate, so Haramad paints a smile on his face to trick the public. Aaron and his animal pals do their number and the crowd loves the,
So not all people are bad, right, Aaron?
Heck, no. Aaron completely loses his mind on them and gets Haramad’s caravan run out of town.
Out in the desert, Haramad is angry until he sees a set of three traveling kings. He wants to perform for them, but they’re on their way to something special. Their poor, overworked camel craps out, however, so they buy Aaron’s camel from Haramad, severing Aaron from one of his three friends in the world. Haramad is all happy with his bag of gold so he lets Aaron, the sheep, and the donkey go after the three kings.
They arrive in Bethlehem only to have the sheep get run over. Aaron figures the wise men will know what to do because they’re kings and kings can do anything. But they can’t fix a broken sheep, so one of them tells Aaron about God, and Aaron …
Well, Aaron goes and stands in front of the Baby Jesus and plays his drum and no one complains because newborn babies love to be serenaded by drummers who hate all people.
The sheep gets fixed because Baby Jesus smiles, and Aaron doesn’t hate people anymore.
The parts of LITTLE DRUMMER BOY that really resonate with me are the aspects that focus on Aaron’s love for his three dancing animal pals. They have become his family and he cares for them deeply. His devotion to getting Joshua the camel back and Baba the sheep healed are actually pretty touching, and the power of the birth of Christ on Aaron is moving. I like that DRUMMER tells the story of Jesus’ birth from a different angle and the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animation is as solid as ever. I like that Aaron has a real arc, too, but that doesn’t stop the first 2/3 of this special from being a bit of a downer.
I wouldn’t want THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY to be the only Christmas special I ever got to watch, but mix it in with some feel-good classics and it’s a fine addition to your holiday viewing experience.
Be sure to check out the Holiday Review Index for all the Holiday-themed reviews to be found at Atomic Anxiety.