With its charming characters and catchy tunes (Holly Jolly Christmas!) this one has always been one of my favorites. Its theme -- that it's OK (even great!) to be a misfit -- was something I certainly appreciated as a kid. I imagine it was the same for other kids too.
It's also fun to analyze how this story shows the changes in our cultural attitudes towards bullying. The lyrics to the song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" were written in 1939. As the song goes, Rudolph was ostracised and bullied for being different. The song doesn't seem to indicate that there's anything a priori wrong about bullying people for being different -- it only became wrong after Rudolph's defect proved itself to be a strength.
We can see how this works in detail in the (1964) special. When the other young reindeer started laughing and calling Rudolph names, their adult supervisor not only failed to stop the kids from bullying:
He actually compounded the problem and kicked Rudolph out of the class for being different. And Santa himself wasn't much better.
However, in the special, Santa realizes he was wrong for mistreating Rudolph before Rudolph's nose saves the day, so maybe attitudes towards childhood bullying had already changed a bit between 1939 and 1964. And (as I discussed here) we can see further cultural evolution in children's media such as the album Free to Be You and Me.
And now my kids are asking me to put on a Christmas special, so I guess it's time to enjoy it again! Or perhaps one of my other favorites:
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (and the invented origins of the Santa Claus legend)
"The Polar Express" takes belief for belief's sake in whole new directions!
"Nestor the Long-eared Donkey" saves the Christmas™ brand
Mr. White Christmas: The fabulous world of Heat Miser and Snow Miser!!!
The Grinch and the True Meaning of Christmas