A year after delivering Christmas presents, Santa Claus receives a letter from his friend Father Time asking for help to find Happy the Baby New Year before midnight on New Year's Eve, or else it will be December 31 forever. Santa sends Rudolph out to find him. An evil vulture called Eon the Terrible is supposed to live for exactly one Eon after which he will turn into ice and snow and disintegrate. As his particular Eon will end January 1 of the New Year, he plans to kidnap Happy to keep the year from ending and stop time, thus preventing his predestined death.
Father Time speculates that Happy, who ran away due to his big ears being laughed at, is hiding out in the "Archipelago of Last Years", where the Old Years retire and rule over an island styled to resemble the year over which they ruled. Sent to assist in this journey are some agents of Father Time including General Ticker (a military clock), The Great Quarter-Past-Five (a camel with a clock in his hump), and Big Ben (a whale with a clock attached to his tail).
Upon arrival in the Archipelagos, Rudolph first travels to the island belonging to a caveman named One Million B.C. ("O.M." for short). O.M. inhabits an island anachronistically inhabited with friendly dinosaurs and other prehistoric and long-extinct creatures. As Rudolph and his friends search for Happy (who left after his hat accidentally fell off and revealing his big ears, causing the dinosaurs to laugh), they repeatedly encounter Eon.
After other off-screen visits to the islands of 4000 B.C., 1492, 1893, and 1965 have been completed without success, Rudolph and O.M. head for the island of 1023 (pronounced ten-two-three), belonging to a knight named Sir 1023, whose island is filled with medieval trappings along with several fairy tale and Mother Goose characters. Meanwhile, Happy managed to befriend the Three Bears, but becomes saddened when he removes his hat and exposing his big ears to them, causing him to leave again.
The group then travels to the island of 1776, which reflects Colonial America and is ruled over by "Sev" (AKA 1776) who resembles Benjamin Franklin. Following Happy's seeming rejection on the Island of 1776, Eon kidnaps him and takes him to his lair on the Island of No-Name which is said to be located "due north of the North Pole".
The group now leaves the Archipelego in pursuit. Catching up to Eon, they attempt to rescue the baby. However, Eon (upon being awakened by the sound of O.M. tumbling) thwarts them by sending an avalanche down on the group and trapping them inside giant snowballs. Managing to melt his way free using his nose, Rudolph climbs up to Eon's nest where he finds Happy, who refuses to leave. Rudolph shows Happy his nose and tells him his own story of being bullied because of his nonconformity before asking Happy to let him see his ears. Happy does so, and Rudolph, like everyone else before him, laughs at the sight. Happy once again gets upset, but Rudolph explains that the sight of Happy's ears had made him feel so wonderful that he had to laugh out loud, just like it had done with everyone else. With this declaration, Happy shouts out with joy, but causes Eon to awaken. Rudolph quickly tells Happy to take off his hat and leave it off for good. At the sight of Happy's large ears, Eon bursts into uncontrollable laughter which sends him tumbling down the side of the mountain and into the three remaining snowballs, freeing O.M., 1023, and Sev. Rudolph realizes that Eon is now so full of warmth and happiness that it would be impossible for him to turn to ice and snow.
With Santa's help, they return to Father Time's castle with Happy just in time for the beginning of the new year, which is designated "Nineteen-Wonderful". After the celebration, everyone wishes Happy a happy new year and Rudolph proclaims to the viewers that it may be shiny, too.
Among the islands of the Archipelago of Last Years are:1,000,000 BC: Represented as a prehistoric, anachronistic island that consists of dinosaurs, other prehistoric creatures, and cavepeople living together. O.M. lives here.4000 BC: Rudolph mentions that all its inhabitants wanted to do was built pyramids.1023: Represented as a medieval island filled with fairytale characters. The year 1023 is said to be when all the well-known fairy tales and nursery rhymes actually happened. Sir 1023 lives here.1492: Rudolph mentions that the people on that island were too busy discovering things to help them.1776: Represented as a Colonial American island that celebrates American Independence Day on a daily basis. 1776 lives here.1893: Rudolph mentions that the inhabitants have never heard of Happy.1965: Rudolph stated that island was "too noisy" to search for Happy.Red Skelton as Father Time (Narrator) and Baby BearBillie Richards as RudolphMorey Amsterdam as One Million BCFrank Gorshin as Sir 1023 and Quarter Past FivePaul Frees as 1776, Santa Claus, General Ticker, Eon the Terrible and Humpty DumptyDon Messick as Papa Bear, Rumpelstiltskin, Prince Charming and the Seven DwarfsHarold Peary as Big Ben the WhaleIris Rainer as Mama Bear and Nanny Nine O'ClockProduced and Directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules BassWritten by Romeo MullerMusic and Lyrics by Johnny MarksDesign: Paul Coker, Jr.Sound Recording: John Curcio, Don Hahn, Bill BellEffects: Tom Clack"Animagic" Production Supervisors: Akikazu Kono, Ichiro KomuroPost Production Supervisor: Irwin GoldressMusic Arranged and Conducted by Maury LawsHave a Happy New YearThe Moving Finger WritesTurn Back The YearsIt's Raining SunshineWhat A Wonderful World We Live InFourth Of July ParadeHave A Little Faith In MeRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The special was filmed in 1975 (according to the copyright), but it was shown on ABC on December 10, 1976.
Rudolph's Shiny New Year was first released on VHS by Warner Home Video in 1992. It is also re-released on VHS in 1999, and for the first time on DVD on October 31, 2000. The special, along with other Rankin/Bass Christmas specials and Chuck Jones' animated TV adaptation of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, was bundled in Warner's Christmas Television Favorites DVD box set, released on October 2, 2007. On October 7, 2008, these same titles are released in another holiday-themed DVD set, Classic Christmas Favorites. Once again and this time, Warner Home Video released seven different original Rankin/Bass holiday classics along with Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! on the third DVD box set, Santa's Magical Stories, released on October 4, 2011. A Miser Brothers' Christmas, a sequel to the 1974 special, The Year Without a Santa Claus, is also included.
Released with The Year Without a Santa ClausRelease date: October 31, 2000Full ScreenRegion: 1Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1Audio tracks: EnglishSecond extra: Nestor, The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey