If you wonder how a Christmas cartoon about a donkey giving the Virgin Mary a ride to Bethlehem could have ever been shown on network TV, you have to recall what the TV landscape was like in 1977.
Most people only the three networks and PBS, no cable TV and no home video. When a Christmas special came on (if you remember the spinning CBS Special logo and its music, you know what I’m talking about), you were damn glad to be finally getting a break from your parents’ idiotic programs like Carter Country or The Shields and Yarnell Show. Even if it was about some farm animal you never heard of saving a religious Christmas instead of the normal North Pole Christmas, you sat and watched in rapt attention despite having no idea what was up with all the talk about a savior and Roman soldiers!
However, watching Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey again, I couldn’t help but feel bad for my younger, entertainment options-impaired self. What a disappointment it was to be jacked up for a Christmas special and then slowly realizing that it was going to be a rip-off of Rudolph, take place in the Middle East instead of Santa’s village, and have a main character who constantly cries, even after his mom sacrificed her life so that he could live. Man up, jack ass! Don’t make your mom regret dying for you, bro!
Oh and you can bet that Donkey Mama is watching down from Donkey Heaven. How do we know that? Because we see it!
During one of Nestor’s hallucinations, I mean inspirational visions, his mom is looking down from above and giving him some spiritual protips to get him through a tough sandstorm. Mom tells him to listen to the angels and follow. Angels? God assigned a bunch of angels to help out a donkey? Really?
Liberals and other atheists are no doubt asking what part of God’s plan to save humanity from its own sins through the sacrifice of His only Son has to do with making sure a donkey finds meaning in his life. I don’t know about them, but my God says all creatures are freaking awesome, even smelly-assed barnyard ones!
But Superdonkey wouldn’t want us guys with a Golden Ticket to the Promised Land lording it over secular globalists about how they’ve booked a one way passage on the Hell Express. That’s what Easter is for. No, what Nestor wants us to do is remember that just because all the farm animals made fun of him when he was a Dumbo-eared bawl baby, he’s a big enough donkey to come back after he saves the unborn messiah and shove his success right in their furry faces! There really isn’t any other healthy way to explain why he’d go back to such an abusive environment.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain how it is that Nestor survived the winter that killed his mom and managed to make his way to Bethlehem since it’s all right there in The Bible in the Book of Nestor, but I’ll boil it down to just one word: cherubs. They watch over animals like angels watch over people and one of them appears to help Nestor out.
Following a montage of traveling and of Nestor being made fun of by forest animals, he arrives near Bethlehem and waits for his destiny. (For a story dedicated to showing that just because we’re different doesn’t mean we’re crappy, strangely no mention is made of how Nestor spectacularly used his ears to ski and as sails for his boat.)
Once Mary and Joseph show up looking for a donkey to take them to Bethlehem, Mary uses the biblical equivalent of a Jedi Mind trick to get Nestor for free from an unfortunate Arab stereotype. Nestor then follows up his sandstorm heroics by his remembering how awesome stables are to stay in and all that’s left is a quick trip back to our present day narrator (a descendant of Nestor) for a wrap up song and cameos by Santa and Rudolph.
More maudlin (including the songs) than any 24 minute Christmas cartoon has a right to be, Nestor is certainly an oddity with its religious reskinning of the Rudolph story, but after his Mom goes hungry so he can eat and after she dies protecting him from the cold, you can’t help but root for him to get his act together so that his mother’s sacrifices meant something. What parent busting his or her ass so their kids have can have a better life wouldn’t want to expose them to Nestor’s message of not giving up, no matter how ugly and misshapen you are?
Still, if the cynical part of you thinks that maybe Rankin-Bass was hitting the bottom of the Christmas special well by delivering us a Christmas donkey here, you may be on to something as Christmas specials after this one included leprechauns, Pinocchio, and a Frosty and Rudolph tag team that takes place in summer. It’s almost enough to make an Animagic donkey shed a big gooey tear.
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