Rudolph the ripped reindeer makes a Rocky-style comeback in Red

There is a huge population of movie fans who believe Die Hard is a Christmas film… so if you’re in the camp where buff action heroes signal the dawn of the festive period, then Red is right up your street. Created by London-based animation studio Ritzy, the short shows Rudolph, or Red, in a guise no one ever expected, and Christmas traditionalists certainly never asked for: a disgraced drunken outcast, who takes to a Rocky-style workout routine to pull himself back up to stardom.

Heavily inspired by 80s action films, the animation pays homage to a trope of the decade – the comeback montage – showing Red hitting rock bottom, and deciding to turn his luck back around via a strict workout routine. From the graphics on the TV to the music, and even the trainers Red wears, tributes to Rocky and the ilk are prevalent; meanwhile modern-day references add another facet of humour, showing Red taking gym selfies and drinking carrot smoothies.

“We love 80s pop culture, American sports, and fashion, so the aesthetic was heavily influenced by that era,” explains Ritzy director Dan Edgley. “There are lots of little references to sports brands in there, but with a North Pole twist. Finally, we felt Red would look great as a humanoid, and the links to Teen Wolf felt apt!”

Setting out to make “a Christmas short with a difference,” the idea came about “because of a shared love for the anti-hero,” Edgley continues, “and how the darker approach was completely contradictory to the way Rudolph is usually represented. We don’t think anyone has told a story about the famous deer in this way – he’s an aggressive, trailer trash, primal character who gets motivated to lead the pack again. We feel like our film has a bit more of an adult tone, compared to a lot of Christmas animations.”

This approach also steered the visual choices, avoiding the Raymond Briggs-esque illustrative style more commonly used to tug heartstrings and trigger nostalgia at Christmas. Instead, this film is 3D animated and rendered, and gave the young studio a chance to further its experience in this field. “We had never done a project of this scale before, and felt that it would improve our skills and set a benchmark for future work. Every detail was heavily researched, and a lot of time was spent on details that would only be seen by the keen viewer. The project allows us to now feel comfortable with high end animation and was also extremely fun to make!”

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