Monday, July 26, 2010
Christmas in July Guest Blogger: Amanda Reyes
I am honored to post a discussion of the Animagic classic Nestor from Amanda. She's the blogger from Made for TV Mayhem, who writes on television movies and horror. I've really come to love her writing. She really knows her stuff. So grab a tissue and enjoy her review!
Nestor, the Long Eared Donkey
Review by Amanda Reyes
I just moved from Los Angeles, California to Silver Spring, Maryland. The humidity here can be painful, so I was more than happy to oblige Joanna when she asked me to contribute a guest blog during her Christmas in July bonanza. Thinking about the snow has been delightful, although Nestor always brings a bittersweet tear to my eye.
Rankin and Bass are famous for their holiday specials. Their stop motion animation was splendid and simple and the stories were both glorious and heart-wrenching. Rankin and Bass really touched on our need for acceptance while finding our own identity. Rudolph did it; even Baby New Year did it. But no one and I mean no one captured that balance between owning one’s uniqueness while enduring the hardships of not belonging the way Nestor the Long Eared Donkey did.
Nestor (voiced by Eric Stern) just wants to have friends, but his unfortunate ears make him the joke of the farm. On Winter Solstice after finally receiving a little love from his stable-mates, soldiers from the Roman Army come to whisk away the young donkeys to fight in the war. Nestor’s owner Olaf (voiced by Rankin and Bass regular Paul Frees) tries to sell him, but when the soldiers realize he has these grotesquely long ears, they throw him back, take the rest of the donkeys and refuse to pay Olaf. This infuriates the already sleazy landlord and he throws Nestor out on his duff. Nestor’s loving mother follows him into the cold, snowy night.
It’s almost impossible to go on from here. What happens next is so utterly tragic that if I think about it long enough I’ll start crying. And not just a single Demi-Moore-in-Ghost-tear, I mean buckets of tears. This is why Nestor is so dang good. Sure, it’s overly sentimental, but it also captures the warmth of love and appreciation we get from our mothers (or at least that’s what I got from mine) and to see what becomes of her is just… well, it’s devastating.
Needless to say, now Nestor is on his own and with the help of an adorable cherub named Tilly (voiced by Brenda Vaccaro) he finds his destiny, which is to help the pregnant Mary get to the manger so she can have the baby Jesus.
Let’s put the cards on the table, I’m not a terribly religious person but this movie is effective as both a spiritual parable and a sweet allegory about doing unto others. With songs as sweet as Don’t Laugh and Make Somebody Cry, this special is all about respecting others and finding greatness in your own uniqueness. In the end, Nestor owned those ears and became the toast of the town. Even grumpy old Olaf is excited to see him (although I think Olaf needs a talking to at this point).
From as far back as I can remember Nestor has been a staple of my Christmas viewing pleasure. Through the years he’s come to symbolize the idyllic parts of my childhood because he was synonymous with the holiday. Later he became a vehicle to lose myself in when I needed a reminder that good exists and finally, as I enter into my late 30s, I’ve sort of become Nestor. I lost both of my parents almost five years ago. Every time I hear Nestor’s mother say, “Ears, Nestor,” I can’t help thinking about all those cold nights my mom kept me warm. And something inside me feels like Nestor was preparing me to accept my life as an orphan. He was telling me that I could find my way, even in the darkest hours, and discover my greatness. I’m still searching for that plateau, but so very thankful that Nestor has been there to guide me.