Remember the Island of Misfit Toys in the old, fuzzy, stop-motion version of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer"? The one with Yukon Cornelius and that nerdy elf dentist? The one where they fled to the Island of Misfit Toys, where toys nobody wanted went and were ruled over by that weird lion king? Who doesn't! But something never sat right when I watched it every year at Christmas time, and I finally figured it out...

It's the water gun. You know, the one that squirts only jelly. It's silly, really. OK, you've got the 'Boat That Won't Float'. That's understandable. No one wants a boat that doesn't float. I mean, even if it's a submarine, if you're a kid, you're not going to want to dive in after it when you're done playing with it. Now, you might say, why don't you plug the leak? Well, how many kids do you know that are going to fix a toy boat well enough that it won't take in water? You can't expect a kid to fix his own toys, especially if they're broken right out of the box.

The same goes for the 'Train With Square Wheels'. You might say, "Why not just round off the wheels?" It's not always that easy, especially if your child doesn't have access to a belt sander and a circular saw. Oh, OK, I hear you saying, "Why doesn't Dad do it?" Folks, if Dad was any kind of Dad, he wouldn't have bought 'Train With Square Wheels' in the first place. Would you trust power tools to the guy that got rooked by The Square Wheels Company? I think not.

So we have these shoddy, abandoned toys, all sitting on this island because no one loves them, and we have this water gun that squirts only jelly. Now, I know these toys are of very primitive intelligence, but if they can sing the Misfit Toys song, they can pretty well figure out that the squirt gun is in a preventable situation. It should just fill itself up with water next time! Stupid squirt gun! It took that trip all the way to the Island Of Misfit Toys for nothing, and now its passport is probably expired. I'd like to see it try to get back into the States now, an unlicensed firearm with no identification!

What I really want to know is what stupid kid didn't like the fact that it squirted out jelly? Do you know how cool that would be? A squirt gun that squirted jelly? With most squirt guns, the hole is barely wide enough to squirt the water, let alone jelly. If you could squirt jelly, who knows what else you could shoot out of that thing! What a kick-ass toy! Imagine how much fun the 1993 Mets would have had with that thing! Train With Square Wheels... Boat That Won't Float... they can just stay there on that silly island, ruled by an ugly lion with an iron fist. But I want the water gun that squirts only jelly!

The problem.

Why is the apparently perfectly ordinary Dolly on the island of misfit toys? I can see how the other toys have been made to "fit" into a misfit role. Indeed, their misfittitude is scaled and simplified to the tastes and understanding of the young children of the expected audience--which is to say, the luckless toys' anomalies are simple and striking. There are plenty of ironic jokes (and other subtle messages) aimed at the parents (which is probably why the show has worn so well), but the visual presentation never strays from the realm easily comprehensible to a child (my 3-year-old daughter loves it and watches it all year long).

The evidence.

People have long wondered about Dolly, to the extent that producer Arthur Rankin himself offered an explanation. I quote Rick Goldschmidt at the intelligently informative Rudolph: Behind the Scenes website:

This brings us back to the MISFIT GIRL doll questions.....Uggh! The later versions of the script did not attribute any specific problems with the doll. I believe that Romeo Muller never really gave the character much thought, since her screen time in the original broadcast was mere seconds. She was granted more screen time in the 1965-1997 Broadcasts and ultimately led many a fan to wonder what was wrong with her? Since Arthur Rankin says it was psychological, I still stand behind that.

Goldschmidt's subtext is clear enough: there's nothing wrong with Dolly. Rankin invented an invisible "pathology" for her on the fly to explain her presence and satisfy fans. But Goldschmidt offers a piece of evidence that I bet explains her appearance:

Apparently, her problem was more psychological than physical. I have recently obtained THE original 10-28-63 draft of the script by Romeo Muller and the MISFIT GIRL DOLL does not appear in this first draft.

Of course she wasn't there, because the point was to have obviously misfit toys for the reasons stated above. But then the lyrics of their musical number intruded:

The Most Wonderful Day of the Year

A packful of toys means a sackful of joys
For millions of girls and for millions of boys
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year!

A jack in the box waits for children to shout,
"Wake up, don't you know that it's time to come out!"
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year!

Toys galore
Scattered on the floor
There's no room for more
And it's all because of Santa Claus!

A scooter for Jimmy, a dolly for Sue
The kind that will even say "How do you do?"
When Christmas Day is here
The most wonderful day of the year.

Three toys are specifically mentioned--two of them, the jack in the box and the scooter, are prominent among the clearly misfit toys and could credibly voice some of the sentiments expressed in the song; but a Dolly seems called for, even necessary, and in the event sang the line "The kind that will even say 'How do you do?"'

A proposed solution.

That's it, then: Muller, the lyricist, wrote a song that incorporated the stereotypical girl's toy, a doll. At some point, perhaps late in the day, someone noticed that the lyrics called for a Dolly character missing in the original concept--and rather than rewrite the lyrics to make things hang together better (and really, the lyrics are splendid as they are), another easy solution was found: Dolly was hastily included, perhaps without time to give her a misfit characteristic.

But arguably Dolly--whenever introduced into the script--would not have had one. The two toys most recognizably human, Dolly and the Cowboy, are both without bodily flaw (the Cowboy is a misfit, recall, only because he rides an ostrich). It makes sense: here is a show aimed at children, and among those children were bound to be ones with physical deformities. Very likely someone saw that it would veer into insensitive territory to have Dolly or Cowboy without an arm, walking about on a tiny peg-leg, vel sim.


URLs and Bibliography.

Goldschmidt, Rick. Undated. http://www.tvparty.com/xmasrudolph.html (excellent on the show's development and history).
Lyrics of song: http://www.christmas-carols.net/carols/most-wonderful-day.html.

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