The Small One (1978)

Let's get one thing straight from the start. The Small One is an animated piece directed by Don Bluth (and very much in his style) when he worked for Disney. Nestor the Long Eared Christmas Donkey is a stop-motion special by Rankin-Bass.  Both of these pieces are about the origins of the donkey who carries Mary to Bethlehem. Both of these pieces are not very good.  However, The Small One is only mediocre, so compared to the steaming pile of excrement that was Nestor, Small One comes out pretty far ahead in the donkey-story quality scale.

There are aspects of this special that aren't terrible, even. The story follows a young boy forced to sell his beloved but undersized donkey, who just wants to find his friend a new home. The animation is quite well done, both the boy and the donkey are cute, and there are some sweet interactions between them.

The story ends with the purchase of the donkey by Joseph. We don't follow them to Bethlehem, we never actually see Mary. This actually keeps a nice focus on the relationship between the boy and his donkey, which is the point.

That said, it was still boring. Really quite boring. The story takes forever to go anywhere and while the horror when they stumble into a tanning facility is surprisingly effective, I didn't really care in the end whether the kid sold his donkey successfully.

There's also some humor based around a bunch of broad caricatures that I think I might have liked as a little kid who didn't know any better, but the whole thing is a little uncomfortable now.

So to sum up: not terrible, just mediocre. Not worth seeking out, though. If you have awkward relatives or some other reason you absolutely have to watch a religious-ish Christmas special, you could do worse.


  1. Trivia: Originally written by Charles Tazewell, who also wrote the story THE LITTLEST ANGEL. This was a radio show standard for years, narrated by Bing Crosby. Bluth removed the framing sequence (a kindly priest telling a Mexican boy the story) and made the boy's dad more kindly: in the original he tells the child he must take Small One to the tanner.

  2. Where can I purchase this dvd in england

    1. Only way I know of to get The Small One on DVD in England is to drive to Kettleness, just north of Whitby. Once there, you'll need to find Johnny Smalls. They call him that, because he sells copies of The Small One out of the trunk of his car. Just The Small One. Nothing else. He's a specialist, you see. No one knows where those DVD's come from. I've never heard of anyone dumb enough to ask. If you find Johnny - and it's a big IF - just buy a copy and get the hell out of there. Got it?

      The problem is, you never know just where he'll be, so you'll have to ask around. Don't be obvious about it,though. The law's been after Johnny for years for his "legitimate" DVD business, and if he thinks there's a chance you're a bobby, he'll be in the wind. Then you'll never find him. No, you've got to be subtle about it. Maybe take a few weeks off, get to know the locals. Spend some time at a tavern, wait till the regulars are drunk, then tell them you're a friend of Johnny Smalls. Maybe they know where he is. If they look scared or tell you they've never heard of him, it's time to move onto the next tavern. Don't be a fool. Maybe you'll find him, maybe you never will. That's just kind of how it is with Johnny.

      But if that doesn't work, I don't know, maybe try eBay or something.


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