It is difficult to start a familial tradition — an event or an activity that will entertain and define your family through the years, across the decades, and even from “the Great Beyond.” Yes, it’s hard to dream up a pastime or a meal, a custom or even just a cookie, that becomes immersed in your family’s life for years and years to come. Imagine, then, what it must be like to conjure up a custom for the rest of the word. We’re not talking about suggesting a game to be played at a neighborhood block party, or drumming up some funny knickknacks for a school white-elephant sale. We’re stressing a tradition that your family and others the GLOBE over will be partaking in and looking forward to doing. Who could tackle such an endeavor? Who could put up with that stress? Who? Adam Reed, that’s who.
Adam Reed is an Emmy-nominated TV producer who has garnered acclaim and attention, as well as some eyebrow-raising skepticism, for his reality-based programming. He has produced popular reality shows that have starred KISS front man Gene Simmons and controversial mother Mama June (the mom of Honey Boo Boo). He’s helmed a CMT network look at Sun Records and a WEtv outing of “Marriage Boot Camp.” Reed is the president of Thinkfactory Media, and the author of children’s books as well. Labeling himself a “storyteller,” Reed is the father of two children, and he has unleashed his vast imagination to entertain his kids … and now mine and yours, too.
Debuting last year during Amazon’s Black Friday sales, Reed’s brainchild “The Reindeer In Here” set records for the number of units it moved in a single day. It sold out in under two hours, and received rave reviews from its purchasers and industry bloggers. “The Reindeer In Here” is a plush-and-book duo that is meant to be the first gift of the holiday season. Ideally, it will be bought and then given to a child on the day after Thanksgiving. During the seasonal run-up from late November to Christmas Day, the child is encouraged to hug the reindeer, read the accompanying book to the reindeer, and generally just spend the time getting better acquainted with the goofy-looking critter.
Reed’s reindeer — and remember, you can’t spell “reindeer” without “reed” — is not named. Rather, the child is encouraged to come up with a name on his or her own. Reed sees this as an essential part of the bonding process. He also envisions this nameless reindeer as a four-legged ambassador for Santa, the North Pole, and the freedom to be different, unique, and a special individual.
The reindeer is made with striking blue eyes — distinguishing it from other reindeer—and also with mismatched antlers. The storybook chronicles how it’s okay not to be like everyone else. The reindeer’s physical appearance renders him as an oddity (paging, Rudolph; paging, Rudolph), but he has a big heart and a desire to help out Santa and his never-ending quest to find the perfect gift for every boy and girl. That’s why the reindeer shows up on Black Friday, and remains in the house until Christmas Day. (Reed encourages people to place their reindeer beneath the tree on Christmas morn, so it can watch the smiles and hear the giggles of the right gift being presented to the right person.)
After the morning festivities are over, and the last shreds of wrapping paper and ribbon have been thrown away, the parent can confiscate the reindeer, packing it away for next year’s triumphant re-emergence. (Think Groundhog Day of the Yuletide kind. Do the same ceremonial activities again and again and again.)
Some of the other characters that populate the plot of “The Reindeer In Here” are a snowman named Cane, because his nose is made of a candy cane, and Cecelia, a seal, whose face never loses its smile. (Reed is fast to point out that the seal’s name is pronounced “Ce-seal-ya.”) A pair of penguins also joins the pack of misfits: Zig and Zag are both cross-eyed. As a result, they’ve never walked a straight line in their lives! The eccentric critters are all illustrated by Izzy Bean.
All of this does sound like a mishmash of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the song and, more tellingly, the animated TV special. (Island of Misfit Toys? Yep. Don’t let your differences control you. You control them! Check.) It also sounds like a variation on the popular Elf on the Shelf custom—a onetime commercial newbie that has become an honest-to-goodness tradition for many families across the nation. Reed has heard the Elf comparisons, but he believes that his reindeer doesn’t spy on the children or covertly report back to Santa in a negative fashion. Reed’s reindeer is not keeping records or tallying bad-behavior demerits. He hopes that his urging of child-and-reindeer sleeping and playing together will make the child speak openly in front of the toy, giving parents the chance to eavesdrop on what might, otherwise, be an internal monologue.
If the Elf on the Shelf is perceived by Reed to be a Noel narc, watching and reporting to the big boss, then “The Reindeer in Here” is an emissary from the North Pole who has gone “completely native.” It wants to be a part of your child’s life. It wants to be a friend that can be touched, hugged, and kissed. (Hands-off is a big rule of Elf on the Shelf. The elf’s mythology [parental warning] tells wary consumers that if their child touches the elf, it will become immobile and won’t move around the house any longer. Kids are reminded constantly: Step away from the elf.)
It’s already August; we’ve passed the “Christmas in July” shopping perks; we’re staring down back-to-school and Halloween. Heck, that means Christmas is right around the corner. And this year, 2018, Reed and his associates hope to have “The Reindeer in Here” stocked on brick-and-mortar store shelves. Yep, it flew out of the Amazon warehouse, why not out of a mom-and-pop shop, too?