Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey is a 1977 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions. It originally premiered on ABC on December 3, 1977.
Santa Claus's donkey, Spieltoe, narrates the story of a donkey named Nestor with abnormally long ears, who lived in the days of the Roman Empire. Every animal in the stable ridicules Nestor because of his ears. One day the animals in the stable are celebrating the winter solstice. Nestor's mother gives socks to Nestor to cover his ears.
That night when Nestor is asleep, soldiers arrive from the Roman Empire. They pick a bunch of donkeys, including Nestor, but not his mother. Nestor tries to get away and one of the soldiers grabs the socks on Nestor's ears. They come off. The soldiers think that the owner of the stable, Olaf, was trying to trick them. Olaf says he will give them Nestor for free, but the soldiers force him to give him all of the donkeys for free and do not take Nestor. After the soldiers leave a furious Olaf throws Nestor out into the storm and leaves him to die. Nestor's mother escapes the stable and finds him. As a blizzard rages outside, and there is no indoor shelter to be had, Nestor's mother finds a small cove out of the wind and uses her body to shield her son from the storm. The next morning, Nestor wakes up to find that his mother has died, having sacrificed herself to save him.
Later, Nestor meets a cherub named Tilly. She says they need to travel to Bethlehem, telling him "Your ears can do wondrous things no other ears can do. The sounds they hear will guide you on a path that's straight and true, and then you will save another, as your mother once saved you." They travel across the desert sands for many months, and when they finally get to the outskirts of Bethlehem, Tilly tells Nestor to wait. Even though he finds a rundown old stable, nobody buys him.
One day, Mary and Joseph visit. Mary is expecting a child, and they do not have much money. They take Nestor because of his "gentle eyes", but are caught in a sandstorm. In the midst of the storm, Nestor hears Tilly's voice, but recognizes it as his mother's, and she tells him to follow the voices of the angels. Nestor guides Mary and Joseph through the storm, wrapping Mary in his ears, soon arriving at Bethlehem. They find a proper stable, where Mary subsequently gives birth to Jesus after which Nestor finds his way back home, where he is considered a hero.
- Roger Miller as Spieltoe
- Shelly Hines as Nestor
- Brenda Vaccaro as Tilly
- Paul Frees as Olaf the Stable Owner, a Donkey Dealer and Santa Claus
- Linda Gary as Nestor's Mother
- Iris Rainer as Nestor's friend
- Don Messick as a Roman Soldier
- Produced and Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass
- Assistant Producer: Masaki Iizuka
- Written by Romeo Muller
- Based on the Song by Gene Autry, Don Pfrimmer and Dave Burgess
- Additional Music and Lyrics by Maury Laws and Jules Bass
- Design by Paul Coker, Jr.
- "Animagic" Supervisors: Akikazu Kono and Satoshi Fujino
- Sound Recorders: John Curcio and Joe Jorgensen
- Music Arranged and Conducted by Maury Laws
In addition to Akikazu Kono, this is Rankin/Bass' second and last "Animagic" stop motion puppet production to be supervised by another Japanese animator, Satoshi Fujino, who also previously worked on The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.