Arthur Rankin Jr., half of the Rankin/Bass Productions, responsible for co-producing countless holiday-themed classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, died in his home in Bermuda on January 30, 2014 after a brief illness. He was 89.
With partner Jules Bass, the New York City-born Rankin created an empire of riches and creative success with Rankin/Bass almost on par with the likes of Walt Disney at its peak. Many of its shows, including the aforementioned Rudolph and Santa Claus — “Animagic” animated specials in which figures are shot a frame at a time to create seamless motion on screen — and other specials like Frosty the Snowman and Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (all released between 1964 – 1976) are still rerun today and are still as cherished as ever. Generations of fans in families — grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters — have all had Rankin/Bass specials pass their gazes, and it became a form of holiday Americana almost in a way, a trumpeting, flag-waving affirmation that the Christmas season had finally arrived once again, due to the annual airing of these specials. Rankin, with Bass, would only hire what seemed to be top shelf creative people and voice actors (people like James Cagney, Fred Astaire, veteran voice actor Paul Frees, Andy Griffith, Vincent Price, Burl Ives, and George Burns to name a few) to make productions that had a sense of class and freshness to them.
It was the tandem of the two men, who had a keen eye and sharp sensibility which furthered them to broaden their scope and visions, branching out to projects such as the first adaptation of The Hobbit from 1977 which originally aired on NBC-TV in November of that year, and was strictly animated in the standard type, eschewing the “Animagic” that became the company’s complete go-to style and brand. Shows like Thundercats and Silverhawks in the 1980s also used the standard animation type and were successful enough to keep Rankin/Bass going in the ever-changing animation circuit. Rankin’s last production job was on an animated version of the fabled Yul Brunner classic Broadway tale, The King and I.
Rankin’s parents — Arthur Rankin and Marian Manfield — we both actors, as was his paternal grandfather, Harry Davenport, who played the role of Dr. Meade in 1939’s Gone with the Wind.
In Rankin’s passing, it is an understatement to say how a chapter closes not only in the annals of the rich, glorious, and wonderful to the nth degree Rankin/Bass Productions, but it also closes a chapter in one’s childhood too in a way. RIP Arthur Rankin Jr. and thanks for all the good memories and messages. We’ll be watching you in December, and every December for that matter.
RIP Arthur Rankin, Jr.
July 19, 1924 – January 30, 2014
[Source: Royal Gazette | EW]