A few days ago, we lost an animation icon in Arthur Rankin, Jr, who died at his home in Bermuda. With his partner, Jules Bass, Rankin/Bass Productions gave the world some of its most memorable, endearing animation such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and The Last Unicorn.
Rankin and Bass teamed up in 1955 to form Videocraft International. They made TV commercials and then a TV series, The New Adventures of Pinocchio in 1960. Rankin was the scriptwriter and drew storyboards and concept art for the stop motion they produced. Their first major success and their biggest hit to-date is definitely Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which, like many Rankin/Bass works was based on a holiday song.
Gene Autry’s song of the same name came out in 1949 and set the basis for the plot Rankin would carve out. Rankin/Bass also became known for notable narrators and voice talent, with Burl Ives narrating Rudolph. The special has been seen on a television station every year since its debut in 1964, making it one of the longest running holiday specials ever.
Rankin also worked with Bass on the TV series Thudercats and continued to work on animation projects on his own up until his death. He is survived by his wife and two older sons.