The man whose animated holiday TV specials have touched generations of fans died Thursday at his home in Bermuda. Arthur Rankin Jr was 89. His death was reported by local newspaper The Royal Gazette. With his partner Jules Bass, Rankin mined popular Christmas songs to create enduring stop-motion TV classics including Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) — which beat The Voice and Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 18-49 demo when CBS aired it Thanksgiving Eve last year — The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (1970) and The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974). The Jimmy Durante-narrated Frosty The Snowman (1969) was done in tradition cel animation and was the first of their Christmas specials done as a half-hour rather than an hour. Rankin and Bass founded their company in 1960 as Videocraft International, and the name was changed to Rankin/Bass Productions eight years later. They also produced plenty of non-holiday fare as well, from their first TV project — the syndicated The Adventures Of Pinocchio — through The Ballad of Smokey the Bear (1966), The Wacky Word of Mother Goose (1967), The Hobbit (1977) and the popular 1980s series Thundercats, which was remade for Cartoon Network in 2011. Rankin and Bass also directed many of their productions including Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town and Frosty The Snowman, the early ’70s series Jackson 5ive and The Osmonds and the theatrical feature The Last Unicorn (1982).
Related: R.I.P. Character Actor Larry D. Mann