Arthur Rankin – mas­ter of his craft

arthur rankin, cre­ator of TV’s ru­dolph The red nosed rein­deer, dies at 89.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By ElainE Woo

More than five decades ago, Arthur rankin, Jr, a pro­ducer-di­rec­tor work­ing in stop­mo­tion an­i­ma­tion, had the idea of de­vel­op­ing a fam­ily-ori­ented TV spe­cial around a pop­u­lar Christ­mas song. He hoped a net­work would like it enough to run it two or three times. But when Ru­dolph The Red-Nosed

Rein­deer aired in 1964, he and part­ner Jules Bass found they had a block­buster – one that launched them into TV his­tory as pioneers of the an­i­mated hol­i­day spe­cial.

Fifty years later, Ru­dolph, with its catchy tunes and charm­ingly mis­fit char­ac­ters, re­mains the long­est-run­ning Christ­mas TV spe­cial, “one of only four 1960s Christ­mas spe­cials still be­ing tele­cast,” ac­cord­ing to the Ar­chive of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion. The oth­ers are A Char­lie Brown Christ­mas, How The Grinch Stole Christ­mas

and another rankin-Bass cre­ation,

Frosty The Snow­man.

rankin, whose projects would later in­clude an­i­mated se­ries such as The Jack­son 5ive and the fea­ture-length stop-mo­tion film

Mad Mon­ster Party, died of nat­u­ral causes Jan 30 in Har­ring­ton Sound, Ber­muda, where he had re­tired, said his son, Todd rankin. He was 89.

“Arthur was the Walt Dis­ney of stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion,” said rick Gold­schmidt, who chron­i­cled the his­tory of rankin-Bass pro­duc­tions in books and a web­site. “He was a great in­flu­ence on the Tim Bur­ton films and even more so on Pixar.”

Al­though rankin-Bass also pro­duced tra­di­tional, hand-drawn an­i­ma­tion, it was best known for its stop-mo­tion tech­nique called An­imagic, which dif­fered from clay mo­tion in its use of small, wire­jointed dolls. Bur­ton, who told the Los An­ge­les

Times last year that he had “a fond burn­ing feel­ing” for the rank­inBass hol­i­day spe­cials he watched as a child, cre­ated movies such as

Night­mare Be­fore Christ­mas us­ing the same style of jointed fig­urines. In ho­mage to his childhood in­spi­ra­tions, Bur­ton even named a char­ac­ter in his 1984 film Franken­wee­nie Mr Burg­er­meis­ter, af­ter a char­ac­ter in rankin-Bass’ Santa Claus Is Com­ing To Town (1970). other well-known rankin-Bass stop-mo­tion works in­clude The Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy (1968), Here

Comes Peter Cot­ton­tail (1971) and The Year With­out A Santa Claus (1974).

Fol­low­ing the pat­tern es­tab­lished

in Ru­dolph, which fea­tures Burl Ives’ singing and nar­ra­tion, rankin and Bass broad­ened the ap­peal of the pro­grammes by us­ing fa­mous voices, in­clud­ing those of Greer Gar­son, Danny Kaye and Jimmy Du­rante.

A time-tested theme was also a rankin-Bass hall­mark.

“In all our pic­tures, we had an an­tag­o­nist who be­comes the good guy,” rankin said in a 2005 in­ter- view for the Ar­chive of Amer­i­can Tele­vi­sion, “and the un­der­dog ful­fills his quest.”

In Ru­dolph, the un­der­dogs were the ti­tle char­ac­ter with the flash­ing red nose and an elf named Her­mey, who wants to be a den­tist. Among the vil­lains is the Abom­inable Snow­man, who ul­ti­mately changes his men­ac­ing ways.

Ru­dolph took more than a year to make be­cause of the painstak­ingly slow pace of stop-mo­tion pro­duc­tion, “but the show is not just the tech­nique,” rankin told The Wash­ing­ton Post in 2004. “It’s the story, the char­ac­ters, the mu­sic. We knew what we needed: warmth. Ru­dolph showed us that.”

rankin grew up in a fam­ily at­tuned to pleas­ing au­di­ences. His par­ents, Mignon Klemm and Arthur rankin Sr, were vaudevil­lians, and ethel Barrymore was a dis­tant re­la­tion. An only child, Arthur Jr grew up on his grand­par­ents’ farm out­side Bal­ti­more, where he was born on July 19, 1924. He moved to New York at age 12.

Dur­ing high school, he worked at ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall as a page and back­stage hand. At 18, he joined the Navy, sur­viv­ing two sink­ings by enemy forces dur­ing World War II.

He re­turned to civil­ian life as the tele­vi­sion in­dus­try was form­ing. Hired at ABC, he was a graphic de­signer and art di­rec­tor on dra­matic se­ries such as Tales of Tomorrow and Sch­litz Play­house.

He be­gan mak­ing com­mer­cials for net­work spon­sors, a side­line that proved so suc­cess­ful that he left ABC in 1952 to form his own com­pany.

Bass, who worked for an ad­ver­tis­ing agency, joined him in 1955, when they formed Videocraft In­ter­na­tional, later named rankin/ Bass Pro­duc­tions.

In the late 1950s, rankin went to Ja­pan to study the tech­niques of stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tor Tad Mochi­naga, who used fig­urines and minia­ture sets to make his films. Mochi­naga would later su­per­vise the an­i­ma­tion of a num­ber of rankin-Bass shows.

arthur Gard­ner Rankin, Jr 1924-2014

Source of in­spi­ra­tion: arthur rankin has been hailed as the Walt dis­ney of stop­mo­tion an­i­ma­tion and has in­flu­enced di­rec­tors like Tim bur­ton. — Wiki­me­dia Com­mons/Tulio Gar­cia

In 1962, rankin was try­ing to come up with a Christ­mas spe­cial for Gen­eral elec­tric and thought of his Green­wich Vil­lage neigh­bour Johnny Marks, whose song Ru­dolph The Red-Nosed Rein­deer had been in­spired by a story writ­ten as a depart­ment store hol­i­day pro­mo­tion by his brother-in-law robert May. Marks’ song, sung by Gene Autry, was a huge suc­cess in 1949.

rankin, Bass and writer romeo Muller fleshed out a story based on the song, adding a whole cast of char­ac­ters, in­clud­ing the Mis­fit Toys.

Marks was afraid that his hit could be tar­nished if the TV project was a flop, but when it aired on a Sun­day af­ter­noon be­fore Christ­mas, the rat­ings van­quished any fears of fail­ure.

Af­ter that broad­cast, “ev­ery­one wanted a Christ­mas film like Ru­dolph,” rankin re­called.

With Bass, rankin branched out from hol­i­day spe­cials to an­i­mated fea­tures like Mad Mon­ster Party (1967), a tongue-in-cheek mash-up that fea­tured Frankenstein, Drac­ula, the Were­wolf, Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and other fa­mous crea­tures, and the Pe­abody Award-win­ning The Hob­bit (1977), based on the Jrr Tolkien fan­tasy.

rankin, who moved full-time to his home in the is­lands in the 1980s, is sur­vived by his wife, olga Kar­latos, and his sons from a pre­vi­ous mar­riage, Todd and Gard­ner. – Los An­ge­les Times/McClatchyTri­bune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

Per­haps the most well-known of Rankin/Bass’ later out­put is the Thun­der­cats. ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a Hob­bit’, as en­vi­sioned by Rankin/Bass and their pro­duc­tion team for an an­i­mated adap­ta­tion of the beloved JRR Tolkien book. Rankin/Bass ma

The rankin/bass logo was a fa­mil­iar sight to TV view­ers from the 1960s to the 1980s.

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