About Christmas TV History

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rankin/Bass Christmas Animation

Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass produced many of the most cherished and beloved animated holiday specials on television.  But the Rankin/Bass legacy includes not just TV specials but TV series and theatrical release movies as well.  While most of their output was non-holiday related, they did make Easter, Thanksgiving, and even New Year's stories.  However, Rankin/Bass are perhaps most closely associated with and remembered for their Christmas holiday stories.

Sometimes at public events I mention that there are a total of 20 Rankin/Bass year-end holiday entertainments--and I'm frequently met with blank stares.  Can you name all 20?  Have you seen all of them?

Here's a list of all of the animated Rankin/Bass Christmas and New Year's stories.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Cricket on the Hearth (1967)
The Little Drummer Boy (1968)
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)
Festival of Family Classics' episode "A Christmas Tree" (1972)
Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
The First Christmas (1975)
Frosty's Winter Wonderland (1976)
Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976)
The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)
Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)
The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)
Jack Frost (1979)
Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)
Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)
The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold (1981)
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)
Santa Baby! (2001)

TRIVIA:  How many of these questions can you answer?  Leave your comments below.

1.  Total number of Animagic (stop motion animated) titles from the above list?
Total number of traditional animation titles from the above list?

2.  Which story includes the villainous character: a) The Winter Warlock? b) King Winterbolt?  c) wicked banshee Old Mag?

3.  How many are inspired by Charles Dickens stories?  what are their titles?

4.  Which one was a theatrical release movie?

5.  Which one was part of a Saturday morning cartoon series?

6.  Which one was adapted from a book written by the same author who wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?

7.  Which one includes the song:  a) "One Foot in Front of the Other?" b) "Silver and Gold?" c) "Blue Christmas?"

8.  Which one is narrated by the character: a) Pardon-Me Pete? b) B.A.H. Humbug?  c) Special Delivery Kluger? d) Sam the Snowman e) Blarney Killakilarney?

9.  Which one includes a story about a mouse family?

10.  Name the titles that feature religious figures or biblical era characters?

BONUS QUESTION:  Which one is your favorite?


  1. Here are my answers:

    1. Animagic: 13, Animation: 7

    2. a) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town b) Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas In July c) The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold

    3. How many are inspired by Charles Dickens stories? what are their titles?

    2; Stingiest Man In Town & Cricket on the Hearth

    4. Rudolph & Frosty's Christmas In July

    5. Festival of Family Classics: A Christmas Tree

    6. The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus

    7. a) Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town b) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer c) The Year Without A Santa Claus

    8. a) Jack Frosty b) Stingiest Man In Town c) Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town d) Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer e) The Leperchaun's Christmas Gold

    9. Twas The Night Before Christmas

    10. The Little Drummer Boy, The Little Drummer Boy Book 2, The First Christmas & Nestor The Long-Eared Christmas Donkey

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Wait a second, I just remembered that A Christmas Tree is Dickens!!!

    3. Yup! Good for you :D Thanks for playing along.

    4. That was fun and challenging! Would have been very difficult for someone who was not familiar with some of the more obscure Rankin & Bass specials. No holiday would be complete without them!

  2. Oh, and it's a tough choice, but my favorite is probably Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town!

  3. May I quibble, just a tiny bit? I don't think Jack Frost takes place at Christmas; it's a winter story. :-)

    I have never heard of the Festival of Family Classics story! Do you have a summary of the story? Would love to hear it!

    1. Yes, Jack Frost is set at Groundhog Day--yet, people are more likely to watch it and be willing to reference it at the year-end holidays. It doesn't make sense to me either--Go figure. http://www.christmastvhistory.com/2013/02/happy-groundhog-day-2013-jack-frost-1979.html

      I have a summary of all the above Rankin/Bass entertainments in my encyclopedia "Tis the Season TV." Thanks for asking.

  4. Oh, gosh, never mind. It's on YouTube!

  5. So hard to choose a favourite! A 3 way tie between The 1st Christmas Snow, The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold and Jack Frost. Great questions by the by :D

  6. Thanks for listing them,I own most of the R-B specials. I've long believed that the technical level of the animagic specials improved greatly over the years,while the stories did not. But even the "lesser" specials are fun to watch, and the voice actors (especially Paul Frees) are generally great.

  7. I've seen most of these (perhaps not surprisingly). "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" is probably my all-time (and a little bit obvious) favorite, but the animation and voice talent wrangled for each always makes them fun! I also LOVE the "Even A Miracle Needs A Hand" song from "The Night Before Christmas"!

  8. RigbyMel--I love that song, too!

    RUDOLPH's still my favorite; I watched the original broadcast and I'm still watching every year. My mom, bless her soul, used to ask me every year, "Are you STILL watching those cartoons?" Yes, ma'am, and singing along, too!

    By the way, I had a chance to see PINOCCHIO'S CHRISTMAS for the first time in years last year. It reminded me that what I always liked about the story was that it used the parts of the Carlo Collodi book that Disney didn't.