About Christmas TV History

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Arthur Rankin, Jr. (1924-2014)

Rudolph and Clarisse from the 1964 TV special

It is with sadness that I share the news that Arthur Rankin, Jr. passed away on January 30th.  Rankin was known as half of the creative team of Rankin/Bass, the two men who produced and directed some of the best known, most-beloved Christmas entertainment ever made. 

You may not immediately recognize the names of Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass but their work stands for itself.  The first animated Rankin/Bass TV special was 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer--the highest rated and most popular Christmas TV special ever made.  Despite this TV special turning 50 years old this upcoming December, it has never been forgotten or overlooked.  Rudolph has aired every year on a major network since its original release in 1964--a feat that's unmatched. 

Do you still watch Frosty each year? 

The animation of Rankin/Bass is most closely associated with stop-motion animation, a process they referred to as Animagic. However, they also made traditional cel animation, the style of animation used to create 1969's Frosty the SnowmanFrosty is the second most recognizable Rankin/Bass Christmas TV special and one that still airs each yuletide season on a major network on TV.

In addition to Rudolph and Frosty, I grew up watching the 1970 TV special Santa Claus is Comin' to Town.

It's impossible for me to imagine a Christmas without watching at least one of the Rankin/Bass TV specials.  What a wonderful legacy Arthur Rankin, Jr. leaves behind, one that brings so much happiness to millions of people and continues to be an important part of many viewers' Christmas traditions.  

The Heat Miser and Snow Miser from Rankin/Bass' 1974 TV special, The Year Without a Santa Claus.

Which of the Christmas/New Year's Rankin/Bass animated stories is your favorite?  Have you seen all twenty?  Can you name each one?  Click HERE to see my list.

To learn more about Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass' legacy, you can check out the website of Rick Goldschmidt, the Rankin/Bass historian.


  1. RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER, all the way back to the first broadcast in 1964. It will be 50 this year and it's a pity Mr. Rankin won't be around to celebrate. When it snows all I can hear in my head is that twinkly little opening overture from RUDOLPH. LITTLE DRUMMER BOY holds second space in my heart.

  2. I was really saddened by the news. But his art lives on! I love love love Jack Frost and Santa Claus is Comin' to Town :-)

  3. Truly sad, but as you said, what a legacy to leave behind. He won't be forgotten and he will spend a little time with so many every Christmas season, through his creative works.

  4. Nice tribute. I find my appreciation for _Cricket on the Hearth_ has grown in recent years, but the entire run by Rankin-Bass is impressive.