‘Rudolph’ Animator Arthur Rankin Jr. Dead at 89

'Rudolph' Animator Arthur Rankin Jr. Dead

Arthur Rankin Jr., the animator behind the classic holiday special classic “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the “Jackson Five” cartoon series and dozens of other productions, died Thursday at his home in Harrington Sound, Bermuda. He was 89.

Rankin’s death was reported by Bermuda’s Royal Gazette. 

With his partner Jules Bass, Rankin ran the prosperous Rankin/Bass production banner that was behind a slew of specials and cartoon series from the early 1960s through the late 1980s.

The company was a pioneer in the use of stop-motion animation, which gave a distinctive look to its 1964 “Rudolph” special (pictured). Rankin/Bass also made a point of recruiting notable actors for its vocal talent, including Burl Ives for the Sam the Snowman role in “Rudolph.”

Other Rankin/Bass productions included “ThunderCats,” a 1977 animated rendition of “The Hobbit” and a 1972 hourlong special “Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid.”

A native of New York to parents who were actors, Rankin got his start working for ABC as an art director in the 1940s.

Survivors include his wife, Olga, and two sons.

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  1. David Bartlett says:

    I remember watching ‘Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer’ as a six-year-old for the first time during its original airing back in 1964, and out of nostalgia I’ve tried to catch it at least once a year ever since. Perhaps it was a confluence of age and timing, but I can think of no other pop culture influence which holds such singular sentimental meaning for me. I see this particularly as I’ve grown older. Looking at its stop-motion photography, hearing the long-ago voice of Burl Ives and that excellent soundtrack, containing such sweet songs as ‘There’s Always Tomorrow’, ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ and, of course, the title track, I cannot think of any other media influence from the ‘golden age’ that is so worthy of sentiment and respect, nothing more suitable for a child to latch onto and hold dear for a lifetime.

  2. phil says:

    thank you for sharing your amazing talent with young and old…and making magical memories.

  3. georgia says:

    Thank you for creating some of the best memories with your creativity..RIP

  4. Jeanne says:

    Thank you for fueling so much of my childhood. You brought a lot of great talent together, and still give great enjoyment today with your creativity. RIP

  5. mchasewalker says:

    This grieves me so. Arthur was my boss and a mentor. A truly elegant man and quintessential “Mad Men” from the Mad men era whom with Jules Bass crossed over from advertising to television and feature films and built their whole animation empire. When I bought the rights to The Last Unicorn I promised Peter S. Beagle (and myself) they would be the last studio in town I would approach, and as fate would have it I was in a meeting with Martin Starger and Paul Lazarus of Marble Arch Productions when Marty mentioned that Jules and Arthur Rankin were in town recently and had pitched The Last Unicorn as a feature. Marty had worked with them when he was president of ABC Television and was well aware of their pitfalls and pluses as a studio. Of course their TV programs were ratings blockbusters, but they had no credibility in the feature world. I remember telling Peter that I was going to make the deal with them and how disappointed he was. Unfortunately, my deals with Warner Bros. had come to an end and Disney had passed after courting me lavishly for some time. The alternative studios were Hanna Barbera, Ruby Spears and Depatie Freleng at the time. The deciding factor for me was they were both extremely literate and intelligent men who has actually read and loved the book — which was hardly the case with the other studios. They in turn took to me and instantly hired me as head of creative affairs for their New York offices. I had cherry offices at 1 East 53rd street in Manhattan and under their aegis developed and produced The Last Unicorn, Return of the King,The Flight of Dragons, Pinocchio’s Christmas, The Leprechaun’s Golden Rainbow and The Wind and the Willows. Arthur charged me with coming up with a way we could televise the first “TV treasure hunt” in the manner of Kit William’s “Masquerade” books. After ruminating for some time I suggested tying it into Ul De Rico’s The Rainbow Goblins books we had just optioned. My solution was to bury an ounce of gold at every ABC affiliate and then drop the clue during the weather broadcast with the word R-A-I-N-B-O-W as an anagram for Revealed Answer In News Broadcast Of Weather. I remember Arthur tearing up with gratitude at my solution and later when I left the studio to return to Los Angeles, he silently choked up again and said he’d never forget my creative problem solving.The truth is he loved the animation team he had assembled back in the Fifties and Sixties as they would form the core teams for most of the greatest Japanese animation studios in existence today. http://variety.com/2014/tv/people-news/rudolph-animator-arthur-rankin-jr-dead-at-89-1201080680/ via @Variety

  6. Mark C says:

    Mark C

    Whoever wrote this article clearly has no idea who Arthur Rankin Jr really was until today. Mr. Rankin was not an animator but a creator, director, producer and a pioneer in televised entertainment. Show some respect and do your research. A robot could have written this with more heart.

  7. Dragoncat says:

    He did some great stuff. I loved the ThunderCats and SilverHawks.
    He may be gone, but may he not be forgotten.

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