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.