|The Bumble, from "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer"|
The news has been dominated lately by the recent deaths of folk music/activist legend Pete Seeger and actor Philip Seymore Hoffman. However, another giant in the arts industry recently passed away on Jan 30th and one that is dear to me---Arthur Rankin Jr. He may be best remembered for producing the children's stop-motion Christmas classic "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer" in 1964, with his partner Jules Bass. However, he helped make many, many other tv specials and movies, including the iconic animated version of "The Hobbit" in 1977, which to me is the definitive visual version of that enduring classic, and which received a Peabody Award in that same year.
|soundtrack record of "The Hobbit" from my collection|
He also made another fantasy novel into a classic cartoon---"The Last Unicorn" by Peter S. Beagle:
He was also responsible for the "Jackson 5ive" animated tv series in the 70s and the "ThunderCats" animated series in the 80s. The 80s also brought us the animated "Wind in the Willows" which I very much love, and "The Return of the King".
He and Jules Bass were pioneers in the stop-motion animation field and the distinctive look of the characters in "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", "The Year Without a Santa Claus" (Heatmiser and Snowmiser!!), and "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" are an integral part of my childhood memories.
Recently, I encouraged my friend, who has a 15 year old daughter, to buy a DVD of the Rankin/Bass "The Hobbit" for her daughter for Christmas. I was confident that her teenager would love it, despite the bombastic Peter Jackson renditions of "The Hobbit" that dominate the theaters these days. Turned out I was right, she did love it, and another Rankin/Bass disciple was born :).
Farewell Arthur Rankin Jr---thank you for "The Hobbit", the stop-motion masterpieces and all the other work you have done. I continue to watch your movies to this day :)