Jules Bass, the “Bass” of Rankin-Bass Animation, passed away recently. And with him, the last remaining vestige of one of the most prolific runs of stop-motion and cell animation for early television. You might know Rankin-Bass Animation for their holy trinity of children’s Christmas stories – Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Coming to Town – but the Rankin-Bass catalog featured so much more. And I’m just going to share a bunch of YouTube clips to prove my point.
It’s 1960’s, and one of the first Rankin-Bass animated shows was The New Adventures of Pinocchio. Sort of a mixture of the original source material with whatever they could tie to the Disney classic without infringing on copyright (Pinocchio’s sidekick is named simply “Cricket”), this was a syndicated series of shorts.
One year later, Rankin-Bass created another syndicated program, Tales of the Wizard of Oz, going for traditional cel animation to take as much of the original source material as they could and combine it with as much of the 1939 MGM musical as … yeah, I know, I’m repeating myself.
It would be so easy for me to simply play the 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer episode. But you’ll be able to see that on most streaming services, trust me. Instead, how about some deleted scenes and original commercials from the 1964 broadcast?
I have to share this clip from Santa Claus is Coming to Town, apparently it was deleted from the broadcast for one reason or another. So how about we see what we’ve been missing in all the reruns, shall we?
This next Rankin-Bass program was a lost gem from 1972, it was a series based on the newspaper strip Wee Pals, and was rebranded as Kid Power for television.
And with a halfway decent budget and a lot of rotoscoping technology, Rankin-Bass created an excellent animated version of The Lord of the Rings. Trust me. Peter Jackson WISHES he created something like this.
Of course, by the mid-1980’s, what kid didn’t want to be part of Rankin-Bass’ most popular TV series at the time, ThunderCats?
A long and productive life and partnership. Rest in peace, Jules Bass. And thanks for everything. Saturday morning and holiday specials just won’t be the same.