No, it’s not Christmas again. I saw in the paper this morning that Arthur Rankin, Jr. passed away yesterday at 89. I’ll confess that I didn’t know he was even still alive. I never did much research on the man who helped create some of the most enduring animated Christmas specials ever, and who helped make my childhood (and adulthood) just a little bit happier.
The stop-motion style that Rankin and partner Jules Bass used for many of their cartoons was called animagic, and it sure seemed like magic to the five-year-old me. It was enchanting, made even more so by his use of articulated dolls and puppets instead of paper cut-outs or clay. Sure, it looks kind of cheesy by CGI standards, but felt and googly eyes were used quite effectively, I think. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is still one of the most popular Christmas cartoons around, some 50 years after it was made. There’s something to be said for keeping the story simple, having good characters, and catchy music. Rankin and Bass knew what they were doing.