Farewell, Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Arthur Rankin, Jr., July 19, 1924 – January 30, 2014. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

On Thursday, January 30, Arthur Rankin, Jr., half of the legendary Rankin/Bass animation production team, died at age 89 at his home in Bermuda.

The stop-motion television special that put Rankin/Bass on the map, of course, is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – which will see its 50th Christmas this year. In the subsequent decades, Rankin and his production partner, Jules Bass, created dozens of a stop-motion and traditionally-animated features and TV specials, including several notable science fiction and fantasy productions.

Among these were the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit and its 1980 follow-up, The Return of the King; 1982’s adaptation of Peter S. Beagle’s classic, The Last Unicorn, the ThunderCats and SilverHawks 1980s cartoon series, and the 1977 made-for-TV B-movie The Last Dinosaur.

Bilbo Baggins meets Gollum. Image copyright 1977 Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. and Warner Home Video.
Bilbo Baggins meets Gollum. Image copyright 1977 Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. and Warner Home Video.

Rankin/Bass was probably the first TV and movie production company I recognized by name, and I quickly came to associate it with special, fun shows that often meant getting to watch a little extra television or stay up late on a school night. And thanks to Rankin and Bass’ success, I eventually got to share those experiences with my own child.

I have little doubt that Arthur Rankin’s life’s work has a few more generations to go.

Writer John Booth lives in northeast Ohio with his wife and daughter. He is the author of the book "Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek – The First 30 Years."