MK Rewind:: A Very Rankin Bass Christmas

Believe it or not, these two guys had one of the biggest impacts on our childhood holiday memories.

Meet Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass, the mastermind behind some of your favorite Christmas moments in front of the TV. These two gents bought us such delightful characters as:

I loves me some Yukon Cornelius!  My friend Jen and I joked that he was the uber cartoon dream husband.  Knew the importance of gold/silver for jewelry and was kind to animals. I loved his little team of mismatched doggies too!

And don’t forget about the most dapper snowman around!

Remember skinny Santa? EAT, PAPA, EAT!

I don’t know about you, but I was really frightened of the Abominable Snowman as a kid! That was some scary stuff to a five year old!

I so would have taken every toy on that island! A dolly for Suzy just broke my heart every time I saw her!

Oh, Hermie!  You made me actually want to go to the dentist! And of course RUDOLF!

I know not everyone is into letting their kids watch TV, but personally, I don’t consider Rankin Bass Christmas specials to be TV as much as an irresistible holiday memory in the making. Right up there with watching the Nutcracker or making Christmas cookies.

Arthur Rankin and his buddy Jules Bass came up with this wonderful animation technique they called “animagic” which included stop animation with these sassy dolls combined with cel animation for special backdrops like snowflakes.  He optimistically called his new animation technique “Animagic”. And it was more than enough to turn a Christmas novelty song and a felt-covered, lightbulb-nosed reindeer puppet into the most amazing hour on TV in December.

“Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”, the flagship Rankin/Bass production, remains the longest-running, highest-rated special ever aired on US network television. The special has appeared on one of the broadcast networks every year since its debut on NBC’s “General Electric Fantasy Hour” in 1964, routinely landing near the top of the Nielsen Ratings Top 10 — a feat unparalleled in television history.

Oh, I forgot one other thing that made “animagic” so, well, magical! Not pixie dust. Just hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and hours of work slowly shifting the dolls around to make them move. Oof!

But the Rankin/Bass production team loved it and did it again and again to bring us such holiday characters as:

Seriously, have you watched this recently? Get ready to cry…

Clearly, they needed to get more use out of those desert backgrounds and came up with Nestor.  I love this little guy! what pluck. Again, sad at the beginning, but still so good!

I loved this little big eared and big hearted little baby! One of my favorites.

You already saw skinny Santa, but what about young Santa?

And of course these two brothers…

Of course Rank Bass Productions holiday specials are just the tippy tip tip of their wonderful work (hello Mad Monster Party…) but if you’d like more information, I highly suggest you check out Rick Goldschmidt’s amazing blog. He has a wonderful collection of images and literally wrote the book on Rankin Bass. And if you still want to see more Christmas specials inspired by Rankin Bass, check out this cool site dedicated to the best holiday specials out there.

Did you watch any Rankin Bass Christmas specials this year?


11 thoughts on “MK Rewind:: A Very Rankin Bass Christmas

  1. We were watching “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and I remarked that my sister and I had massive crushes on Kris Kringle. My husband and his friend thought that was hilarious until Jessica came onscreen, and then they totally got it.

    1. Young Kris was a cutie….I love Dottie’s comment about Yukon Cornelious being the perfect hubby. Eric is workin’ a little Yukon style beard, I think you got your man Dottie!!! 😉

  2. I LOVE those Rankin Bass specials. My sister and I would obsessively scan the TV guide at every holiday in hopes that there would be one for that holiday. It didn’t matter how small the holiday was. Flag Day? Sure, that seemed worthy of some fanciful puppets singing and song to jerky dance moves. Now, through the magic of DVDs (and being an adult with an income) I’ve been collecting these over the years. I still don’t have all of them, but I think I’ll be adding Nestor the Christmas Donkey to it now. I forgot about that one!

    And what about the weird one where Santa dies? (I didn’t imagine that, did I?) I think there really is one where Santa is old and dying and all the nature sprites get together and tell his story and make him immortal. It’s the one with the Great Ak. It’s kind of weird and depressing if I remember correctly. It was kind of like the children’s version of “The Day After.”

        1. Oh, yeah! That is the one where they talk about the history of Santa Claus! It is the one where I took the image of the “whaler Santa” above. Oh yeah–and that great song my friend and I always sing, “Put one foot in front of the other…” Classic!

Leave a Reply