Arthur Rankin, Jr.

Animation Producer / Director


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his three-and-a-half interview, Arthur Rankin, Jr. (1924-2014) talks about his family's background in vaudeville and his time as a page boy at Radio City Music Hall. He discusses his interest in painting and graphic design that led him to television, where he worked as an art director on several anthology series at ABC. He talks about creating his own company, Videocraft International Ltd., which initially specialized in commercials. He outlines the way the company worked when he teamed up with longtime partner Jules Bass, and the company became Rankin/Bass. He recalls some of the earliest projects of the company that were sold station-to-station and done in both "Animagic" (their stop-motion technique) and traditional cel animation including The New Adventures of Pinocchio, and the landmark special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, now a perennial holiday classic. Rankin discusses the painstaking work involved in creating the stop motion work, describing how the animation was outsourced to Japan. He talks about several longtime company employees as well as some of the famous actors who appeared in the specials including Danny Kaye and James Cagney (lured out of retirement by President Lyndon Johnson for The Ballad of Smokey the Bear). Rankin discusses some of the other timeless holiday favorites of the company including the Christmas-themed Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. He also talks about adapting J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit and The Return of the King. He discusses two music-group based animated series he produced for ABC, under Michael Eisner, The Jackson Five Show and The Osmonds. Rankin talks about some of his later projects including the television movie The Bermuda Depths, the television movie The Sins of Dorian Gray, the feature film The Last Unicorn, the syndicated series Thunderbirds, the feature film The King and I, and the television special Santa, Baby!  B-roll consists of some personal photos as well as production stills found in the book "The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass: A Portfolio by Rick Goldschmidt." Jim Colucci conducted the interview on October 25, 2005 in New York City, NY.

"I'm always pleased by success, and I'm always surprised by it.  Why has 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' been on the air for 42 years? The longest-running, highest-rated film in the history of the medium?  I don't know the answer to that. But over the last few years, I've become very honored by that... I guess that is my legacy. Longevity is the answer for art."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the characters Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the Island of Misfit Toys
Arthur Rankin, Jr. on the process of animagic on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how the models were crafted
Arthur Rankin, Jr. on the message behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animagic 1964 special
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his early family connections to show business; on World War II, and on his first television job at ABC
On doing graphic design for ABC, and on getting into commercials; on the beginnings of Rankin/Bass Productions, and on the creation of "Animagic"; on his partnership with Jules Bass, and on switching from producing commercials to animating network specials

Chapter 2

On visiting Japan animation studios in 1958, and deciding to focus on animation; on creating The New Adventures of Pinocchio; on using the stop-motion technique for The New Adventures of Pinocchio
On critical reaction of The New Adventures of Pinocchio, and on the format of the show; on creating Tales of the Wizard of Oz; on his role in designing the characters and animating the Rankin/Bass shows
On creating the special Return to Oz; on creating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; on working with Burl Ives as "Sam the Snowman" on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Chapter 3

Jr. on the characters Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the Island of Misfit Toys; on the process of animagic on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how the models were crafted
On the music of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; on the cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Jr. on the success and longevity of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
On juggling multiple projects; on producing The Cricket on the Hearth and The Ballad of Smokey the Bear with James Cagney; on The Wacky World of Mother Goose with Margaret Rutherford
On producing The Little Drummer Boy; on producing Frosty the Snowman with Jimmy Durante

Chapter 4

On working on a pilot with Edgar Bergen; on The King Kong Show; on producing The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians
On producing Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney; on producing Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail and The Mouse on the Mayflower; on producing Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters and The Year without a Santa Claus

Chapter 5

on producing First Christmas and The First Easter Rabbit; on adapting The Hobbit for television; on producing Jack Frost with Buddy Hackett
on producing Tomfoolery; on producing Jackson 5ive, and on working with executive Michael Eisner; on producing Festival of Family Classics and Kid Power

Chapter 6

On producing Leprechaun's Christmas Gold, The Coneheads, and The Wind in the Willows; on producing The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
On producing Thundercats; on producing Silverhawks; on producing The Comic Strip, and splitting with Jules Bass
On producing the feature film "The Daydreamer" and other features for Joseph E. Levine; on producing the feature film "Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July"; on producing "The Last Unicorn"

Chapter 7

On producing the feature film "King Kong Escapes," and various other feature films; on producing The Sins of Dorian Gray
On producing the animated feature version of "The King and I"; on producing Santa Baby!; on then-current projects
On advice to aspiring animators; on the then-current state of animation on television; on career highlights and regrets, and on Jules Bass

Chapter 8

On his lea
Shows

Jackson 5ive

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Jackson 5ive, and on working with executive Michael Eisner

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on creating Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Arthur Rankin Jr. on working with Burl Ives as "Sam the Snowman" on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the characters Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer from the Island of Misfit Toys
Arthur Rankin, Jr. on the message behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the animagic 1964 special
Arthur Rankin, Jr. on the process of animagic on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how the models were crafted
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the music of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and conveying emotion with the characters
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the success and longevity of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Topics

Advice

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on advice to aspiring animators

Historic Events and Social Change

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on World War II delaying his career

Television Industry

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on the beginnings of Rankin/Bass Productions, and on the creation of "Animagic"
Arthur Rankin Jr. on visiting Japan animation studios in 1958, and deciding to focus on animation
Arthur Rankin Jr. on juggling multiple projects
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Cricket on the Hearth with Danny Thomas
Arthur Rankin Jr. on advice to aspiring animators
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the then-current state of animation on television

War

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on World War II delaying his career

World War II

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on World War II delaying his career
Professions

Animation Executive

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on casting his animated shows

Animation Professionals

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on casting his animated shows

Animator

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Arthur Rankin, Jr. on the process of animagic on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how the models were crafted
Genres

Children's Programming

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on The King Kong Show
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Tomfoolery
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Jackson 5ive, and on working with executive Michael Eisner
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Festival of Family Classics
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Kid Power
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Thundercats
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Silverhawks

Music Shows & Variety Shows/Specials

View Genre
Arthur Rankin Jr. on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Cricket on the Hearth and The Ballad of Smokey the Bear with James Cagney
Arthur Rankin Jr. on The Wacky World of Mother Goose with Margaret Rutherford
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Little Drummer Boy
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Frosty the Snowman with Jimmy Durante
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Mad, Mad, Mad Comedians
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail and The Mouse on the Mayflower
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Year without a Santa Claus starring Shirley Booth
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing First Christmas, and on getting the rights to White Christmas from Irving Berlin
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The First Easter Rabbit
Arthur Rankin Jr. on adapting The Hobbit for television
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Jack Frost with Buddy Hackett
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Leprechaun's Christmas Gold
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Coneheads
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Wind in the Willows
People

Fred Astaire

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney

Jules Bass

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on his partnership with Jules Bass, and on switching from producing commercials to animating network specials
Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Comic Strip, and splitting with Jules Bass
Arthur Rankin Jr. on the then-current state of Jules Bass

Edgar Bergen

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on working on a pilot with Edgar Bergen

Irving Berlin

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing First Christmas, and on getting the rights to White Christmas from Irving Berlin

Shirley Booth

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Year without a Santa Claus starring Shirley Booth

James Cagney

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing The Cricket on the Hearth and The Ballad of Smokey the Bear with James Cagney

Jimmy Durante

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Frosty the Snowman with Jimmy Durante

Buddy Hackett

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Jack Frost with Buddy Hackett

Mickey Rooney

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Arthur Rankin Jr. on producing Santa Claus is Coming to Town with Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney

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