Arthur Gardner Rankin, Jr. has passed away at 89. He was an American director, producer and writer, who mostly worked in animation. A founding partner of Rankin/Bass Productions- with Jules Bass– he gained fame with such stop-action animation features as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and the 1977 cartoon animation of The Hobbit.
He is credited on over 1,000 television programs. He spent most of his professional life involved in animation in addition to numerous live-action productions. He started out in the entertainment business as an art director at ABC in the late 1940s. In the early 1960s, Rankin partnered with Jules Bass to found the film production company Videocraft International– later called Rankin/Bass Productions. Their first production was the syndicated TV series The New Adventures of Pinocchio, which ran 130 episodes in 1960.
Rankin/Bass Productions became known for their stop-motion animated specials, such as the perennial Christmastime favorite Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer and the follow ups Frosty The Snowman and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. To keep Halloween in the mix, the company also produced Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters and Mad Monster Party.
The 1970’s saw a slew of animated series such as The Osmonds and Jackson 5ive. While conceived and written in the U.S., Rankin/Bass productions were made in Japan; stop-motion by Japanese animator Tadahito Mochinaga and cel animation varying between Crawley Films, Tôei Company and Mushi Productions.
A native of New York City, Rankin was the son of actors Arthur Rankin and Marian Manfield, and his grandfather was Harry Davenport, who played Dr. Meade in Gone With the Wind. Rankin died Thursday at his home by Harrington Sound in Bermuda. He is survived by his wife Olga and sons Todd and Gardner.