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Creator / Rankin/Bass Productions
aka: Rankin Bass

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If you're an American and have had a childhood since the 1960s, you know Rankin/Bass Productions.

Founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass in 1960 as Videocraft International, the New York City-based company is responsible for a series of (usually) Stop Motion puppet animated (called "Animagic") holiday specials that are virtual fixtures of seasonal television programming. Works such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, Frosty the Snowman and Here Comes Peter Cottontail have been airing more or less annually since the early 1960s, when they were first produced. Many subsequent holiday specials produced by other companies will contain salutes to these shows.

The general formula of these holiday specials was to take one or more classic holiday songs and to build a script (usually by staff writer Romeo Muller) around the music, featuring a celebrity narrator as an Ink-Suit Actor in the story and interspersing it with original songs with music by Maury Laws and lyrics by co-producer/co-director Jules Bass. Very likely a majority of the characters was voiced by Paul Frees.


Rankin/Bass also produced non-holiday Animated Shows. Best known is probably ThunderCats (1985); its other series included Tales from the Wizard of Oz, The King Kong Show, The Jackson 5ive and The Osmonds. The popularity of ThunderCats resulted in two follow-up series, SilverHawks and TigerSharks (the third appearing along with three other shows as The Comic Strip). By the time of ThunderCats, the studios were now owned by Lorimar-Telepictures; Telepictures had acquired the studio in 1983 after distributing their post-1974note  library from Telepictures' founding in 1978. Warner Bros. now owns the rights to those programs, having acquired L-T in 1989.


Its most ambitious projects were animated adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkien's books, with The Hobbit and The Return of the King. (Not to be confused with Ralph Bakshi's ill-fated attempt, which bridged the series.). Along with The Last Unicorn and The Flight of Dragons, these films were the first major U.S.-Japanese animation production crossovers. The co-producing Japanese company was known as Topcraft and soon after, they went on to form the company Studio Ghibli.

Although Rankin-Bass shut down in 1987, the company still manages its trademarks. In 2001, it released its latest holiday project, Santa, Baby!, which featured a mostly black cast. The duo also had a part in the ThunderCats Continuity Reboot. Nonetheless, Rankin/Bass will forever be remembered for virtually defining the concept of specialized holiday programming.

Arthur Rankin Jr. passed away from an illness on January 30, 2014.

Shows Produced or Distributed by Rankin/Bass

TV Specials (with Narrator)

TV Series


  • Return to Oz (TV; no relation to Disney's 1985 live-action film) (1964)
  • Willy McBean and his Magic Machine (1965)
  • The Daydreamer (1966)
  • Wacky World of Mother Goose (1966)
  • Mad Monster Party (1967)
  • King Kong Escapes (1968)
  • The Red Baron (TV) (1972)
  • Willie Mays and the Say-Hey Kid (TV) (1972)
  • Mad, Mad, Mad Monsters (TV) (1972)
  • That Girl in Wonderland (TV) (1974)
  • Marco (Live Action) (1973)
  • The Last Dinosaur (live action) (1976)
  • The Hobbit (TV) (1977) (produced with Japanese studio Topcraft)
  • The Bermuda Depths (live action) (1977) — In which Burl Ives is eaten by a giant turtle
  • The Bushido Blade (live action) (1979)
  • The Return of the King (TV) (1980) (produced with Japanese studio Topcraft)
  • The Ivory Ape (live action) (1980)
  • The Last Unicorn (1982) (produced with Japanese studio Topcraft)
  • The Sins of Dorian Gray (live action) (1983)
  • The Flight of Dragons (TV) (1986) (produced with Japanese studio Topcraft)
  • The Wind in the Willows (1985) (TV) (1985) note  (produced with Taiwanese studio Cuckoo's Nest Studio)
  • The King and I (1999) (with Morgan Creek Productions and Nest Family Entertainment)

Rankin-Bass Productions provides examples of:

Alternative Title(s): Rankin Bass


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