Natalie Ruddy ’15
At some point in our lives we’ve all watched a Christmas special, whether it be Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman, or The Year Without Santa Claus.
Interestingly all of these, and other classic Christmas specials, were created by the same animation company. Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass founded Rankin/Bass Productions in the early 1960s. Their early projects were children’s television series based on pre-established storybook characters, the first show being based on the character Pinocchio and the second on characters from the Wizard of Oz. Their first Christmas special was the beloved Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1964. Due to the success of Rudolph, Rankin/Bass continued to create Christmas specials, making The Cricket on the Hearth in 1967 and The Little Drummer Boy in 1968. In 1987 Rankin/Bass shut down, though they did team up with Morgan Creek Productions and Nest Entertainment in 1999 to create the Swan Princess movie trilogy.
In retrospect, the cartoons are all a bit cheesy. However, they remind us of all of our prior Christmases and the fun we had. Not to mention the stories are classic, with perfect, easy songs to go with almost every cartoon. Even if you’re not a fan of any of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials, you have to concede that there’s nostalgia to their cartoons. Perhaps it’s because they’ve become a symbol of the holiday season, only airing on television when Christmastime approaches. One student said that the cartoons are a “requirement of Christmas.” This appears to be true, since family channels like ABC show nothing but these, and many other, holiday specials during the Christmas season.
Besides Christmas specials, Rankin/Bass has created many other holiday specials. Rankin/Bass created the Peter Cottontail cartoons and Mouse on the Mayflower. The company has also made its fair share of feature films as well. Their most well-known films are The Last Unicorn and a series of animated movies based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. Though the company only lasted for 27 years, their legacy of holiday cheer will surly last for years and years to come.