Arthur Rankin Jr., animator, director, and producer of perennial television holiday hits like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, has died at the age of 89, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Credited with involvement in over 1,000 television programs, Rankin and his partner Jules Bass (Bass is 78) were pioneers in the field of stop-motion animation at their production company Videocraft International (now called Rankin/Bass Productions). The painstaking process of shooting single cells of objects, which are moved incrementally to create the illusion of motion, allowed them to create classic animated features that also included The Little Drummer Boy (1968) and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town (1970).
Rankin also produced the 1980’s animated series Thundercats, the Jackson 5ive animated series in 1971-72, as well as directing the animated version of The Hobbit (1977) which premiered on NBC.
However, audiences knew Rankin/Bass best for 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which is the longest running Christmas special on television, and Frosty the Snowman, which premiered in 1969. Both shows were re-broadcast by CBS this past December and were the two highest-rated programs of the evening.
Mr. Rankin died Thursday at his home by Harrington Sound in Bermuda, and is survived by his wife Olga and sons Todd and Gardner.