Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass: how lively Christmas is – La Tercera

For the Chilean children of the eighties, Christmas was gradually installed in the environment for the decorated windows, the natural pines for sale in the streets, and the traditional notice of a multi-store wishing “Happy Easter to all”. The climax occurred when the television programmed the animated stories “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (1964), “The Little Drummer” (1968), “Frosty the Snowman” (1969), “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” (1970), and “That year without Santa Claus” (1974).

The plot of the latter was particularly dynamic and emotional. A cold and general ailments attack Santa, weeks before the holiday. Influenced by the advice of an embittered doctor, who insists on the supposed irrelevance of the party, Santa decides not to work on Christmas Eve. His wife tries to convince him otherwise without success, so he hatches a plan. He summons the elves Casca and Bel to find evidence of the popular affection for the celebration, who set off on a journey with the little flying reindeer Vixen.

The first inquiries of the elves are a failure. In the town of Southtown, the children say they don’t believe in Santa Claus, while Vixen goes to a kennel. The mayor of the hot town conditions his freedom, in exchange for snow falling at Christmas. Mrs. Claus intercedes with Mother Nature for the required snowfall, while children from all over the world send letters to Santa, lamenting the possibility of a Christmas without her. Santa reconsiders, resumes the party with energy, and red bunting.

All these productions had one characteristic in common: they were developed with the stop motion technique, using small dolls between 10 and 20 centimeters.made of wood, wire and wool, filmed at 24 frames per second, to achieve the sensation of movement.

Each of these animated stories were produced and directed by a pair of artists whose names have become synonymous with Christmas: Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass.

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Their work not only made several thousands of children’s festivities memorable, but also inspired part of the creativity of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the filmmakers of South Park. In Chile, Pedro Peirano de 31 minutesHe is a declared fan.

Born in Manhattan on July 19, 1924, Arthur Rankin Jr. grew up in a family devoted to entertainment, particularly theater and film, with his grandfather Harry Davenport integrating the cast of the classic gone With the Wind (1939).

Jules Bass came into the world on September 16, 1935 in Philadelphia, coming from a working-class background. His father sold beer and his mother was a housewife. He studied marketing at New York University between 1952 and 1954, without finishing his degree. He met Arthur Rankin in 1955 at the Big Apple advertising agency Gardner Advertising. Rankin was an art director, while Bass was a writer. They produced advertisements for companies like General Electric, resorting sporadically to animation.

Bored with advertising campaigns, they founded Videocraft International on September 14, 1960, determined to work with a technique they dubbed “animagic”, synonymous with stop motion, whose roots date back to the mid-19th century.and used for the first time in the cinema in 1906. They debuted with the television series The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1960), followed by Tales from the Wizard of Oz (1961).

Rankin and Bass resorted to the services of the Japanese artist Tadahito Mochinaga (Tad Mochinaga in the credits), who had been working on animations since the 1940s, when the eastern country was involved in World War II, as part of the Axis forces alongside Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

Mochinaga had made the special effects for a propaganda film about the attack on Pearl Harbor, which unleashed the entry of the United States into the conflict, making it a mandatory piece for students.

That fact caused remorse in the Japanese, determined to direct his career towards other paths

“I heard that many young people volunteered for the aviation corps,” he recounted, “(…) I wonder if the film we made influenced their decision to volunteer… I thought that in the future I just wanted to do a film that would benefit young people, difficult as it was.”

The hazards after the planetary conflict led Mochinaga to work in China, where he developed stop motion driven by deficiencies. He was commissioned a doctrinaire film based on a comic. Since he did not have enough film, he decided to work with frame-by-frame puppets. It was a success.

Rankin and Bass separated their duties, although both were credited as writers and directors. The first was dedicated to supervising animation from Japan together with Mochinaga at the famous Toei studios, where classics such as Mazinger Z, Dragon Ball, La Bruja Sally, Sailor Moon Y the transformersamong others.

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For his part, Bass was responsible for musical supervision.writing the lyrics to the songs that were regularly interspersed in the stories, together with the composer Maury Laws, whose extensive curriculum includes the music of the unforgettable and tear-jerking Framework (1973), and The Muppet Show.

Arthur Rankin was also in charge of executive production. He was responsible for the schedule, and he sold the animated stories to the big television networks.

“After a while, we were never seen together,” Rankin revealed in 2003. “I was doing the production in Tokyo, and he was shooting a soundtrack in New York.”

“If we were together,” he said, “one of the two was not necessary.”

They weren’t particularly talkative with the press. Around 1982 they gave an interview to The New York Times about the animated film The last unicornwith the voices of Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin and Robert Klein, described by the media as “an unusual children’s film in many ways, the main one being that it is unusually good.”

“Anything he can do,” Rankin replied of who had contributed the most to the job, “I can do better.”

“He didn’t work a single day on the movie,” Bass replied. “I did it all.”

The Videocraft name only lasted for a while, until it was renamed Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment, also dabbling in traditional cartoons. They reaped great success with unforgettable series for children’s generations of the 70s and 80s such as The Fumarole Bear (1966), The Crazy Dragon and the incredible Mr. Toad (1970) and jackson 5ive (1971), which UCV Televisión -the defunct channel 4 of Valparaíso- religiously programmed.

The swan song for Rankin and Bass, a loud farewell by the way, was thundercats (1987).

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The company was acquired by Lorimar in the late 1980s, and this is how the creative couple ended their partnership.

The last work of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass, Santa, Baby! (2001), featured the voices of Gregory Hines, Patti LaBelle, and Vanessa Williams.

Jules Bass wrote three children’s books and one novel for adults, Headhunters (2001), about four women from New Jersey who travel to Monte Carlo pretending to be millionaires. It was adapted for the cinema in 2011 under the title Princess by accident in Latin America, with Selena Gomez in the lead role.

Arthur Rankin passed away on January 30, 2014 at the age of 89 in Bermuda. Jules Bass died on October 25 at the age of 87, in a retirement home in New York.

“They are the fabric of our Christmas home, the kindling of the Christmas fire,” said former CBS marketing chief George Schweitzer.

“You knew Christmas was coming when Rudolph and Frosty appeared on CBS.”

We wish to thank the writer of this short article for this remarkable material

Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass: how lively Christmas is – La Tercera

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