"I'm always pleased by success, and I'm always surprised by it. Why has 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' been on the air for 42 years? The longest-running, highest-rated film in the history of the medium? I don't know the answer to that. But over the last few years, I've become very honored by that... I guess that is my legacy. Longevity is the answer for art."
About This Interview
In his three-and-a-half interview, Arthur Rankin, Jr. talks about his family's background in vaudeville and his time as a page boy at Radio City Music Hall. He discusses his interest in painting and graphic design that led him to television, where he worked as an art director on several anthology series at ABC. He talks about creating his own company, Videocraft International Ltd., which initially specialized in commercials. He outlines the way the company worked when he teamed up with longtime partner Jules Bass, and the company became Rankin/Bass. He recalls some of the earliest projects of the company that were sold station-to-station and done in both "Animagic" (their stop-motion technique) and traditional cel animation including The New Adventures of Pinocchio, and the landmark special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, now a perennial holiday classic. Rankin discusses the painstaking work involved in creating the stop motion work, describing how the animation was outsourced to Japan. He talks about several longtime company employees as well as some of the famous actors who appeared in the specials including Danny Kaye and James Cagney (lured out of retirement by President Lyndon Johnson for The Ballad of Smokey the Bear). Rankin discusses some of the other timeless holiday favorites of the company including the Christmas-themed Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, and The Year Without a Santa Claus. He also talks about adapting J.R.R. Tolkein's The Hobbit and The Return of the King. He discusses two music-group based animated series he produced for ABC, under Michael Eisner, The Jackson Five Show and The Osmonds. Rankin talks about some of his later projects including the television movie The Bermuda Depths, the television movie The Sins of Dorian Gray, the feature film The Last Unicorn, the syndicated series Thunderbirds, the feature film The King and I, and the television special Santa, Baby! B-roll consists of some personal photos as well as production stills found in the book "The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass: A Portfolio by Rick Goldschmidt." Jim Colucci conducted the interview on October 25, 2005 in New York City, NY.