Rankin Bass Rankin Bass

Jules Bass, prolific producer, director, songwriter, and co-founder of the legendary Rankin/Bass production company, has died at 87.

According to publicist Jennifer Fisherman Ruff, he passed away in an assisted living facility in Rye, New York, on Tuesday.

Bass was born in Philadelphia on September 16, 1935. As a student, he attended New York University before finding work at an advertising agency. He later joined Arthur Rankin Jr., formerly an art director at ABC, to form the company Videocraft International. That outfit would later be renamed Rankin/Bass Productions.

Bass is best known for the work he did with Rankin, who preceded him in death in 2014 at 89. At Rankin/Bass, the two produced and directed dozens of specials, series, and feature films, working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood for nearly three decades.

During a conversation with the Television Academy Foundation in 2005, Rankin explained his working relationship with Bass, and how they managed to complement each other by doing different things.

A partnership comes when two people support each other and complement each other. After a while, we were never seen together because Bass was doing something and I was doing something. I’d be looking at doing production in Tokyo and he’d be recording a soundtrack in New York… If we were together, one of us wasn’t necessary.

The pair’s first production at Videocraft International was the syndicated series The New Adventures of Pinocchio, which aired in 1960. Animation for the series was done in Japan by Tadahito Mochinaga’s MOM Production with Dentsu Studio. With that first series, Rankin/Bass established their signature “Animagic” style of stop-motion animation.

Today, the studio is best remembered for its stop-motion work, especially on holiday classics such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Jack Frost, and Mad Monster Party?, but their impressive catalog also includes numerous enduring titles produced using cel animation as well, including Frosty the Snowman. Decades of kids grew up with Rankin/Bass tv series, whether it was The Tales of the Wizard of Oz in the 1960s, The Jackson 5ive in the 1970s, or Thundercats in the 1980s. The studio also produced theatrical feature films such as The Daydreamer (Bass’ debut feature as a director) and The Last Unicorn.

Although their animated specials are beloved, the two received little critical recognition from their peers, with none of their well known holiday classics being recognized by the Emmy Awards. Rankin/Bass’ The Little Drummer Boy Book II received an Emmy nomination for outstanding children’s special in 1977, and the duo received a Peabody for their animated tv movie The Hobbit in 1978.

In addition to being a prolific producer, Bass was an accomplished songwriter as well. He wrote the lyrics to many songs which featured in Rankin/Bass productions, frequently working with composer Maury Laws. Together, the duo wrote songs that would be performed by the likes of Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Patty Duke, Vincent Price, Phyllis Diller, Boris Karloff, and others.

Rankin/Bass shut down in 1987. Bass moved to France and continued working in the creative arts, writing the children’s book series Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon. He also wrote the book Headhunters, which was adapted as the feature film Monte Carlo in 2011.

Bass was preceded in death by his daughter Jean Nicole Bass, who passed away in January of this year at 61 years old. Information

Pictured at top: Rankin/Bass productions Thundercats, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Jackson 5ive


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