Like most of us in the US, I grew up watching Rudolph and Frosty on television at Christmas every year. I was always more fascinated by Frosty and the other traditionally animated specials they did. During the horrible dry spell of quality animation during the 80’s those specials were a treat for me. Of course I later learned they were animated in Japan and some of those guys went to work for Studio Ghibli, but at the time they were an oddity for me. The designs were wonderful and the animation was everything I could have hoped for. I had to have more.
It was right about that time that I was introduced to the Rankin/Bass version of “The Hobbit” and then “The Last Unicorn”. Both were beautifully animated and an absolute treat to a kid like me. I could even sit through the songs in The Hobbit and if you know me that’s saying something. I think what finally cemented me as a fan was “The Flight of Dragons”.
It came on very unexpectedly on our local Fox affiliate one Sunday afternoon and I caught it right at the beginning. I sat there for the next two hours mesmerized and I can’t help but think it may have influenced Errant Apprentice in some way. The only problem is I’ve only ever seen it the once.
After that I’d watch anything they put out. Thundercats was a no brainer. Silverhawks? Yep. I was there (man, I hate admitting that one). I think what finally turned me against them in my youth though was “The Comic Strip”. Or more specifically, Tiger Sharks.
I don’t know what it was, but when Tiger Sharks came out I was ready to call shenanigans on the gimmick. Ok. I get it. You can milk animal people for kids’ money. Thank you. Can we get back to something good? Apparently not it seemed. The Comic Strip was the last produced work from Rankin/Bass until 2001’s ill received “Santa, Baby” and a year later the company folded.
So what are we left with? Sure there’s the nostalgia wave bringing us memories of their 80’s series and the fondness for their unending holiday specials, but let’s not forget the finer things that Rankin/Bass produced that helped to inspire some of us to create our own fantasies and our own worlds.
Thank you Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass from the bottom of my heart.
For more information on Rankin/Bass you can see their Wikipedia article here.