Jules Bass, Rankin/Bass Co-Founder, Has Died

Jules Bass was responsible for stop-motion shows such as the holiday classic ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.’ (Image credit: CBS)

Jules Bass, who founded animation studio Rankin/Bass with Arthur Rankin Jr., died October 25 in Rye, New York. He was 87. Rankin/Bass productions include Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.

Rudolph premiered in 1964. Frosty debuted in 1969. Other Rankin/Bass productions include Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, which came out in 1970, and Jack Frost, which debuted in 1979.

Many Rankin/Bass programs used stop-motion puppet animation, where animators shot thousands of photos of tiny puppets and stitched the photos together. "When run at 24 frames a second, the images generated a whimsical sort of herky-jerky animation that became the Rankin/Bass signature," according to the New York Times.

Bass composed much of the music in Rankin/Bass specials.

He was born in Philadelphia in 1935. He studied marketing at New York University but did not graduate. Bass met Rankin when the two worked for an advertising firm in Manhattan. At another ad firm, Videocraft International, the two produced commercials. Their animated debut was TV series The New Adventures of Pinocchio in 1960.

Other Rankin/Bass productions include The Ballad of Smokey the Bear (1966), King Kong (1966), Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971), The Hobbit (1977) and Thundercats (1987).

The NY Times said the pair's last animated feature film, The Last Unicorn, came out in 1982.

Rankin/Bass was acquired by Lorimar Telepictures in the late '80s. Rankin died in 2014.

Bass also wrote children's books, including Herb the Vegetarian Dragon, and a novel, Headhunters.

Some Rankin/Bass productions remain classics today. CBS airs Frosty November 25 and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer November 29. ■

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.