‘Tis The Season For Bermuda’s Rankin

December 2, 2010

A 46-year-old animated special made by Bermudian Arthur Rankin Jr. beat everything on US network television on Tuesday night [Nov 30].-

CBS’ annual telecast of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ attracted an estimated 11.9 million viewers according to Neilsen ratings, topping alll of primetime — including Fox’s phenomenally successful “Glee”. ‘

Tis the season for Rankin/Bass animated seasonal specials — aside from “Rudolph”, Harrington Sound resident Mr. Rankin and American partner Jules Bass also produced such evergreen Christmas-themed shows as “The Little Drummer Boy”, “Frosty The Snowman” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”.

Originally aired on December 6, 1964 on NBC, “Rudolph” was the first Rankin/Bass stop-motion television special — and it remains the longest-running, highest-rated show of its kind in the history of US TV.

Based on the song by Johnny Marks, which was in turn taken from the 1939 poem of the same title written by Marks’ brother-in-law, Robert L. May, the special aired eight times on NBC. Since 1972, “Rudolph” has been a mainstay of CBS’ holiday programming.

It is one of four 1960s animated Christmas specials still being regularly telecast (the others being “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and Rankin/Bass’ own “Frosty”).

Mr. Rankin, a writer, director and producer, branched out from animation into live action films and TV productions in the 1970s. Among his many other credits are two made-for-TV movies shot largely in Bermuda — the haunting cult classic “Bermuda Depths” (1978), which starred “Rudolph” narrator Burl Ives and Carl Weathers, and “The Ivory Ape” (1980).

“I like to work close to home,” Mr. Rankin joking responded when asked why he went to the trouble and expense of shooting the ABC TV films on location in Bermuda.

Now retired from filmmaking, in recent years Mr. Rankin has lectured on the entertainment industry at the Bermuda College and directed two plays which were staged at City Hall. He is married to Olga Rankin, who at the age of 65 recently became the oldest newly qualified lawyer called to the Bermuda Bar.

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Comments (7)

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  1. Subha Chelvam says:

    I’ve loved all of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials since I was a little girl and still look forward to them every year. I had no idea Mr. Rankin lived in Bermuda…! What lectures did he give at the college? I would love to talk to him about his work– what a lasting vision!

    • bernews says:

      Mr. Rankin gave a series of courses entitled “Showbiz” in the late 1990s at the Bermuda College. He touched on not just the creative aspects of filmmaking — directing, screenwriting, cinematography and so on — but also the corporate side of the entertainment industry.

    • Timothy Hickey says:

      I agree with you 100% Subha…I bow to master Rankin!!

    • jcarlington says:

      Mr. Rankin is a very down to earth and generous person. I use to visit him at his home on Harrington Sound Rd. but he was often out or off island.

  2. DARRIN DIZZLE says:

    One of my favorites. I never knew he was Bermudian! Wow.

  3. Taurus says:

    Rankin-Bass Christmas cartoons have always been my favourites.I read many years ago that Mr. Rankin was Bermudian. Really great work!! He did Bermuda proud!!

  4. Allan G says:

    So cool that he is Bermudian! I’m just flabbergasted that history like this is not passed on to the Bermudian populace…things like this will surely promote more pride in our communities. Small things like these plant trees that allow children to aspire and work towards. Thanks Bernews for giving us some cultural heritage during this festive season…please continue to do this for future!