Co-Creator of Beloved Holiday Specials Dies at 87

Jules Bass brought 'Frosty' to life
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 28, 2022 12:00 PM CDT
Co-Creator of Beloved Holiday Specials Dies at 87
A frame from 1964's 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'   (Wikipedia/Public domain)

Jules Bass, co-creator of some of the most beloved Christmas specials in history, has died at age 87. Bass, described by Variety as an "animator, producer, director, and composer," worked with Arthur Rankin Jr. on holiday specials including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town. Bass, who was born in Philadelphia in 1935, worked in advertising before teaming up with his friend Rankin to form Videocraft International, which later became Rankin/Bass productions. Rick Goldschmidt, the firm's official historian, says Rankin/Bass became known for its painstaking work in stop-motion animation, NPR reports. The 47-minute Rudolph special in 1964 took a year to produce, he says.

Goldschmidt says for holiday specials, composer Maury Laws usually "wrote the music and Jules would write the lyrics, which would typically move the plot along," though Bass also wrote the music in some productions. Rankin/Bass produced dozens of specials, most of them holiday-themed, along with animated movies including 1977's The Hobbit, a Peabody Award-winning adaptation of the Tolkien book, and 1982's widely acclaimed The Last Unicorn. Bass and Rankin also created animated series including Thundercats.

Bass stepped away from producing and filmmaking in 1987 and moved to France, where he wrote children's books including Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon. He also wrote the adult novel Headhunters, which was published in 2001 and became the movie Monte Carlo, starring Selena Gomez, in 2011, the Washington Post reports. Publicist Jennifer Fisherman says Bass died Tuesday at an assisted living facility in Rye, New York. His only child, daughter Jean Nicole Bass, died at 61 earlier this year. (Read more obituary stories.)

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