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Jules Bass, co-creator of TV's 'Rudolph' and 'Frosty the Snowman,' dies at age 87

Jules Bass was the co-creator of the 1969 animated television Christmas special <em>Frosty The Snowman.</em>
CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
Jules Bass was the co-creator of the 1969 animated television Christmas special Frosty The Snowman.

Jules Bass, who helped bring Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman into living rooms across the country during the Christmas season, died Tuesday at the age of 87.

Bass pioneered stop-motion animation with Arthur Rankin Jr. under Rankin/Bass Productions, which formed in 1960. The duo produced 1964's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and 1969's Frosty the Snowman, becoming the creators of other iconic characters like the narrator for Rudolph, Sam the Snowman (voiced by Burl Ives), and the Abominable Snowman.

Rankin/Bass Productions' animation style, called Animagic, used dolls with wire joints and captured their movements one frame at a time, Rankin/Bass historian Rick Goldschmidt told NPR in 2004. The single-frame stop motion process took a painstakingly long time, with a movie that lasted under an hour taking more than a year to animate, he said.

The 47-minute Rudolph TV special, based on Johnny Marks' song, was a result of over a year of shooting, Rankin told The Washington Post in 2004.

"It's not just the technique," he said. "It's the story, the characters, the music. We knew what we needed: warmth."

Two original dolls used in Rudolph, which each cost about $5,000 to make back in 1964, were sold for $368,000 at the Icons and Legends of Hollywood Auction in 2020, a nod to the nostalgia of these holiday films.

Rankin/Bass Productions became the go-to guys for stop motion after the release of Rudolph. Bass helped write the music for 1970's Santa Claus is Comin' To Town and 1974's The Year Without a Santa Claus.

"We had no problem filling our production schedules, our personal lives and our company's ability to produce," Rankin, who died in 2014, said on The Television Archives. "We couldn't produce all the stuff they wanted to buy from us."

Bass and Rankin not only worked on holiday specials but produced other animated series like ThunderCats and The Jackson 5ive. They also created adaptations of novels like J.R.R Tolkien's The Hobbit, for which they received a Peabody award for in 1977, and The Return of the King in 1980.

Bass retired to France where he wrote vegetarian cookbooks for kids and died at an assisted living center in Rye, N.Y.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Ahn
Ashley Ahn is an intern for the Digital News and Graphics desks. She previously covered the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for CNN's health and medical unit and the trial of Ahmaud Arbery's killers for CNN's Atlanta News Bureau. She also wrote pieces for USA TODAY and served as the Executive Editor of her college's student newspaper, The Daily Pennsylvanian. Recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Ahn is pursuing a master's degree in computer science at Columbia University.