MHS teachers share memories of the Rankin/Bass holiday specials

William Fisher, Online Editor-In-Chief

   In 1964, Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment released their first Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. This stop-motion animated holiday special filled with songs was a huge success and led to the creation of multiple holiday specials throughout the years, mostly stop-motion, which are still wildly popular and hold a special place in many’s hearts.

   “They remind me of my childhood, a simpler time when life was much easier (it is still good now, it was just easier being a kid),” stated Kent Meister, media and internship teacher.

   A list of the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials on IMDb ranked by how much the movie’s page has been clicked in the last week ranks the most popular as Rudolph with Frosty the Snowman, The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, followed in popularity order with the various other Rankin/Bass holiday specials. 

   Meister offers his favorite, “Probably Rudolph it had so many good characters, and great lines.”

   All of the four most popular, other than Frosty, were made using Rankin/Bass’s distinct stop-motion process with their iconic spherical and doll-like puppets (the two remaining puppets of Santa and Rudolph from Rudolph sold for $368,000 in an auction in 2020). The iconic snow in the stop-motions were made using a combination of actual snow and animations of falling snow being projected over the stop-motion. 

   “It (the Rankin/Bass films) also was such a different style than live action. This was long before the days of CGI. It wasn’t live action, it wasn’t traditional animation, which also made it unique to see every year,” stated Meister. 

   Ryan Buck, English teacher, said his favorite is Frosty, a movie his daughters adored so much they play it in his house during the summer.

   “So it [Frosty] was frequently on in our household and we have a dvd set that plays three of them, so it was nice to just be able, every once in a while, not all the time, but every once in a while to just let them [his daughters] go through the cycle of watching Frosty the Snowman, then Rudolph, and then Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, ” said Buck. 

   These films also feature all star voice casts from hit actors of the time such as Fred Astaire and Burl Ives singing fantastic songs. 

   Buck explained what makes these films perfect for a busy Christmas short on time to watch the wide array of holiday films, “They’re short, it’s not a huge investment in terms of time and they’re somewhat easy to make fun of, but for all the right reasons, like in the Frosty movie there’s obvious odd, weird dubbing of the voice overs a couple of times with kids, and the professor is kind of a quirky character who says some weird things, and the rabbit is funny, but I guess wholesome comes to mind.”

   Overall these films carry the spirit of the holiday season and are the perfect fit for a family with young children or for any family wishing to get into the spirit of Christmas.

   Meister said “I think what made these so special is this was before the days of phones, Internet, VCR’s (any way to record or replay) so they came on once a year – and when they did you didn’t want to miss them, and it truly was a special on tv that became a tradition every year not to miss.”