Friday, February 7, 2014

Childhood Memories Revisited

I was looking at the news yesterday and came across a headline about the death of Arthur Rankin Jr, 89 years old, on January 30th. It took me a while to figure out where I heard that name before, so I typed it into Google and I realized that this was the man (and his partner Jules Bass) responsible for the creation of one my greatest childhood memories: the stop-motion animation of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer."

For those of you who might not know what this is (shame on you!) here is a snippet:

Now that brings back some great memories of snowy days, christmas trees, and hot chocolate. I absolutely love this song. I was the type of child who went on movie sprees, not with different movies, but with just a single movie watched about twenty times over three days or more. It drove my brothers crazy. This specific movie was one that kept me entertained for a long, long time. It first aired in 1964 and I was born in the 1990s, so this just goes to show how successful this stop-motion animation was. It was sad to hear how one of its creators has passed on.

Arthur Rankin Jr. was also responsible for films like "Frosty the Snowman" (another personal favorite) and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." 

Rankin-Bass productions also produced hand-drawn animation, but was best known for a stop-motion animation technique called Animagic, which used small, wire jointed dolls instead of clay (see Los Angeles Times article reference HERE). In this article, it quotes Rick Goldschmidt, who wrote about the history of Rankin-Bass Productions, who states that Arthur Rankin was "... a great influence on the Tim Burton films and even more so on Pixar." This history of animation, from where it started to where it is today, is incredible to discover. It has come so far in so short a time and yet, even the old styles of animation are still admired and loved today. "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is just one example. Other examples are squeezed into my movie cabinet on VHS. Disney created stories in a very different way for animation, as we saw in class with the video on the animation of "Bambi." This is so different from live action films, where the older they are, they are sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes less enjoyable because we are so used to the technology we have now. Yet, animation has never (at least in my personal opinion) experienced that problem. The characters that are created are unique, unforgettable, and lovable to the point where students in college still talk about them or go to the movie theatre to see them.

It is amazing to learn new aspects or details on things that you cherished in your childhood. These films were classics that inspired and warmed your heart to watch. This style of animation is rarely seen anymore, and no wonder since it takes a really long time to film stop-motion animation. Yet, the stories Rankin-Bass Productions told and brought to life visually are ones that will continue to be passed down through generations. 

By Amber Capogrossi

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