Jules Bass, the animator, producer, director, and composer whose work included stop-motion holiday television specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” died at the age of 87 on Tuesday at an assisted living facility in Rye, New York, publicist Jennifer Fisherman-Ruff confirmed.
The three prominent holiday specials, “Rudolph,” voiced by Burl Ives, “Frosty” starring Jackie Vernon and Jimmy Durante, and “Santa Claus,” voiced by Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney, all debuted during the 1960s and 1970s. In the decades since the specials have become staples of seasonal holiday programming on television.
Bass was known for his longstanding creative partnership with director Arthur Rankin Jr., who died in 2014 at 89. The two pushed many productions through their banner Rankin/Bass Productions, which was known for its laborious cel-animated, stop-motion films that took long periods of time to turn into full-length features.
Bass and Rankin’s first production was a syndicated television series titled “The New Adventures of Pinocchio,” which premiered in 1960. They notched an Emmy nomination for outstanding children’s special for their work on “The Little Drummer Boy Book II” in 1977 and one year later received a Peabody for their animated version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” In 1980, they took on another Tolkien adaptation with “The Return of the King.”
The pair co-directed a film in 1982 titled “The Last Unicorn,” which featured voice roles from talent including Jeff Bridges, Mia Farrow, Angela Lansbury, Alan Arkin, and Robert Klein.
In addition to numerous holiday specials, they served as producers of series including “Thundercats” and “The Jackson 5ive” animated series. Bass also produced and directed the 1967cult favorite “Mad Monster Party?” starring Boris Karloff.
Bass was born in Philadelphia on September 16, 1935, went to New York University for college, and worked at an advertising agency before joining Rankin at Videocraft International, which later became Rankin/Bass Productions. After Bass stepped away from producing and filmmaking in 1987, he went on to write children’s books.
The January death of Bass’ daughter, Jean Nicole Bass, preceded his own. His daughter died at 61 years old.