Jules Bass, Animator and Director of Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman, Dead at 87

Jules Bass, one half of the iconic animation team known as Rankin/Bass, has passed away according to his publicist. Variety brings word of his death confirming that Bass died Tuesday in Rye, New York at the age of 87. No cause of death was given. Together with his partner Arthur Rankin Jr., who passed away back in 2014, the team created some of the most iconic holiday specials of all time with their stop-motion animated films including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town, and more. Bass was preceded in death by his daughter.

The animated duo of Rankin/Bass began in commercials, bringing their stop-motion talents into selling products, before transitioning into original programming. Among their earliest was The New Adventures of Pinocchio in the early 1980s, arriving a few years before they would change holiday traditions for the rest of time. Their first Christmas special was Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which premiered in 1964 and continues to air on television syndication today. Bass produced the special and would continue to shepherd their holiday specials together for the next two decades. After Rudolph, The Little Drummer Boy would be released in 1968 with Frosty the Snowman in 1969 and Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town in 1970.

"The song ("Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town") was very popular and certainly we had that in the show," Bass previously told The Television Academy about the Fred Astaire-starring special. "We invented a situation where he was a young Santa Claus and we followed him in his through his maturity and how he began to make toys and give them out and finally became the Santa Claus that we know. But we had him in, he was unrecognizable as as a young person and then eventually he grew the beard but it was a he was a redhead."

The success of their key Holiday specials would inspire sequels to be made as well with Rudolph's Shiny New Year arriving in 1976 and Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July in 1979. Rankin/Bass would also dabble in other holidays with the production of The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town, Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, and another fan-favorite, The Year Without a Santa Claus.

As a producer Bass was also involved in some traditional hand-animation projects as well, most notably the animated adaptation of The Hobbit which he co-directed with Arthur Rankin Jr. They also collaborated on the animated The Return of the King adaptation, the rights to the first three Tolkien novels having been split with Ralph Bakshi directing the animated The Lord of the Rings without Rankin and Bass.

Bass and his partner may be best known to some for their contributions to the Christmas season, but he would also dabble in the spookier side of things, producing the iconic Mad Monster Party, a Halloween staple for many. He would also serve as an executive producer on Thundercats among other projects.