Archive for the Rankin/Bass Category

My pitch for a new Rankin-Bass Christmas special

Posted in Christmas, holiday, pop culture, Rankin/Bass, Santa Claus, TV shows with tags , , , , on December 19, 2012 by Paxton

Last week I talked about the Rankin-Bass Santa Claus Trilogy and how those specials are probably my favorite of all the Christmas specials. On Tuesday, the Nerd Lunch podcast cobbled together ideas to create our own Christmas special. However, in preparing for that podcast and picking the characters and plot points I sort of created my own pitch/idea for a fourth Rankin-Bass Santa Claus special to act as a semi-sequel to the Santa Claus Trilogy.

So check out that Santa Claus Trilogy article for a refresher on the first three specials and sit back and let me tell you about my proposed fourth Rankin-Bass Santa Claus special.

It’s many years after the events of A Miser Brothers Christmas.  The elves are working in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole late in the night.  Tinsel, Santa’s head inventor/technician, is working on some advancements to the workshop’s magical systems.  All of a sudden, there’s an explosion in the Workshop and a terrifying man-beast appears in a magical swirl of smoke and sparks.  He roars, “I’M FREE!” and vanishes out of the ruins of the workshop leaving Tinsel staring at the empty spot wondering what just happened.

santa_and_mrs_claus

Tinsel immediately reports what happened to Santa who is equally as baffled as the elf.  Santa consults Winter the wizard about the strange events and Winter’s face falls and he whispers one word.  “Krampus.”

krampus1

Santa asks Winter, “What is a Krampus?”  Winter explains to Santa and the elf that Krampus is a malevolent being that thrives on making people feel sad and miserable.  “He hates Christmas.”, Winter explains, “And he hates you, Santa.”

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Nerd Lunch Episode 66: Creating the ultimate Christmas special

Posted in Christmas, holiday, podcast, pop culture, Rankin/Bass, Santa Claus with tags , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by Paxton

Nerd Lunch Podcast

Episode 66 of the Nerd Lunch Podcast has stuffed itself down your chimney and is sitting in your stocking. Waiting.

This week we are joined by Mr Michael Digiovanni from The Atomic Geeks for a discussion about Christimas Specials.  Except we aren’t going to actually discuss the specials themselves, we are going to take our favorite characters from our favorite specials and start creating our own Nerd Lunch Christmas special.

Rankin Bass characters
Via RankinBass.com

We each pick a hero, a villain, some henchman, a narrator and a specific plot device (MacGuffin). Then we all talk about and pick the ones we like best and “Frankenstein” those ideas up into our very own Christmas special.  And it turns out pretty f**king awesome.  Give it a listen and see if you don’t agree.

Download this episode from iTunes or listen to it on Feedburner.

A look at Rankin-Bass’ Santa Claus Trilogy

Posted in Christmas, holiday, nostalgia, Rankin/Bass, Santa Claus, TV shows with tags , , , on December 13, 2012 by Paxton

It’s Christmas time. Time to start watching all of my favorite Christmas movies (A Christmas Story, Elf, White Christmas) and Christmas specials (Rankin-Bass, Mickey’s Christmas Carol).  Probably my most favorite things to watch this time of year are the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials from the ’70s. More specifically, I love to watch the specials informally called (mostly by me) the Santa Claus Trilogy.  This trilogy tells the origins of Santa Claus and his adventures in delivering toys.  The main character is Santa and he’s voiced by Mickey Rooney in all three specials.

The three specials that make up this loose “Santa Claus Trilogy” are:

Santa Claus is Comin to Town
Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) – Narrator SD “Special Delivery” Kluger answers questions about the early adventures of Santa Claus.  We see a young Kris Kringle clash with Burgermeister Meisterburger, win over the evil Winter Warlock and start delivering toys to good little boys and girls.  This special is great because we actually get to see the origins of Santa Claus and how he came to be, including many of the traditions of Christmas like hanging stockings and Santa coming down the chimney.  It’s very well done and the music is awesome.  Some of the great characters include Kris Kringle/Santa, the Winter Warlock who I feel should have been used more, especially in the followup specials, and, of course, the awesomely bad Burgermeister Meisterburger.  You just can’t do it much better than Rankin-Bass did it in Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.  But you can do it worse.  Check out this stop motion music video of Justin Bieber singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town featuring characters from the special.  Awful.  Just, awful.

The Year Without a Santa Claus
The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) – Santa has been doing his job for a long time.  He wakes up with a cold and starts to complain that no one has the Christmas spirit anymore.  So, Santa just decides to quit.  It’s up to elves Jingle and Jangle and the reindeer Vixen to find people that still care about Christmas, all while trying to avoid the quarreling Miser Brothers.  Here we get even more great songs and characters, most especially we are introduced to Heat and Snow, the infamous Miser Brothers.  Their quarreling and antics are the highlight of the special.  I’m still not sure why Winter Warlock did not make an appearance in this special.  Even a cameo would have been sufficient.  He was one of my favorites from the previous special and they didn’t even use him.  Unfortunately, in 2006, there was a live-action remake of this starring John Goodman and Delta Burke with Harvey Firestein and Michael McKean as the Miser Brothers.  It nearly destroyed all the goodwill I had for the movie.  It still airs from time to time on ABC’s 25 Days of Christmas.

A Miser Bros Christmas
A Miser Brothers’ Christmas (2008) – The North Wind sabotages Santa’s sleigh causing him to hurt his back and requiring someone to take over the job on Christmas.  Since apparently Mother Nature is in charge of Santa’s job, she assigns the Miser Brothers to take over Christmas, much to the chagrin of The North Wind.  However, the North Wind continues to manipulate the Miser Brothers so they will fail and Mother Nature will put him in charge.  For this special Mickey Rooney returned to voice Santa and George S Irving returned to voice Heat Miser.  Both actors were over 84 years old at the time of recording.  Dick Shawn (Snow Miser) and Shirley Booth (Mrs Claus) didn’t return because they had died before the show went into production.

The first two specials have been favorites of mine since I was a child.  I loved those stories and the characters within.  Many people prefer the iconic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which I love dearly, but the first two specials above are my absolute favorites.  While many deride the third special, it actually wasn’t that bad.  The music was good and I, for one, enjoyed seeing the Miser Brothers back on TV.  Was it the same?  No, but it had enough of a nostalgia factor that I enjoyed it.

Miser Brothers

If you check out the schedule at ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas, you can see when these specials are playing.  As of now the first two specials will run this Friday night.  However, they will inexplicably run out of order.  The Year Without Santa Claus will air first at 7pm EST and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town will air at 8pm EST.  Not sure why they did that.

The third special, A Miser Brothers’ Christmas, will air on Saturday at 10:30am EST.  However, all three specials are airing multiple times so if you miss this weekend’s showing you have multiple opportunities to see them before Christmas day.

So that’s the Rankin-Bass Santa Claus Trilogy.  I thought this would be a good time to talk about these specials because I have several other things coming up in the next week pertaining to them.  So this is sort of a primer for you to get out there and watch them.  Starting on Tuesday’s episode of Nerd Lunch we will actually create our own Christmas special using characters from not only the Rankin-Bass specials, but ALL Christmas specials.  EVER.  And it actually turns out pretty good.  Check back on Tuesday to hear that episode with special guest Digio from The Atomic Geeks.

After that, I’m going to pitch to you my idea for a fourth special in this franchise.  So stay tuned.

Rankin-Bass: Kings of the Christmas Special

Posted in 80s, advertising, Apple, Christmas, holiday, pop culture, Rankin/Bass, TV shows with tags , , , , on December 11, 2008 by Paxton

Xmas Classics DVDIt’s Christmas time! I love Christmas time. The decorations, the holiday-only items in the stores and toys. Can’t have Christmas without kick-ass toys. However, I especially love flipping through the TV channels during the holiday season. All of the TV logos are juiced up for the holidays and our old Christmas Special favorites are dusted off and traipsed out in front of us like a former beauty queen, well past her prime. There are plenty to catch. Endless remakes of A Christmas Carol, TV shows centering their activities around Christmas parties, beloved cartoon characters meeting Santa Claus and learning that “to give is better than to receive”. You’ve seen them, you know them. But the undisputed king of television holiday specials has got to be the studios of Rankin-Bass. Rankin-Bass consistently made the most treasured and beloved holiday specials of all time. Their track record is undeniable. Their influence on the holiday is unmistakable. Let’s take a look back at the animation studios of Rankin-Bass and some of their most famous specials; most you’ve no doubt seen dozens of times, but many you probably didn’t realize they created.

Rankin-Bass logo

Rankin-Bass was established in the early ’60s by Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass. Originally named Videocraft International, they independently produced several animation series including Pinocchio in 1960 and Tales of the Wizard of Oz in 1961.  Pinocchio was animated in the “ani-magic” style of animation using puppets and stop motion photography (which would later become a Rankin-Bass trademark), while Tales of the Wizard of Oz was animated in traditional 2-D animation.  The Oz series would be popular enough to adapt into a TV movie in 1964.  This TV movie would air on the popular GE Fantasy Hour. Then, in December of 1964, the GE Fantasy Hour would air the first Rankin-Bass Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which would go on to become one of the most popular and longest running specials in TV history.

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