Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Things I Love: Rankin/Bass

I watched the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit this weekend, and then last night I came home from a long day at the office to find Kylie watching our copy of The Last Unicorn. These are both classic animated films from my childhood that were produced by Rankin/Bass Productions Inc.

Technically Rankin/Bass is probably most famous for the animated holiday specials they made like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which incorporated their own unique brand of stop-motion photography, which the films were iconic for.

However, in my own heart and mind it is the animated Rankin/Bass films that are nearest and dearest. The Hobbbit, The Return of the King, The Last Unicorn, The Flight of the Dragons, and The Wind in the Willows are the ones I remember best. There was an ethereal quality to the animation and artwork, especially the landscapes, that was unlike anything else I'd ever seen.

The reason for this is that all these films were actually drawn and mostly produced in Japan. They're sort of an early example of Anime/Japanimation from a time before such things were popular. I mean before Akira, Anime was nearly unheard of in America, in comparison to today.

The wealth of original music produced for the animated films was impressive as well. The Last Unicorn featured a beautiful soundtrack by the band America, and the theme song from The Hobbit, by Glen Yarborough, was just haunting enough to fit.

Have any of you seen any of these films? What did you think of them?

44 comments:

Ted Cross said...

Were those the Ralph Bakshi ones? As a very young kid I thought they were so-so, but now I can't watch them. For cartoonish fantasy my favorites are Fire and Ice, and Wizards.

Emily White said...

I've seen The Last Unicorn (and was just thinking about it the other day!). It was a cute movie, and very ethereal like you said.

Renae said...

I loved The Last Unicorn. I just might have to show that one to my daughter. Thanks for the reminder!

Sarah said...

Just seeing that logo takes me back to my childhood. I liked The Last Unicorn a lot, but I remember being sort of scared by it as well. And The Hobbit ... I was raised on Tolkien, so I think I saw it a few dozen times.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I haven't seen any of them. I'll have to check them out. I love fantasy movies. Thanks.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I used to love the holiday special ones. They still show them here at Christmas time. Haven't seen the other ones though.

Katie Mills said...

OH my god, I used to watch The Last Unicorn over and over again. The Hobbit too but especially TLU- it was absolutely captivating- almost a dark atmosphere about it. Speaking of which, did you ever see The Dark Crystal?

Anne Gallagher said...

Never ever knew they did animation films. Just thought it was stop-motion. I'll definitely have to find a copy of The Last Unicorn. Not for Monster Child but for me. I LOVE America.

maine character said...

I loved those Rankin/Bass Christmas specials, especially Santa and his penguin and the Winter Warlock (you can just hear those songs, even though before VCRs we got to see them just once a year). And Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney as voices? Top class.

And the same for "The Hobbit," which stayed with me for years and was glad to find on YouTube just a few months back.

With John Huston as Gandalf, and that magical soundtrack, it's got loads of charm and gets the mood and characters right.

Carrie said...

I loved The Last Unicorn and The Hobbit when I was a kid.

Tracy said...

Don't think I've seen any of their animations, but I can't fathom there will ever be a Christmas where I won't watch Rudolph at least once!

L.G.Smith said...

I just happen to own that version of The Hobbit. My husband went a little nuts after the LOTR movie came out and bought anything having to do with Tolkien.

Howl's Moving Castle is another good animation. Don't think it's Rankin/Bass though.

Matthew Rush said...

Howl's Moving Castle is a great film. It's a Studio Ghibli release and is the work of famed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. It's interesting you mention it, because Studio Ghibli is sort of the Japanese evolution of Rankin/Bass after they went out of business.

K. M. Walton said...

I've only seen the holiday shows - which I love and own on VHS and watch with my kids every Christmas : )

Nate Wilson said...

I've been indoctrinated into the Rankin/Bass Christmas the past couple years by my wife who grew up with the stuff, but I don't believe I've seen any of their non-holiday fare. I may have to remedy that.

Steve said...

I liked the dragon in The Hobbit movie, but not much else.

Prefer the Russians over the Japanese.

Joanne Brothwell said...

I've seen the Christmas films (and look forward to them every year), but never the animated ones. I'll definitely be looking into that now.

Bish Denham said...

The Last Unicorn has to be one of my favorites!

mshatch said...

Miyazaki rocks. But I don't know if I could watch The Last Unicorn as a cartoon, esp. if it's 'cute' because the book was anything but.

Patti said...

Rudolph is still my favorite Christmas movie and I remember watching the Wind in the Willows as a kid.

Candyland said...

I don't understand most of what you said, Timmy. But then again, I rarely do. And I like that.

Old Kitty said...

I must watch the Last Unicorn again!! Awwwww!! that was lovely!

I've not seen the other films made by this company but I'd love to see their take on The Hobbit!!!

Thanks for the info! take care
x

Justine Dell said...

The Last Unicorn is my favorite movie evvvvvver. Well, almost. LoL. It is one of the movies I will never, never forget, eventhough I saw it last when I was very little. It was good, a little creepy, and who will ever forget the giant bull? Eep!

~JD

Tere Kirkland said...

Loved the Hobbit animated movie, and Return of the King. I think they were both Bakshi? But The Last Unicorn was a Miyazaki film, right?

Love how much everyone else loves these movies, too! They really made an impression on me as a kid.

Rachel Searles said...

The Last Unicorn!!! My parents rented it for me from the grocery store when I was a little girl and I was absolutely spellbound! :) Are you a fan of Hayao Miyazaki films?

Tere Kirkland said...

Oops, I just checked, TLU is not a Miyazaki film (though I love his movies), and Bakshi was only involved in the Lord of the Rings (1978), not the Hobbit or the Return of the King (1980).

Still, very cool movies!

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

OMG So TOTALLY AWESOME!
I grew up on both those movies as well (and we have Last Unicorn on DVD) We only had half of the Return of the King one, though. However we still, to this day, sing the songs from all of those movies.

slightly OT - have you seen the rotoscope versions of LOTR? (where they animate over live actors) Cuz those are HILARIOUS! There's one part where it shows them all running and aragorn trips and falls and we still make fun of it. Why did they animate that in?!

Jess said...

I love The Hobbit, but I haven't seen The Last Unicorn. Seems like everybody is crazy about that one and I'm feeling left out enough to do something about it, dammit! *looking on Amazon for a used copy*

Hannah Kincade said...

OMG, LOVE LOVE LOVE!! The Flight of the Dragons is one of my all time favorite cartoons!!! Yay!! I have yet to see the Last Unicorn but it's on my Netflix queue. Also, The Wind in the Willows is awesome.

I feel like there's one missing from your list but I'll have to google it because I can't seem to remember what it's about. Just bits and pieces in my head...I could totally be making this up.

Man I love animated movies.

Angie said...

Yes, I love those films. The music for The Last Unicorn is really gorgeous. Although, I have to admit that The Hobbit scared me to death as a child.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Can't say their version of the Hobbit was a favorite, but I've seen all of those and never miss the Christmas specials. Didn't they do some Saturday cartoons as well? And I'd have to say Akira turned all of that on its head!

Copyboy said...

Wow! Those are some amazingly different productions. Impressive that it came from one source.

Holly Ruggiero said...

I’ve seen the Christmas one and I like them but I don’t think I’ve seen the others.

Lydia K said...

I'll have to check it out. Thanks for telling us about it!

Lydia K said...

Wait, wait. No, I have watched this. I thought it was some sort of claymation thing.

This movie scared the living s**t out of me. I was so scared of reading the Hobbit till I got older.

I can still hear this voice:
"You're the burgler. Go burgle something!"

Jemi Fraser said...

I've always avoided most cartoons or movies of my favourite books - there are a few exceptions. I'll have to check these ones out :)

Charlie Pulsipher said...

I've seen The Last Unicorn. Another blogging friend brought it up about a week ago. Loved it! Except the butterfly kinda creeps me out...

Colene Murphy said...

Ahh those are goodies. Anime, the places you have come from. Love!

aspiring_x said...

ohmygoodness!!!!! i LOVED the last unicorn and the hobbit SO MUCH when i was a kid... i'm always thinking of that scene in bilbo's house where they are stacking the plates crazy high, and bilbo's freaking out, when i'm at work, and we keep stacking the dishes higher and higher and the boss lady comes by and shaker her head at us!!!! :) hmmm... i wonder if they're on netflix...

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

We used to watch them when our daughter was little, but it's been a few years...

Ishta Mercurio said...

YES! I loved THE HOBBIT as a child (it was one of my family's Thanksgiving movie traditions - odd, no?) - and we now own it. It's wonderful. I don't care what people say nowadays, computer generated stuff just isn't as good as hand-drawn animation.

LTM said...

def. Rudolph and Frosty--loved. But I'm a Burl Ives lover, too. Trying to think--not the Hobbit, but it's very possible The Last Unicorn. I might be thinking of The Dark Crystal, though... :o|

But you know I love the Avatar series. So there you go~ :o)

Erin Kane Spock said...

I love those movies! I haven't been able to find Flight of Dragons on DVD. I would love to share it with my children (and have it for myself as well). My daughters love the Last Unicorn. The Hobbit still scares them (the orcs slobber a lot -- my kids are little).

Erin Kane Spock said...

I meant goblin, not orc.