Rankin/Bass Christmas Classics Kept Alive by Local Historian
Rick Goldschmidt chronicles history of Rankin/Bass studio and iconic TV holiday classics like 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.'
Their names might not be as famous as some associated with film and TV, but Rick Goldschmidt won’t let the world forget the contributions of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass to the world of art, animation, movies, TV and especially Christmas.
Goldschmidt, who lives in Oak Lawn, has a house full of memorabilia from TV’s best, but he is mostly known as the official Rankin/Bass historian.
The newest edition, the 15th, of his 1997 book The Enchanted World of Rankin/Bass: A Portfolio has been published. Copies can be purchased from Goldschmidt's Miser Bros. website. Goldschmidt said he would autograph them and add a little artwork as well.
Goldschmidt didn’t think he’d be a historian. He attended Columbia, studying illustration and art. Through Columbia, he came in contact with Jack Davis and Paul Coker, who designed all of Rankin/Bass stories. The two are also known for their work in Mad Magazine. Davis was a founding Mad cartoonist.
According to Goldschmidt, Coker was responsible for drawing Frosty the Snowman and another Rankin/Bass character, Miser. His stylized look became known as the “Rankin/Bass look,” Goldschmidt said. The work of Davis, who appeared on the covers of Time and TV Guide, also appealed to Rankin. He asked both to work for Rankin/Bass.
Davis and Coker introduced Goldschmidt to Rankin and a historian was born.
“I never started out to do this, be a Rankin/Bass historian. I thought I’d be a commercial artist, but this is rewarding and fun,” said Goldschmidt.
“I’ve gotten involved in so many projects. It’s incredible,” he added.
Rankin is now 86 and Bass is 76. They do not own the classics they created, DreamWorks Studio does.
“They both are still getting around, doing things,” Goldschmidt said.
The lifelong South Sider grew up in Alsip and attended Stony Creek Elementary School and Marist High School. Goldschmidt was very young, so young he can’t remember exactly how old he was, when he watched his first Rankin/Bass production, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
“My parents, especially my mom let us know when the shows were on. I really looked forward to watching them,” Goldschmidt said.
Apparently Goldschmidt isn’t the only one. The newest generation of children appreciates Rudolph and made it the number one show on network TV when it aired this season, to the tune of more than 10 million viewers.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer remains Goldschmidt’s favorite Rankin/Bass production, but his favorite character? That would be The Bumble, otherwise known as The Abominable Snowman of the North.
“He was scary and then he was reformed. That’s an ingredient Rankin/Bass used over and over. Instead of killing off the villain, they reformed him,” Goldschmidt said.
Goldschmidt chronicled how Rudolph came to the TV screen with his 2001 book, The Making of the Rankin/Bass Holiday Classic: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
Goldschmidt’s memories also include watching Frosty the Snowman and Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.
“Rankin/Bass is known for iconic Christmas characters,” Goldschmidt said.
While Rudolph, Frosty and Kris Kringle are famous Rankin/Bass characters, the duo were also known for a few Saturday morning animated shows featuring The Osmonds, The Jackson 5 and The King Kong Show in Chicago.
Goldschmidt also detailed the Rankin/Bass film Mad Monster Party with a book of the same name that came out on Halloween in 2011.
Not an admirer of today’s animation, Goldschmidt said of Rankin/Bass, “They created a world so much different than what they do with computers today.
"You pick apart a Rankin/Bass film and everything is the best,” Goldschmidt added.
Read more about Goldschmidt's preservation of Rankin/Bass: