For over 20 years, Rankin/Bass delighted audiences with a steady stream of holiday stories told in the Animagic style. But all good things must come to an end, with their final such special arriving in a 1985 adaptation of book written by L. Frank Baum.
For Christmas 1981, Rankin/Bass mixed Christmas and St. Patricks Day to create a new leprechaun-flavored holiday special.
The very first Rankin/Bass creation was a series based on Pinocchio, so when it came time to make a Christmas special for their 20th anniversary, it was time for Pinocchio to return.
Closing out their "silver age", Rankin/Bass released a second Christmas special in 1979 that explored another mythical figure of winter, this time with Jack Frost.
Felix the Cat had been an icon of silent animation, but the sound era brought about his fall. However, in 1959, his television debut would bring him back into the spotlight.
The road to the birth of animation as we know it is a long one, filled with many steps both large and small. Take a look back at how it all began, all the way to the first traditionally animated cartoon.
Scooby-Doo is one of the most popular Hanna-Barbera characters, but where did it all start? It's time to travel back 50 years, to delve into the mystery behind the creation of such an iconic franchise.
Out of a partnership with a cereal company, Hanna-Barbera produced two separate series which, through decisions out of their control, were permanently joined together.
Hanna-Barbera created several package series during their time being distributed by Screen Gems, but with the last of these, The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show, the end of one era would show glimpses of the next.
As Hanna-Barbera's first live-action series, The Banana Splits broke new ground with its musical costumed characters, paving the way for Sid and Marty Krofft.
The Flintstones was the most popular Hanna-Barbera series of the 1960s, so when the show was coming to an end, the studio decided to give it a grand finale. In 1966, the very first Flintstones movie hit theaters, with a secret agent twist.
In 1964, Hanna-Barbera made the leap back to the silver screen with the first animated feature based on a TV series, bringing Yogi Bear to new heights.
With the 70s drawing to a close, Rankin/Bass put all their cards on the table with a feature length crossover between Rudolph and Frosty set in July. The result was the culmination of the studio's first two decades.
Cartoons produced alongside toylines was a popular trend during the 80s and 90s, but the trend starts much earlier than that. In 1964, Hanna-Barbera produced two shows, Magilla Gorilla and Peter Potamus, in conjunction toy company Ideal Toys. Thus, the toyetic cartoon was born.
Marvel's Spider-Man is one of the most iconic superheroes of all time, and it can be argued his fame really took off after his first cartoon in 1967. However, this first foray into animation came with a great deal of growing pains, including a bankrupt studio, green-skinned foes, and recycled plots.
Among their other superheroes during the 60s, Hanna-Barbera also teamed up with Marvel Comics to bring the first animated adaptation of the Fantastic Four, Marvel's "First Family" of superheroes.
Following the success of Space Ghost, CBS commissioned Hanna-Barbera to create three new series for 1967. With designs by Alex Toth, they created the Herculoids along with two other fondly remembered series to add to their roster of heroes.
First Filmation had done Superman, then Aquaman, and now they were gearing up to take on the first animated adaptation of Batman. However, certain media groups were turning against them, and the future was beginning to look grim for superhero cartoons.
Filmation and CBS found a hit in their Superman cartoon, and for its second season it would be paired up with a hero never seen on screens before: Aquaman, as well as several other heroes previously only known to comic book readers.
Following the success of Space Ghost on CBS, 1967 was a busy time for Hanna-Barbera in regards to superheroes. Not to be left out, NBC gained Birdman & the Galaxy Trio, their own answer to Space Ghost.
In 1966, Hanna-Barbera were tasked with creating their first Saturday morning series, starring a hero named Space Ghost who'd help change the television landscape, both for 60s cartoons and for 90s cable television.
Filmation was on the verge of closure in 1965, until they received a call from DC Comics with an offer to produce a Superman cartoon. What would follow would not only put the Filmation studio on the map, but also give birth to the Saturday morning animation boom.
While Hanna-Barbera was the king of TV cartoons during the 60's, a studio known as Filmation would eventually rise to stand toe-to-toe with them. This is the story of their formative years, their first TV series, and how the studio very nearly went bankrupt right out the gate.
Nearly 50 years before the Avengers would join together on the silver screen, Marvel's superheroes made their first appearances on the small screen in a series of faithful, possibly *too* faithful, animated adaptations.
During Rankin/Bass's golden age of Christmas specials, an Easter special emerged about a bunny named Peter Cottontail, which shone a spotlight on all the other holidays as well.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been easily the most well-known of the entire Rankin/Bass pantheon. But how well do you know about its sequel? Ring in the new year with Rudolph's roadtrip to save a big-eared baby, alongside a caveman, a knight, and Ben Franklin.
For their 1978 Christmas offering, Rankin/Bass reached into the past and brought new life to NBC's "The Stingiest Man in Town", a 1956 adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
During the mid 70's, Rankin/Bass put a brief focus on the traditional Christmas story, with an oft-forgotten Little Drummer Boy and the story of a long eared donkey named Nestor.
1976 was the year of sequels for Rankin/Bass, beginning with a celebration of their most popular hand-drawn animated character, Frosty the Snowman. But this time, he wouldn't be the only snowperson along for the ride.
Rankin/Bass had noteworthy years in both 1974 and 1976, but 1975 wasn't without its own Christmas special. Find out about "The First Christmas", an often forgotten installment in the Rankin/Bass pantheon.
In 1958, Disney created a Christmas special for ABC using classic shorts with new bridging animation. This same special has gone on to be a well beloved Christmas tradition in Nordic countries.
It had been four years since Rankin/Bass produced a Christmas special, but with a bit of Animagic and two Miser Brothers, they would usher in a silver age for the studio.
Between when Santa came to town and that year without him, Rankin/Bass produced two lesser-known, but still memorable, Christmas classics.
While Heat Meiser and Snow Meiser duked it out in the Year Without a Santa Claus, five more lesser-known Christmas specials slipped in under the radar.
While Mickey Rooney was putting one foot in front of the other, the rest of television was treated to two nativity scenes, an encounter with Santa, and a classic Christmas Carol.
Frosty and Rudolph both showed that Rankin/Bass could turn popular Christmas tunes into beloved specials. But could they do one about the big man in red himself?
Still in the infancy of television animation, experimental series emerged, including television's first color cartoon and TerryToons first foray off the silver screen.
With the start of a new year, we venture back to the dawn of television to take a look at some little-known cartoons from the era of the Baby Boomer.
Five years after Rudolph, Rankin/Bass would recapture the Christmas spirit with a new special based on another popular song, Frosty the Snowman.
In 1966, MGM brought the world of Dr. Seuss to the screen for the first time with an animated adaptation of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
In 1967 and 1968, Rankin/Bass adapted a Charles Dickens classic and another popular contemporary Christmas song, making two more Christmas classics to add to their repertoire.
Mr. Magoo! Popeye! Gumby! Rocky and Bullwinkle! Beetle Bailey! Check out some of the earliest animated Christmas specials and episodes from the early 60's!
In 1965, Charles Schulz's Peanuts finally made its way to television screens with "A Charlie Brown Christmas." 50 years later, we look back to this iconic holiday special.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has become perhaps the most popular Rankin/Bass special of all. But how did the story of a small reindeer with a glowing nose go down in history?
From Calvin and the Colonel, to Davey & Goliath, to Underdog, take a look at the animated Thanksgiving specials of the 1960's.
Among their numerous holiday specials, Rankin/Bass only made one Thanksgiving special: 1968's "The Mouse on the Mayflower."
Rankin/Bass produced Mad Monster Party (starring Boris Karloff) in 1967, coinciding with a resurgence in the popularity of movie monsters.
In the late 1960's, two pop culture icons (King Kong and Smokey the Bear), as well as the works of Hans Christian Anderson and other fairy tales got the Rankin/Bass treatment.
You may know Rudolph and Frosty, but do you recall Willy McBean and his Magic Machine? Take a look into the early works of Rankin/Bass before they became synonymous with the Christmas season.
In 1966, Charles Shultz's Peanuts aired its third animated special, and so the legend of the Great Pumpkin was born.
CartoonHistorian returns with a trip into the future to take a look at the continuing adventures of Doc Brown and Marty McFly
Clutch Cargo used the Syncro-Vox technique, which cut down on the animation costs by inserting real lips onto animated faces. This is the tale of the studio behind those lips, Cambria Productions.
Following the success of the Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera tried to make lightning strike twice in 1962 with The Jetsons. Meanwhile, three new funny animal cartoons made an appearance in syndication.
After the financial flop of their only feature film, United Productions of America (UPA) set their sights on television, bringing both Mr. Magoo and Dick Tracy to the small screen for the first time.
Yogi Bear proved to be a popular character on the Huckleberry Hound Show, so Hanna-Barbera gave him his own show in 1961. At the same time, HB produced a new series for prime-time called Top Cat.
Alvin & the Chipmunks were a popular novelty act during the late 1950s. Looking to expand the characters beyond records, creator Ross Bagdasarian put them in an animated variety show: The Alvin Show
In 1960, Hanna-Barbera was offered the chance to create a series for prime-time television. What they came up with was The Flintstones, one of the most iconic cartoons to ever air on TV.
Saturday morning cartoons were a major staple of US television, but which cartoon started this trend? In 1960, General Mills opened the gate with the first Saturday morning cartoon: King Leonardo
Stop-motion animation using clay had been experimented with almost as long as film itself, but it was thanks to Art Clokey's Gumby in 1955 that clay became a mainstream form of animation.
Hanna-Barbera was on a roll in 1959 with two hits already under their belt. That year, they came out with two more series, one on TV and one in theaters: Quick Draw McGraw and Loopy de Loop
Rocky & Bullwinkle were not alone, being joined by characters such as Mr. Peabody, Sherman, and Dudley Do-Right. Despite ending in 1964, the legacy of these characters still endure to this day.
Jay Ward, following his success with Crusader Rabbit, began planning his next hit series. It would be a long ten years, but it eventually bore two iconic characters, Rocky and Bullwinkle.
Hanna-Barbera took a risk in 1958 making television's first original half-hour cartoon, The Huckleberry Hound Show. This would soon open the doors wide for countless animated series to come.
Hanna-Barbera, the creators of Tom & Jerry, found themselves at a crossroad in a changing time. What would follow led to the birth of one of animation's most famous studios.
Crusader Rabbit, created by Alex Anderson and Jay Ward, was television's first original cartoon and an important milestone, shaping the groundwork for how we view TV animation today.