Arthur Rankin Jr.
One half of the celebrated animation production company Rankin/Bass, Arthur Rankin, Jr. produced and directed some of the longest-running, universally adored holiday animated specials, including "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" (NBC, 1964) and "Frosty the Snowman" (CBS, 1969), as well as "The Hobbit" (NBC, 1977) and weekly series like "ThunderCats" (syndicated, 1985-89). Rankin/Bass's stop-motion "Animagic" process imbued their efforts with a level of wonder and technical finesse that was underscored by the charm and genuine warmth of their stories, which often surpassed the fabricated emotions of bigger-budgeted studio and network efforts. Rankin/Bass produced an enormous array of animated projects between 1964 and 1987, as well as several live-action features and TV films, though none of these were held in the same regard as their holiday specials, which became an essential part of the season itself through yearly screenings, generation after generation. Arthur Rankin, Jr.'s best work with Jules Bass was not unlike the holiday itself: magical, moving and altogether memorable.