Arthur Rankin, Jr., 1924-2014

An old man writes: “I don’t want to belabor the point or look back with any kind of revisionist history on how wonderful it all was, because a lot of it was frankly terrible and, even with all the annoyances and vexations we’re forced to confront each day as everyone figures out how to negotiate this strange new world with its ever-shifting boundaries and notions of what is acceptable, we are still considerably better off in these times than we were back then, but there was something special about living in an age where you had three main sources of televised entertainment and if you missed an episode of seasonal programming, that was it, it was gone until the next year. The holidays felt more like holidays: intense moments of joy that were by their very nature temporary. And as a child at Chrismas—the last time in your life when your sense of wonder and love is genuine and uncomplicated—back in those days, the stop-motion specials of Rankin/Bass were dotted i of Holiday Excitement, even the later ones where Rudolph went down to Florida in July or Roger Miller was singing about a long-eared donkey. There was something intrinsically jubilant about them, something so powerful that now, years later, flipping past them in our thousand channel world, there is still the odd moment where you see the scary bird from the one where Rudolph has to save the New Years baby and for the briefest of seconds your scarred and jaded heart feels the soft and soothing expression of a happiness it has never known since you were small. I can’t imagine how the kids today, with their DVRs and their ‘I want it now’ attitudes and helicopter parents who will put aside whatever is going on in their own lives to cater to their little precious—” At this point the old man started to ramble in an even more uninteresting way than he had been doing in the anecdote just related, so we’re going to edit for space, but in any event, Arthur Rankin, Jr., maker of memories, died on Thursday. He was 89.