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February 01, 2014

Michael Chase Walker, The Last Unicorn, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Dragon Prince, CBS Entertainment, Rankin Bass Productions

Arthur Rankin Jr. Has Passed: My Boss and Mentor by Michael Chase Walker ‘

This grieves me so. Arthur was my boss and a mentor. A truly elegant man and quintessential “Mad Men” from the Mad men era whom with Jules Bass crossed over from advertising to television and feature films and built their whole animation empire. When I bought the rights to The Last Unicorn I promised Peter S. Beagle (and myself) they would be the last studio in town I would approach, and as fate would have it I was in a meeting with Martin Starger and Paul Lazarus of Marble Arch Productions when Marty mentioned that Jules and Arthur Rankin were in town recently and had pitched The Last Unicorn as a feature. Marty had worked with them when he was president of ABC Television and was well aware of their pitfalls and pluses as a studio. Of course their TV programs were ratings blockbusters, but they had no credibility in the feature world. I remember telling Peter that I was going to make the deal with them and how disappointed he was. Unfortunately, my deals with Warner Bros. had come to an end and Disney had passed after courting me lavishly for some time. The alternative studios were Hanna Barbera, Ruby Spears and Depatie Freleng at the time. The deciding factor for me was they were both extremely literate and intelligent men who has actually read and loved the book — which was hardly the case with the other studios. They in turn took to me and instantly hired me as head of creative affairs for their New York offices. I had cherry offices at 1 East 53rd street in Manhattan and under their aegis developed and produced The Last Unicorn, Return of the King,The Flight of Dragons, Pinocchio’s Christmas, The Leprechaun’s Golden Rainbow and The Wind and the Willows. Arthur charged me with coming up with a way we could televise the first “TV treasure hunt” in the manner of Kit William’s “Masquerade” books. After ruminating for some time I suggested tying it into Ul De Rico’s The Rainbow Goblins books we had just optioned. My solution was to bury an ounce of gold at every ABC affiliate and then drop the clue during the weather broadcast with the word R-A-I-N-B-O-W as an anagram for Revealed Answer In News Broadcast Of Weather. I remember Arthur tearing up with gratitude at my solution and later when I left the studio to return to Los Angeles, he silently choked up again and said he’d never forget my creative problem solving.The truth is he loved the animation team he had assembled back in the Fifties and Sixties as they would form the core teams for most of the greatest Japanese animation studios in existence today. http://variety.com/2014/tv/people-news/rudolph-animator-arthur-rankin-jr-dead-at-89-1201080680/ via @Variety

Michael Chase Walker, The Last Unicorn, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, The Dragon Prince, CBS Entertainment, Rankin Bass Productions