Paul Coker Jr., ‘Frosty the Snowman’ designer, dies aged 93 – NBCNEWS

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The animation industry has lost another prolific artist. Paul Coker Jr., a cartoonist and designer whose career spanned nearly five decades, died July 23 at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the age of 93.

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Coker’s death was confirmed by his stepdaughter Lee Smithson Burd until Deadline, saying that “Paul was bright and had his remarkable sense of humor to the very end.” Many fellow artists, animators and admirers took to Twitter to express their sadness at the news and to pay tribute to Coker’s prolific career in animation. Andrew Fargaoan animation historian and author, noted that Coker’s work was “so expressive, such frugality of line” and that it was “such a joy to see his illustrations in MAD over the years.” Fellow cartoonist Judd Winick said that Paul “was a great illustrator. And all around cartoonist, storyteller and craftsman. He managed to be incredibly famous and unknown at the same time.”


While some may not be familiar with the name Coker, many will no doubt be familiar with his work in animation, as several of his projects have since become holiday staples. Coker was a production designer for numerous Rankin/Bass specials in the 1960s and 1970s, including: Frosty the snowman and Santa Claus is coming to towna special in which he helped design the characters of Kris Kringle, Winter Warlock and Burgermeister Meisterburger.

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Other Rankin/Bas credits during this time include: Cricket on the fireplace, Here comes Peter Cottontail, The year without Santa Claus, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, Frosty’s Winter Wonderland, Nestor, the Christmas donkey with long ears, The Easter Bunny is coming to town, Jack Frost, Christmas from Pinocchioand tthe Christmas gold of the gnomes. While some of these were brought to life with traditional animation, Rankin/Bass was best known for their stop-motion animation, an animation process closely associated with the company. After decades of absence, Coker returned to Rankin/Bas one last time in 2001 with the Christmas special Santa, baby!which also marked the last Rankin-Bass special before the company disbanded.


In addition to his television work, Coker was a regular contributor to the satire magazine MAD, which earned him a spot in their “Usual Gang of Idiots,” a nickname for MAD employees. With this magazine, Coker denounced numerous franchises and properties in the cultural zeitgeist, including: Star Trek, Jurassic Parkand Sabrina: The Teenage Witch. Our condolences go out to the Coker family, which includes Rosemary Smithson, his wife of 33, and his stepdaughters Lee Smithson Burd and Carol Burd.

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