Paul Coker Jr., whose character and production designs for classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion and animated holiday specials and as one of his many years Mad The magazine’s “Usual Gang of Idiots” beloved by generations of fans, he died on July 23 after a brief illness at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 93 years old.
His stepdaughter Lee Smithson Bird confirmed his death to Deadline. Smithson Bird said, “Paul was forthright and had a remarkable sense of humor by the end.”
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Coker’s contributions to the creation and character design of the Rankin/Bass special helped create some of the most indelible holiday images of the past half century. As a character designer or production designer, Coker lent his talents to Christmas and Easter specials. cricket on the hearth (1967), frosty the Snowman (1969), Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971), year without santa claus (1974), Rudolph’s shiny new year And Frosty’s Winter Wonderland (both 1976), Nestor, the long-eared Christmas donkey And Easter Bunny is Coming to Town (both 1977), Jack Frost (1979), Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980), Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold (1981) and Santa Baby! (2001).
Many of the beloved characters developed under Koker’s supervision include Chris Kringle (voiced by Mickey Rooney), Keenan Wynn’s Winter Warlock, Paul Freese’s Burgermeister from MisterBurger, and, more. year without santa clausThe sinister seasonal brothers Snow Mizar ((Dick Shawn) and Heat Mizar (George S. Irving).
Coker first began his decades-long association with Mad magazine in 1961, and they featured hundreds of articles well into the 21st century. He was particularly known for the popular panels called “Horrible Clichés”. Among many other features, he featured in some of the magazine’s film and TV parodies, including satirical articles. Star Trek, Jurassic Park, Twister, Frasier, Sabrina: Teenage Witch And Caroline in town.
A native of Lawrence, Kansas, Coker studied drawing and painting at the University of Kansas before accepting a job as a designer of Hallmark greeting cards in the 1950s, an association he would maintain for decades. He freelanced for several publications including Esquire Look, Good Housekeeping And lazy, For the latter publication, he was particularly known for his adults-only parodies of the Peanuts comic strip.
Coker is survived by his 33-year-old wife Rosemary Smithson, step-daughters Lee Smithson Bird and Carol Smithson.
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