Run time: 90 mins
In Theaters: Sunday 27th November 1977
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Production compaines: Rankin/Bass Productions
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 5
IMDB: 6.7 / 10
Director: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Producer: Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.
Screenwriter: Romeo Muller
Starring: Orson Bean as Bilbo Baggins, Richard Boone as Smaug, Hans Conried as Thorin, John Huston as Gandalf the Grey, Otto Preminger as Elvenking, Cyril Ritchard as Elrond, Brother Theodore as Gollum, Paul Frees as Bombur/Troll #1, Don Messick as Balin/Troll #3/Goblin/Lord of the Eagles, John Stephenson as Dori/Great Goblin/Bard
Regardless of whether the upcoming Lord of the Rings turns out to be a cinematic milestone, the point is that there are probably some books, whether unfilmable or not, which should remain un-filmed. Even the inoffensive animated version of The Hobbit by Rankin/Bass, which was a lot easier to produce than the forthcoming live-action trilogy will be, illustrates why adapting popular books to movies is rarely successful. The storyline of The Hobbit (Bilbo Baggins goes on trip, finds ring, kills dragons, etc.) is not so powerful that it demands to be retold. And in spite of a good cast of voices and decent animation, the animated film adds nothing to the book. This is usually the case, because the best qualities of books are not the best qualities of movies.
Like a lot of children's books, The Hobbit is popular with both children and adults because of the way it is written. Tolkien's quirky, classical writing style is addictive --- so much so that his books have inspired the entire bloated subgenre of fantasy fiction. The same goes for The Lord of the Rings -- the book has no message or relevance to the real world, but readers continue to love it because of the power of Tolkien's style and creative genius.
So where does this leave a movie adaptation of Tolkien's works? In the VCR, where unsuspecting parents may hope it will keep the kids quiet for a while. But filmmakers who aspire to create real art would do better to start with something that is of their own creation.