This is a wonderful rendition done by Rankin and Bass from the adaptive screenplay written by Romeo Muller based on the original version of The Hobbit. While it doesn’t follow everything that happened in the book it does well to cover the main points of the story. You have to remember this was made for children and for TV so there were many things that they just would not even be able to show. It is truly amazing that The Hobbit was even considered a children’s book as it is both scary and terrifying, especially for small children. I know that I as a child and that of my own son had nightmares after seeing this film. The funny thing is that after seeing it and having the bad dreams children of all ages wind up wanting to see it again. Rankin and Bass did some truly amazing things with animation and all before there was even any computers to work with. Every cell as hand drawn and hand painted to give us this masterpiece of both cinematography and artwork. Anyone who loves the collected works of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. will want to have this one in their collection.
On a bright sunny day in the shire Bilbo Baggins (voiced by Orson Bean) is smoking a bit of pipeweed, something that the shire is well known for. Stepping out his door he is confronted by a very tall elderly gentleman who says he is in need of a burglar and that the burglar he needs is Bilbo Baggins. The small hobbit is of course taken back by this because no self respecting hobbit would be doing anything so shameful as burglaring or doing any kind of adventuring at all. Bilbo wanted to know why himself and who was doing the searching and asking anyway. The old man raised staff and said he was “Gandalf and Gandalf means me…” With a show of theatrics Gandalf the Grey (voiced by John Huston) begins to tell Bilbo that he is needed to help some dwarfs that are traveling from the Blue Mountains to the east in search of treasure and that he is needed to both be the lucky number and to help retrieve a treasure of great might. It really is a shame that they did not go into just how important the Arkenstone was and what part it played or even the Dwarven Ring that caused most of Thorin’s (voiced by Hans Conried) greed. If you want to know more of that part then you are just going to have to read the book.
It was this film that started my love of anything Tolkien and the story that is laid out in The Hobbit that aired on TV in 1977 does a very good job of following that story without adding in a lot of changes. Sure they left a lot out but when you have to condense sever months of adventure into 78 minutes what can you do? What you do is stay true as you can and leave out what you must and then add in only what is needed to make sure that the story flows correctly. Muller, Bass and Rankin did this wonderfully with the addition of songs preformed by Glenn Yarbrough and the music used that pull you through this animated production and make you want to see what is happening next. Any child, at least when it was first released, would sit in wide eyed wonder as the events unfolded on screen. Some might no have even seen it in color when it was first released but we didn’t care and we would watch it with rapt attention any time that it was being shown. After a while you will hear those songs in your head any time that you think of the story that you saw. Down, Down To Goblin Town, Funny Little Things, That’s what Bilbo Baggins Hates and more weave in and out of the story and will stick in your head to give you fond memories of this film. Fond memories even if it might at one time had given you nightmares.
This one film started many reading Tolkien works all over again and is definitely worth seeing. This is literally a painting come to life on the screen and is a pleasant way to spend time with your family or just to remember your childhood. I would recommend this film to all who are interested in Tolkien’s work. It might not be a Peter Jackson film but it is still fun and exciting to watch. So sit back and have fun with Bilbo, Gandalf, The dwarves, Smaug, Bard, Elrond and the rest of the players of Middle Earth that made this film so great.
I give this film a Musing review of