Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Tag: Rankin/Bass

That Other Return of the King Movie

We’ve talked about Rankin and Bass’s version of The Hobbit, and you can’t talk about The Hobbit without also talking about The Lord of the Rings. Yeah, I know, it’s been three years since that earlier post, but I don’t like to be rushed. So, today we’re going to talk about about Rankin/Bass’s follow-up, The Return of the King.

“Now hold on,” you may be thinking. “That’s the third Lord of the Rings volume. What happened to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers?” Well, I assume there were some rights issues involved, or perhaps they just didn’t want to retread the ground already covered by Ralph Bakshi’s unfortunate foray into Middle Earth, which was an animated and rotoscoped adaptation of Fellowship and about half of Two Towers and which had come out just two years earlier. To give you the timeline, R/B’s Hobbit was 1977, Bakshi’s LotR was 1978, and R/B’s LotR was 1980. I won’t go in to why things worked out that way; I don’t know and ultimately what matters is the film as we have it.

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A Short Review of The Last Unicorn

After watching The Hobbit, I thought it would be worth watching some more of Rankin/Bass’s films, and initially planned on moving on to The Return of the King next (on my own schedule, which some would call extremely slow but which I prefer to think of as simply a stately pace). At a friend’s insistence, though, I skipped ahead a bit and watched The Last Unicorn, their adaptation of Peter Beagle’s novel of the same title from 1982. Since a couple of people have expressed interest in hearing about it, I figured I’d go ahead and share a few brief thoughts on the movie here.

First, the film has a mythic feeling to it, which I appreciate. The movie opens with moving the camera through a dense forest, and the opening credits are done in a style that mimics illuminated manuscripts, in a manner that reminds me of some of Disney’s “storybook openings,” like Sleeping Beauty or Sword in the Stone, or a less elaborate version of the opening myth section of Watership Down. You can take a look for yourself on YouTube. Two hunters complain of not finding any game, and the older of the two surmises that it must be because of a unicorn’s presence, which would also explain why it’s always springtime there. The younger is incredulous, but the old man is, of course, correct, and they leave the forest as he shouts good wishes to the unicorn, as she is the last of her kind. Our equine protagonist hears this and is troubled by the possibility, and sets out to find out if this is true, and to learn what became of the others.

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That Other, Better Hobbit Movie

A while back I wrote about Ralph Bakshi’s animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. I seem to be one of the brave few who actually did enjoy the movie, but mostly because of the few things it got right. Overall, the best I can say about it is that it’s not as bad as people say, but when that’s the best defense of a film one can offer, well, it’s probably not a good movie.

In any case, about the same time I saw that, I also heard of the Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit, and figured I’d check it out eventually, but after one underwhelming Tolkien adaptation I wasn’t eager to see more. A few weeks ago, though, I came across Dr. Bruce Charlton’s positive review of the film, and when I shared that on Twitter I was quickly informed that I needed to watch it. So, to the front of the queue it went, and I have to say I should’ve watched this sooner, because it’s an excellent children’s film and a worthy adaptation of the novel.

Now, part of any adaptation’s success is knowing what parts of the source material to keep and what to exclude. Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings failed in part because it tried to stuff two books into a two hour movie, whereas Peter Jackson’s version mostly succeeded because each of the three books had its own film. However, Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit has often been criticised, justly, for bloating one fairly straightforward novel into a massively overdone trilogy of movies. Rankin/Bass couldn’t fit everything into ninety minutes, but as Dr. Charlton wrote in his review, they do hit the most important points and allow each scene to develop fully.…

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