J. R. R. Tolkien Animated Films (1977-1980)

J. R. R. Tolkien was born 123 years from today. J.R.R. Tolkien was an an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor. He is best known as the author of the classic fantasy works of The Hobbit, The Lord of the The Rings and The Silmarillion. Despite having the Lord of the Rings movies and the Hobbit movies being very successful with the live action, CGI, and cast and storytelling the animated film versions of the Hobbit (1977), Lord of the Rings (1978) and the The Return of the King (1980) should not be overlooked.

The Hobbit (1977)
The Hobbit animated version was produced by Rankin/Bass. It debuted as a television movie on NBC in the United States in 1977. In 1978, Romeo Muller won a Peabody Award for his teleplay. The film was also nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, but lost to Star Wars. The movie was animated by Topcraft, a precursor to Studio Ghibli. The film is an adaptation of the 1937 book of the same name.  The New York Times reported that the Hobbit cost $3 million.  The story’s hero, Bilbo Baggins, is voiced by Orson Bean, backed up by noted Hollywood director and actor John Huston as the voice of Gandalf. In supporting roles, the comedian and performance artist Brother Theodore was chosen for the voice of Gollum, and Thurl Ravenscroft performed the baritone singing voices of the goblins. The gravelly voice of the dragon Smaug was provided by Richard Boone, rounding out the cast of primarily American voice actors.

The Lord of the Rings (1978)
The Lord of the Rings was directed by Ralph Bakshi .Ralph Bakshi is known for his work of other animations such as the Wizards (1977), Fritz the Cat (1972) and Fire and Ice (1983). It uses a hybrid of traditional cell animation and rotoscoped live action footage. Set in Middle-earth, the film follows a group of hobbits,elves, men, dwarves and wizards who form a fellowship. They embark on a quest to destroy the One Ring made by the Dark Lord Sauron, and ensure his destruction. The overall budget was $4 million and accumulated $30 million at the box office. The film was nominated for both the Hugo and Saturn Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and Best Fantasy Film. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Motion Picture Score. Bakshi won a Golden Gryphon award for the film at the Giffoni Film Festival. Warner Bros. is the rights holder to the post 1974 Rankin Bass library and released The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings and The Return of the King. The Lord of the Rings was selected as the 36th greatest animated film by Time Out magazine, and ranked as the 90th greatest animated film of all time by the Online Film Critics Society.

The Return of the King (1980)
The Return of the king: A Story of the Hobbits is an animated musical television film created by Rankin/Bass and Topcraft. Due to marketing by Warner Bros., the film is often credited by fans as the unofficial sequel to Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated film J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which is based on the first two volumes of the book. According to rumors, Rankin/Bass decided to do the project upon hearing that Bakshi’s sequel finishing The Lord of the Ringswas going to be left unmade. However, Rankin/Bass had always planned on making a sequel based on The Return of the King as their follow-up project to The Hobbit. The special aired on ABC on Sunday, May 11, 1980. Critical and fan reaction to The Return of the King was lukewarm.

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