Why The Lord of the Rings Animation Is a Strange Adventure

Having changed fantasy forever while simultaneously inspiring countless other fantasy worlds and fairy tales, JRR Tolkienit is The Lord of the Rings is one of the greatest literary works of our time. Originally published between July 1954 and October 1955, this high-fantasy epic is the “gold standard” of the genre and expertly expands on the world of Middle-earth to which readers were first introduced. in The Hobbit. Decades later, peter jacksonThe film trilogy – which was one of the greatest film ventures in cinematic history – would leave a similar mark on the film industry, walking away with 17 Oscars and opening the doors to new Tolkien fans. But did you know there was another film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings that preceded Jackson’s masterpiece?


In 1978, filmmaker and animator Ralph Bakchiwhich is best known for its often X-rated animated feature films like Fritz the cat or his post-apocalyptic fantasy Wizards, took it upon himself to direct his own animated adaptation of Tolkien’s magnum opus. With help from now-defunct United Artists, Bakshi’s film caught on The Fellowship of the Ring and about the first half of The two towers, ending with the Battle of Helm’s Deep. In fact, this animated classic influenced Jackson so much that it led him to read Tolkien’s work for himself, only to make his own (complete) adaptation. Of course, Jackson wouldn’t be the only one whose love for Middle-earth started here.

Bakshi’s animated classic comes off as rambling

Many the Lord of the Rings fans grew up watching this 70s cartoon fever dream, and many more have fond childhood memories watching the Fellowship’s journey through Middle-earth to destroy Sauron’s One Ring . But childhood memories and sheer nostalgia aren’t exactly enough for everyone, especially those who didn’t grow up with the movie. When this author first viewed what has been described by others as an “animated classic”, well, let’s just say we came to very different conclusions. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful moments at Bakshi the Lord of the Ringsnamely the time spent in the Shire, the full characterization of Frodo, and the terrifying nature of the Nazgûl (which certainly influenced Jackson’s later interpretation), but the rest of the film feels mostly disjointed.

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Put it down to Bakshi’s unfinished vision, technological limitations, or our modern millennial attention span (or lack thereof), but animation the Lord of the Rings is actually a bit boring. Sure, some of the action sequences are interesting, and it’s certainly fun to watch a different take on Tolkien’s source material, but for the most part the movie feels like we’re at a standstill. , waiting for a second wind that never quite arrives. Of course, sometimes Tolkien himself takes paragraphs and pages to describe a single moment or event, and perhaps, in an effort to stay true to the source material, that’s what Bakshi was looking for, but he doesn’t tell us. don’t keep it as engaged as the teacher on the page does. Not only that, but many of those action and chase sequences (especially when Frodo is on the run from the Nazgûl past Weathertop) feel devoid of any geography or sense of direction, and certainly don’t feel too terrible.

The Lord of the Rings is a strange adventure because in one breath it can introduce a new (or old, technically) interpretation of Aragorn (played masterfully by injured john), the one that looks completely different from the Viggo Mortensen version we’re used to but in the best way, while being able to ignore the personalities and character development of the two Legolas (Anthony Danielsyes, this Anthony Daniels) and Gimli (David Buck), who don’t have much to do here except fight. At least Boromir (Michael Graham Cox) is a more complete character here than in Jackson’s trilogy, one who actively tries to atone for his mistakes. Boromir’s entire character design is compelling, and his arc in the film, while small, is extremely powerful.

Christopher Guard’s Frodo is an excellent adaptation

Likewise, Christopher GardeFrodo is a great adaptation of the character with a strong moral compass and a wholesome attitude towards his mission that would put Elijah Woodit is shameful. He’s confident and capable, and doesn’t really need anyone to accompany him on his journey, but he graciously accepts Sam’s help (Michael Scholes), who isn’t the brightest or most attractive Hobbit in The Shine. Yet, in hazy film fashion, the Frodo and Sam plot is completely overshadowed by the ending in favor of Rohan’s plot, not even catching up with the two Hobbits before the credits roll. And that’s not even to say how completely the movie forgets about Merry (Simon Chandler) and Pepin (Dominique Garde)! Unfortunately, the longer the film continues, the more Bakshi and his The Lord of the Rings losing sight and focus of their main character, and by extension the ultimate goal of their quest.

Bakshi’s film features groundbreaking rotoscoping

One amazing and remarkable thing about Bakshi’s production is its revolutionary use of rotoscoping. Rotoscoping is a technique in which scenes are initially shot live before being plotted onto animation cels to create “more realistic animation”. It was a trademark in Bakshi’s work that he first used in Wizards to continue using it after The Lord of the Rings in movies like American pop, fire and iceand cool world. Although not the most popular technique, animation the Lord of the Rings consistently uses rotoscoping, making it one of the few animated features to use this technique so consistently from start to finish.

Sometimes it looks great and works well against the backdrop of the movie (especially during close-ups of Orcs or Nazgûl), while other times it’s paired with ugly colored overlays, making it a bit primitive and off-putting. Still, it’s an impressive feat for a film released in 1978, and perhaps even more so now in an age where so much animation is done digitally rather than by hand. However, it begs the question, if they filmed so many of these scenes live anyway, why not just do the movie live in the first place?

Here in the 21st century, we’ve been blessed with advances in practical effects, CGI and animation, and while movies like The Hobbit trilogy and many recent Marvel Studios productions may not be the best examples of this, we’ve still come a long way since the rotoscoping techniques of 1978. However, recognizing the importance of these past techniques does not preclude Bakshi’s high-fantasy epic can be a bit off-putting to watch at times, especially when the Black Riders are on screen. Although to be honest they’re a bit off-putting, so rotoscoping actually makes them a lot scarier here than they are in Peter Jackson’s trilogy.

Another scene worth noting is when the four Hobbits are all hiding from the Black Rider under a tree root as they walk towards Bree. This scene is almost identical to Peter Jackson’s live-action scene The Fellowship of the Ring, and for good reason, it’s one of the best parts of the movie. Since the release of his trilogy, Jackson has recorded in The Fellowship of the Rings‘ audio commentary and said that this particular scene was influential in making The Lord of the Rings. For a more in-depth visual comparison, this video by Matt Skuta on YouTube is a great resource that shows just how similar many iconic shots from Jackson’s trilogy are, which only furthers Bakshi’s impact on the legendary de Tolkien.

The Lord of the Rings animation was a financial success

Perhaps the strangest thing about The the Lord of the Rings however, is that it was a financial success that grossed over $30 million worldwide on a $2 million budget, and yet there was never a sequel. While some have confused the Rankin/Bass TV movie adaptation ofThe king’s return as a sequel to Bakshi’s film, it actually had nothing to do with that animated classic, though it mostly served as a satisfying conclusion for those who wanted a true ending. While Bakshi had plans for a sequel that could continue The two towers story and end with its own version of The king’s return, mixed critical responses, and intense frustrations from Tolkien fans ended those plans. Obviously, Bakshi has already been approached by Warner Bros. to possibly complete his story, but, frustrated at not being consulted on Jackson’s trilogy, he apparently rejected the offer.

In the end, it’s sad that Ralph Bakshi The Lord of the Rings was never finished, and while it’s admittedly a very weird movie, the real crime is that it sat unfinished for so long. With Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth saga over, Amazon’s multi-million dollar power rings prequel to the rise, and The Rohirrim War anime feature set to be released in 2024, it’s easy to see that there’s growing demand for a return to the works of JRR Tolkien, and for many, the conclusion of the Bakshi adaptation would be a beautiful sight to see. Personally, The Lord of the Rings still leaves a lot to be desired for this author, and a sequel probably wouldn’t fix that, but for the sake of Ralph Bakshi and the longtime Tolkien fans who grew up on this animated classic, we can hope beyond hope. that this interpretation of history will one day come to an end.

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