The Hobbit
directed by Jules Bass
& Arthur Rankin Sr.
(Warner Brothers, 1978)

In 2001, the great Tolkien saga finally made it to the big screen in the manner the story deserves. Still, I cannot help but remember fondly Tolkien's first appearance on the little screen: The Hobbit, an animated version of the author's child-oriented prologue that first aired on television in 1978.

The style of animation doesn't hold a candle to the animated features of today. The songs are quite dated and annoyingly repetitive. But there's a timeless charm to this old classic, a touching innocence, that makes it worth keeping in your collection and taking down now and again to refresh your memory.

I recently sat my girlfriend's children down to watch this film for the first time and was curious how they -- in this age of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks -- would react to this visibly dated cartoon. While Vinnie, 9, was disappointed at the lack of onscreen violence, they both seemed to enjoy the tale ... and 4-year-old Molly was captivated from beginning to end.

There's a grand cast lending their vocal talents to the picture, including John Huston as Gandalf, Orson Bean as Bilbo Baggins, Otto Preminger as the Elvenking, Richard Boone as Smaug, Hans Conried as Thorin, and more. Yes, the reoccurring song "The Greatest Adventure" will drive you up a tree, but it's easily overlooked in the greater scheme of things.

I would enjoy seeing a new animated version of The Hobbit with modern technology at work, but 'til that's made, I'm glad this made-for-TV gem is still available to charm audiences again and again.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002

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