Monday, November 12, 2012

Family Movie Night: The Hobbit

Title: The Hobbit
Director: Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Original Release: 1977
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image via Lord of the Rings Fanatics Site

We've been in Hobbit-prep mode for over a year at our house.  The first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part live action interpretation opens on December 14th.  In anticipation, I've been reading Tolkien to my daughter since last summer.  Here are my write-ups so far:

Bedtime Stories: The Hobbit
Bedtime Stories: The Fellowship of the Ring

My own Tolkien adventures began with the made-for-TV animated film of 1977.  In fact, I think it may have been one of my very first video rentals.  The production team of Rankin/Bass are best-known for their Christmas specials, most notably Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.  The animation work for The Hobbit was done by Topcraft, a precursor to Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. 

An unofficial trailer:

Watching the film again all these years later, what's most interesting to me is the pace.  By Tolkien standards, this one really whips along.  Despite the short length (only 77 minutes), Rankin and Bass were able to squeeze in a fair amount of the book.  As such, there isn't much dawdling allowed.  Most gratifying is the fact that so much of Tolkien's original language was preserved, including Thorin's farewell speech to Bilbo - my own favorite passage.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • This is definitely a film for kids.  The pacing is less satisfying for an adult who knows the full story.  That said, considering the time and resources available, this film is admirable work.
  • The music is definitely hokey.  I remember thinking "The Greatest Adventure" was a great song when I was a kid.  Now it just seems silly.
  • I'm glad that my daughter was exposed to the book before the movie.  She was disappointed that things were left out.  I'm very proud of our Tolkien snob in-training.
  • Our excitement for the Jackson film has only been hightened.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. Been years since I watched it. I do remember the LOTR animated film that came out a couple years later by Bakshi. Such a serious contrast to this film.

    1. I never watched the LOTR animated film. Was it good?

      I did catch bits and pieces of "The Return of the King," a Rankin/Bass sequel. I remember being very confused as to why it was suddenly Frodo instead of Bilbo. I hadn't read the books yet, you see.

  2. It's funny how the songs we remember as having been sheer genius as kids can strike us so differently as adults.

    I don't know, I sometimes find that if I had a strong fondness for something as a small person, it has, forever, this cocoon of emotional amnesty cushioning it from any real criticism. :)

    1. Me, too - to a point. As I hope I've said before, the works that hold up well to adult scrutiny are to be particularly admired - old "Bugs Bunny" cartoons, for instance.

    2. Guess which Looney Tunes character amused me most?

      (And, for the record, I would guess that in matters of taste, nothing merits inviolate amnesty for you. :))

    3. If by that you mean that I'm not above changing my mind about something, I suppose anything could get tiresome after a while. But somethings are sacred: Beethoven, Otis Redding, The Usual Suspects, Salinger, Hank Aaron. Those are just the ones that first come to mind.

      Let's see, your favorite Looney Tunes character... I'm going to go with Marvin the Martian.

    4. Okay, so I'm reading your first paragraph and getting all contemplative about my response and then I get to your second one and my eyes pop out of my head.

      How did you do that!? :D

    5. Call it an educated guess. I went to your blog, checked your list of memorable characters and picked the WB character who fit best.

  3. I have this on VHS. It really is kind of hokey. Cannot wait for The Hobbit movie next month. I hear tickets are already on sale. Could this be? I'm not even in line yet. :)

    1. I think I'll skip the midnight showing, though it's tempting. My buddy Mock and I went to see the midnight showing of "Avengers." He was jazzed enough to stay awake. Alas, I was not. Even though the roles would likely be reversed this time, I expect I'll wait until the weekend.

  4. I loved this movie when I was a kid. Had the full soundtrack and listened to it so much, I had it memorized.

    1. I didn't even know about the soundtrack until last week. I expect I'd have enjoyed that as a kid, too.