I spent most of last week writing about “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” the first of Peter Jackson’s three films adapting J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece of fantasy literature. And while I did enjoy “An Unexpected Journey” (here’s my review of it), I still consider the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated movie “The Hobbit” to be the best adaptation of the book so far. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I wrote up a column for Movies.com in which I state my case for “The Hobbit” being one of the greatest animated movies ever made.
Here’s an excerpt from the column:
Produced and directed by the popular tandem of Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. and based on a screenplay by Romeo Muller, The Hobbit is 77 minutes of animated adventure that manages to remain surprisingly faithful to the tone and narrative of Tolkien’s 1937 children’s novel. It was this faithfulness to the source material, in fact, that earned Muller a prestigious Peabody Award for his translation of the story from page to screen. Oh, and for those who might not be up on their late-’60s and ’70s children’s programming, Muller is the writer who gave the world the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman holiday specials – so even if you don’t know his name, you probably know (and love) his work.
The Hobbit is also surprisingly stacked when it comes to the film’s cast, musical elements and animation team. Oscar-winning filmmaker John Huston provides one of the most memorable versions of Gandalf you’ll find in the time before Ian McKellen made the character his own, and Thurl Ravenscroft – better known as the voice of Frosted Flakes mascot Tony the Tiger and the deep-voiced singer of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” – offers the most pitch-perfect casting you’ll ever hear for the goblins.
You can read the rest of the column at Movies.com, and if you haven’t seen “The Hobbit” or haven’t watched it in a very long time), go ahead and track it down. You’ll thank me for it later.
Here are the first few minutes of the film, which showcase John Huston’s fantastic performance as Gandalf and Orson Bean’s wonderful interpretation of Bilbo Baggins: