1977, NBC / Warner Home Video. Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. Orson Bean, John Huston, Otto Preminger, Cyril Ritchard, Brother Theodore, Hans Conried, Richard Boone, Glenn Yarbrough.
Decent Films Ratings
|?Kids & Up|
Content advisory: Much cartoon menace, stylized monsters, etc.
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The Hobbit (DVD & VHS)
From a National Catholic Register review
By Steven D. Greydanus
Holiday-special animation veterans Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, etc.) bring their typically serviceable animation, strong voicework, and corny folk ballads to The Hobbit, Tolkien’s charming prologue to The Lord of the Rings. The resulting film is worthwhile for kids and not too bad for parents.
Character design is a mixed bag: Gandalf looks very much himself, but Bilbo is rather cherubic, and the dwarves are uninspired. Worse is Gollum, disappointingly bloated and stiff rather than agile and emaciated, and the dreadfully goblin-like Wood-Elf King. (On the other hand, the Elf-lord Elrond, with his distinguished features and strange crown-halo, is far preferable to Bakshi’s dismally graceless version of the same character.)
The best-designed character is the dragon Smaug, whose obscene bulk and wolflike face are rendered with flair and imagination. The giant spiders, too, are genuinely menacing. Despite the fearful monsters, violence is suggested rather than explicitly depicted. The folk-tune soundtrack, though corny, at least tries to incorporate some of Tolkien’s poetry.
The Hobbit’s television debut was followed by Ralph Bakshi’s theatrically released The Lord of the Rings, which covered approximately half of Tolkien’s epic trilogy. A couple of years later, Rankin-Bass completed the story with The Return of the King.
Avoid the DVD release of The Hobbit, notorious for omitting sound effects and other audio elements, and stick with VHS.