Episode 25
April 5, 2021

You Can Have Well-Written Music in a Kid’s Movie!

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: the 1977 Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit. Produced by the Rankin-Bass team and animated by Japanese animation studio Topcraft, 1977’s The Hobbit was a widely promoted effort for mainstream American network TV. As a result, it gave Tolkien’s work its highest profile in the US to that point, winning awards and eventually prompting a further Rankin-Bass sequel drawing on The Return of the King. However, it swiftly became more of a cult classic curio, more known of than known, deemed a product of its time and the attendant limitations the creative team had to work with by default. However it retained fans and, especially in the wake of Peter Jackson’s own three-film adaptation of the book, it gained a new wave of reappreciation in contrast to both that and the source text. What were some of the decisions made in the course of simplifying and adapting the story, and how did they change the overall impact of the effort as a result? Are the songs and musical performances handy complements to the whole or are they too perhaps just a little too much even in context? Are there any notable vocal acting performances among the ensemble and do they stand up to more familiar actors in other versions? And is there any final way to determine exactly why and how Rankin-Bass were actually able to create the film in the first place given that they didn’t have any formal license from the current rights-holders at the time?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Burn baby burn, Lake-town inferno.

It really has been two years since we started! If you’ve been along with us for the whole ride, we thank you again.

Deadline’s report on Wayne Che Yip joining the Amazon production.

The production’s photo from the unknown New Zealand beach.

Tom Budge’s Instagram post about leaving the production and the subsequent IndieWire story.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is definitely a thing. No Tolkien connection...yet.

News on the new Tolkien-illustrated edition of The Lord of the Rings via TheOneRing.net.

Yup, this trailer is twenty years old. Pre-YouTube downloads were where it was at.

Rick Goldschmidt’s history of Rankin-Bass is very much available.

Russell A. Potter’s key article about the making of The Hobbit can be found in Hogan’s Alley #20. There’s some extra illustrations included at this link.

The Rankin-Bass Hobbit can be viewed online various ways via streaming services/rentals. If you’d like to do what Ned did and replicate his youthful listening experience after that first broadcast, enjoy!

Luke Shelton’s 2020 piece about the shadowy 1960s Hobbit animation gives what info you need about that cryptic effort.

Here’s Middle-earth Enterprises’ own timeline for the general rights—worth remembering again that Rankin-Bass’s production was not licensed from them.

The major ‘in the moment’ preview feature for the Rankin-Bass Hobbit appears to have been John Culhane’s New York Times piece that ran just a day or two before the broadcast. Not only are Arthur Rankin and Orson Bean interviewed with a variety of anecdotes but also, regarding his own separate production, Ralph Bakshi.

Rick Goldschmidt’s interview with Arthur Rankin Jr. from 2003—The Hobbit is discussed starting around 12 minutes in.

Arthur Rackham’s influence continues in various ways, but thankfully the 21st century has a much wider scope.

A quick and useful explainer about the Japanese animation connections in The Hobbit.

It really did win a Peabody!

The briskly-told barrel sequence from Rankin-Bass

Walt Simonson is quality.

That W. C. Fields Philadelphia line, apocryphal as it might be.

It’s true...the Rankin-Bass Elves are very odd looking.

Brian Froud is good quality. And of course a collaborator with Alan Lee!

How the Rankin-Bass Elvenking sits on his throne is DEFINITELY not how Lee Pace does.

Pantsless Lake-men indeed. In this cel, Bard’s on the left, fancy armor and no pants.

More of our recent thoughts on orcs.

Shin Godzilla IS very great.

Smaug at his best in the film is pretty terrifying!

Brother Theodore was truly remarkable. Enjoy Penn Jillette’s memories and the compilation of Theodore’s Letterman appearances.

Diagetic music is something you know even if you don’t know it.

Thurl Ravenscroft, the legend.

Glenn Yarbrough’s Wikipedia page is...odd. Here’s him with the Limeliters in the initial splash of his fame.

Our fellow Megaphonic podcast This Is Your Mixtape is well worth your time. Here’s Ned’s episode, and Oriana’s should be up soon.

Kermit singing “The Rainbow Connection” at Newport rules.

The whole Ace/Ballantine Lord of the Rings paperback situation is truly as important as is claimed!

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