Episode 37
April 4, 2022

They’re Just Some Solarized Dudes

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: Ralph Bakshi’s animated film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. A heavily promoted effort at the time due it being both the first ever version of Tolkien’s work done for film as well as due to Bakshi’s notable reputation as the most well known American animator since Walt Disney and Chuck Jones, the 1978 movie was a reasonable success but not a smash, and the fact that it was only the first half of a planned two-film sequence – but not marketed as such – led to confused audiences and an upset Tolkien reader fanbase. At once a surprisingly faithful if still heavily redacted version of the book and a very unusual mix of animation styles that grew out of Bakshi’s earlier movies, the film has retained a cult following since, and the resulting contrast with the later Peter Jackson movies has proven illuminating to both. What makes the sequences like the Flight to the Ford both compelling viewing and something of a slog? Which voice actors bring a notable depth to their characters along with the script and animation efforts – and which ones end up undercutting their characters completely? How does the shifting between particular animation styles, even within scenes, both act as intriguing experiment aiming to solve particular problems and yet also a confusing mess? And what is up with that incredibly generic musical score?

[Episode artwork]
0:00 / 1:35:18

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. Jackson riffed on this scene for a reason.

And Jared did bake a cake for Megaphonic’s Kitchen Party! Check it out.

The new Tolkien Estate page, worth a poke around.

The Tolkien Society’s announcement of Priscilla Tolkien’s passing.

Ralph Bakshi’s site. The specific Lord of the Rings page has a variety of stills, behind the scenes shots and preparatory work from the production.

The IMDB entry for Bakshi’s production. (The film is available for streaming from a variety of services.)

The AFI catalog entry for the production.

Ralph Bakshi: Forging Through the Darkness, a short documentary.

The Tolkien Experience, Episode 32: Ralph Bakshi, an extended interview by Luke Shelton.

An Exhaustive History of Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings by Dan Olson of Folding Ideas. (And as we spoke about in the episode, Olson’s two hour plus video on NFTs and crypto is an absolute must-watch.)

Three Rings For Hollywood, Janet Brennan Croft’s short comparative study of various film script adaptations of The Lord of the Rings up through Bakshi’s adaptation.

Will the Video Version of Tolkien Be Hobbit Forming?,’ John Culhane’s late 1977 New York Times story on the Rankin-Bass Hobbit which also includes separate quotes from Bakshi on his then-forthcoming adaptation.

Vincent Canby’s review of the film for the New York Times.

Roger Ebert’s review of the film for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mythlore 19, Winter 1979, which contains two reviews of the film from Steven Walker and Dale Ziegler.

Information on Amon Hen 39, published in June 1979, which contains four separate reviews of the film, including the Mythlore review from Steven Walker.

Hobbits On Film,’ Glenn Gaslin’s 2001 retrospective consideration of the Bakshi production for Slate, written in the run-up to the release of Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring.

Bakshi’s 2015 interview with TheOneRing.net.

Austen Gilkenson’s extended 2018 study of the film for Tor, part one and part two.

Ned’s own 2018 piece about the film and other Tolkien adaptations of the time, published in the Quietus.

A TV ad for the film.

The Electric Company Magazine! And like Ned said, there was a tie-in issue.

As for the board game, it had Shelob at least.

You know the Spider-man meme. As for Bakshi on his Spider-man experience, he’s not thrilled

That Legolas reaction. It’s a choice.

The Flight to the Ford scene – well worth watching even if you don’t know the full film, it sums up both the strengths and oddities of the adaptation.

An example of the intriguing angular design of the Shire woods in the Shadow of the Past Goes Outdoors sequence. (Compare to Eyvind Earle’s work on Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.)

The full Lothlorien sequence, with Galadriel’s fashion sense, the strange elf choir, the training montage as such and the Mirror of Galadriel highs and lows.

Two notable sequences showing how Bakshi’s Aragorn is as Jared puts it ‘his’ Aragorn (costume aside): his meeting with the Hobbits in the Prancing Pony parlor and Boromir’s death, especially with the wordless reaction from Aragorn near the end of the clip.

The Council of Elrond sequence definitely is a moment. Not a GOOD moment…

The Shadow of the Past sequence, with the quick cuts of the seasons, Gandalf being crabby and stagy, Frodo’s agape reaction to the Ring being tossed into the fire and so forth.

Gandalf meets Saruman – or Aruman, depending on the line. Orthanc’s design and Saruman’s MANY COLORS! included.

The hobbits first encounter the Nazgul, and it’s a truly creepy moment.

Ah yes the Balrog. We agree with the title of this clip.

Aside from the opening credits, the prologue sequence is really impressive as we note. But yeah that one Elves bit.

Our episode on Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring. And our orc episode.

Gollum being Gollum. And almost being redeemed towards the end of this clip. (Per Jared’s comparison, here’s Quentin Crisp on Letterman.)

Grima petting Theoden. Can’t put it any plainer.

Sam, Sam, Sam. Where to begin? So many examples. And then there’s that ‘moment.’

Aragorn takes a tumble.

Helm’s Deep here is not exactly Jackson’s.

That’s one big skull in Moria. Meantime, is Rivendell a lamasery?

If you REALLY want to hear the soundtrack… But yes, just listen to Rosenman’s Star Trek IV soundtrack instead as Jared suggests.

The heroic ending! Sorta. Maybe. If you squint.

Support By-The-Bywater and Megaphonic FM on Patreon!