Episode 49
April 3, 2023

Some Kind of Horrible Subpar D&D Fop Who Just Shows Up

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Ned’s choice of topic: the Rankin-Bass adaptation of The Return of the King. When Rankin-Bass’s 1977 adaptation of The Hobbit was shown on American network TV, the animation studio was already well into planning a further effort adapting The Lord of the Rings in some form as a sequel; the positive attention and ratings success of their Hobbit doubtless made them think they were on the right track. But when Arthur Rankin Jr. confessed in a 2003 interview that their version of The Return of the King was “not a very good film,” that was an understatement to say the least. While their Hobbit had flaws but was still a reasonably entertaining, focused translation of the story into a particular medium heightened by striking background work from their partners at the Japanese animation studio Topcraft, the Rankin-Bass Return of the King, which aired in 1980 and which continued to showcase work by Topcraft, was otherwise at best a muddled mess and at worst just a flat out disaster, with scattered positive elements not offsetting the series of baffling adaptation decisions that look even weirder following the success of Peter Jackson’s version of the book. What makes the pacing of the film so incredibly bizarre and frustrating, and how did the decision to tell which parts of the story in greater detail compromise the wider scope as a whole? How does the vocal casting and the respective performances end up underselling the flow of the story as a whole? Are there any good parts to the whole at all, and do they actually provide any upside to the end result? And why, why, WHY in the world are there so many bad songs throughout – even if there’s disagreement over whether “Where There’s a Whip” slaps or not?

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle – and it really is all that is deserved.

Come join us in Portland for our live episode recording if you can! April 22, 2023 is the date, we’ll be at Passages Bookshop, and we’ll be there with our fellow podcasts It’s Just a Show and Game Show 1939!

News of more Rings of Power casting. Good luck, everyone.

Ciarán Hinds really is all that. But as mentioned in a post-recording edit, Ned made a mistake and muddled two There Will Be Blood scenes – the confrontation scene he talks about is absolutely stunning for sure, but the one where for the first couple of minutes Hinds just very carefully watches, smokes and takes it all in is the one nearer the beginning where Paul Sunday first sits down with Daniel Plainview.

The UK National Archives post on the newly discovered letters by Tolkien.

The Rankin-Bass Return of the King! It sure did return.

Our earlier episode on the Rankin-Bass Hobbit. A lot of information on Rankin-Bass in general which also applies to this production is linked there, so we won’t repeat it all here. (And since we do mention Bakshi’s film a couple of times, here’s our episode on that.)

Oh I think we all know about the Star Wars Holiday Special. But the forthcoming documentary could be interesting.

The John Culhane New York Times piece from 1977 where Rankin’s quote about their plans for The Return of the King comes from.

The 1980 LA Times piece by Charles Solomon mentioned is available to read via Newspapers.com though only via a free trial; its first part can be found here along with the awesome Joan Jett photo.

If you really actually want to watch the Rankin-Bass Return of the King, don’t say we didn’t want you.

Rick Goldschimdt’s interview with Rankin; the quote about Return of the King is towards the end of the clip.

The one-album vinyl redaction of the movie from 1980.

Want a view of that Seattle Kraken tentacle? Enjoy.

Oriana’s fine with the orcs not being depicted in a racist fashion, Jared likes the design of Minas Tirith. We’ll take what we can get.

The Last Homely House does look like it should be snow covered in the Swiss Alps or something.

Ah the minstrel. Yes. Yes indeed.

Where there’s a whip! (But yeah, some love or at least nuance for the orcs, we love to see it, as we argued in our own episode about them.)

Barad-dûr is…odd.

Neuschwanstein Castle, if you ever want to check it out.

Sauron, though, that’s pretty interesting. And definitely not Mike Wazowski.

Our Silver Call duology episode. Still a very strange piece of work.

Bring on The War of the Rohirrim! crossed fingers

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