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The First (and Worst) Adaptation of The Hobbit


Jun 9 2021, 6:42pm

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The First (and Worst) Adaptation of The Hobbit


Jun 9 2021, 7:21pm

Views: 5140

The (barely) animated 1967 short seems to have been thrown together in about a month in order to meet the minimum requirements to retain the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The original intent was to make an animated feature film of The Hobbit but the project just wasn't coming together, so this was essentially a delaying tactic to keep the rights from reverting to Tolkien. Of course, the rights eventually went to The Saul Zaentz Company.


Chen G.

Jun 9 2021, 11:08pm

Views: 5128
As far as I can tell

It goes like this: Tolkien coming out of the negotiations with Morton Zimmerman, decided it would be easier to lease the rights for a certain time window instead of keeping them and trying to be directly involved in adaptations. This he did in his negotiations to make an animated The Hobbit with producer William L. Snyder.

Tolkien seemed somewhat jaded about Snyder commenting that "he is sure to perpetrate [..] many objectionable things" but nevertheless couldn't contain his curiosity and in Snyder's long dalliance with the project, had forward inquiries to him about how the project is coming along. According to John Boorman, he too would later have a correspondence with Tolkien about his film version (here at Boorman's initiative, being that he wanted Tolkien to appear in his film) which would show Tolkien didn't just waive away the idea of film adaptations: He cared.

Snyder seemed to have had trouble finding a studio to finance and distribute his film, and with the date of the end of the lease coming, he dug up the contracts and saw it only specified "colour film version of The Hobbit." So he had his writer condense the work to a single reel and had about a dozen people see it, on the condition that - to get a refund on the admission - they'd first have to sign a document saying they paid to see "a colour film version of The Hobbit."

From the memories of writer/animator Gene Deitch it seems some of the changes, such as the tweaking of names and the addition of Princess Mika, were part of the unabridged script. Deitch spent most of the writing process unaware of The Lord of the Rings but he evidentally read it in time to incorporate it into the script, since the Ring is referred to as a "Ring of Power."

The rights were sold back to Tolkien just as he was in the process of selling them to Bernie-Katzka Productions and United Artists, who ended-up not really doing anything with the rights to The Hobbit until the late 2000s.

(This post was edited by Chen G. on Jun 9 2021, 11:11pm)