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Ralph Bakshi looks back at "The Lord of the Rings" for its 40th Anniversary


Nov 10 2018, 2:14pm

Post #1 of 9 (4097 views)
Ralph Bakshi looks back at "The Lord of the Rings" for its 40th Anniversary Can't Post

The 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings, created by acclaimed filmmaker Ralph Bakshi, is celebrating its 40th Anniversary today, and the director took time to speak at length with The Hollywood Reporter about the journey to get the film made, beginning with his love of Tolkien and how the novels influenced one of his earlier projects.
"As far as realistic adult fantasy, Tolkien certainly was the best I'd ever read," says Bakshi, who regularly consumed sci-fi and fantasy like Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian pulp novels in the '50s. "There was a very big fantasy kick going on in the underground and in popular culture [in the '60s and '70s]. That kick eventually had me make the picture Wizards."

The $1.3 million budgeted, politically acute Wizards incorporated a number of Tolkienesque characters in its post-apocalyptic setting, from fairies and elves and dwarves to the title characters themselves.

Bakshi describes the often tumultuous process of getting the film made, bouncing back and forth between studios, before finally moving forward on the project with producer Saul Zaentz. But before production could move forward, there was still one more step he felt he needed to take.
It was important to Bakshi to get the blessings of the Tolkien family, and he traveled to England to visit Tolkien's daughter Priscilla. "I told her how I was going to make the film, and if she didn't like it I wasn't going to make it," remembers Bakshi. "She loved what I had to say and she took me to Tolkien's studio in Oxford."

While Bakshi would create an animated film, he had decided to take a "mixed-medium approach" to the film, utilizing traditional animation, live action film and a technique known as rotoscoping (where animators trace over a live action image for a more realistic effect).
"I always thought that mixing styles was proper, and that's why I was able to mix live and animation and get a really interesting effect; let's call it collage," declares Bakshi.

Bakshi would, however, find the production to be nearly overwhelming. For as much as he loved the story, the process of making the film came with great difficulty.
"I nearly died," he says candidly. "It was the hardest thing I had to do in my life. I didn't have the budget for producers. As I was shooting the picture live-action in Spain, I was running the company on the phone through my secretary and my production manager. I didn't get much sleep. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do. But the animators loved me. And I had tremendous support on all my films from these guys because they loved what they were doing and they knew what I was trying to do. They held it together."¯

As is well known by now, the film was originally meant to be a two part adaptation of Tolkien's celebrated work. However, closer to release, Bakshi was in for a surprise as he learned the studio's plans for marketing the film. They had decided to remove all mention of it being the first of two films.
"...when I handed it in a week before release, what we used to call wet prints, to the theater. They showed me the advertising campaign and I said, "Where's the Part One?" And that's when I found out."

The experience was disheartening for the director, who describes a fight with Zaentz over the debacle and an extinguished desire to continue the project. Still, he lost none of his love for Tolkien. Asked if he would like the opportunity to finish his project, Bakshi replies:
"Now that Saul Zaentz is gone, I wouldn't mind being involved. If Warner Bros. wanted to make part two and three in animation, I would consult. I'd be very happy doing that."

Read the full interview at The Hollywood Reporter to hear more about the production, including how Led Zeppelin and Mick Jagger were almost involved in the film.

(This post was edited by dernwyn on Nov 12 2018, 5:03pm)


Nov 10 2018, 10:44pm

Post #2 of 9 (4053 views)
Well [In reply to] Can't Post

Last I heard Bakshi still had the live-action reference film for LOTR Part 2 in storage. Only a matter of animation and/or rotoscoping.

"Begone, foul dwimmerlaik, lord of carrion! Leave the dead in peace!"
"Come not between the Nazgul and his prey! Or he will not slay thee in
thy turn. He will bear thee away to the houses of lamentation, beyond
all darkness, where thy flesh shall be devoured, and thy shrivelled
mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye."
"Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me!"
"But no living man am I! I am Eowyn, daughter of Theodwyn!"
"Er, really? My mother's name was Theodwyn, too!"
"No way!"
"Wow! Let's stop fighting and be best friends!"

-Zack Snyder's The Return of the King

Thor 'n' Oakenshield

Nov 10 2018, 11:16pm

Post #3 of 9 (4048 views)
Really? [In reply to] Can't Post

That's incredible. Not that his LotR was anything to write home about, but still, it would be nice to finally see the second half. The first one is hysterically funny; Aragorn in a miniskirt, the Balrog, Windmill Gandalf, etc. Laugh

"Torment in the dark was the danger that I feared, and it did not hold me back. But I would not have come, had I known the danger of light and joy. Now I have taken my worst wound in this parting, even if I were to go this night straight to the Dark Lord."


Nov 12 2018, 3:32am

Post #4 of 9 (3940 views)
I have very fond memories of Bakshi's film. [In reply to] Can't Post

Which does not mean I will like a new one, of course; but still - Bakshi was my gateway to Tolkien's world.

Tol Eressea

Nov 13 2018, 9:10pm

Post #5 of 9 (3870 views)
I own it but have never watched it -- would that spoil the magic? // [In reply to] Can't Post


"I shall not wholly fail if anything can still grow fair in days to come."


Nov 13 2018, 9:26pm

Post #6 of 9 (3874 views)
Watch it at least once. [In reply to] Can't Post

In Reply To
I own it but have never watched it -- would that spoil the magic?

You'll never know unless you give it a look. Just be prepared to be forgiving in regard to the film's flaws.

"For a brief time I was here; and for a brief time I mattered." - Harlan Ellison


Nov 13 2018, 10:02pm

Post #7 of 9 (3855 views)
I love Bakshi's LotR. Would love to see Part 2 happen.. [In reply to] Can't Post

I guess it's almost impossible at this point. But there are a lot of talented people out there who could bring the remaining footage to life and even touch up and restore parts of film 1. It's good to know Bakshi would be interested in a consultation role. I bet he could even be persuaded to animate a few frames.

I hope somehow something comes of this. Even a crowd-funded rough cut cobbled together by youtubers would be cool to see.

(This post was edited by AshNazg on Nov 13 2018, 10:03pm)


Nov 18 2018, 12:10am

Post #8 of 9 (3731 views)
Me Too [In reply to] Can't Post

I also would love to see this happen in some form or another.

I actually emailed Ralph Bakshi way back when I was in high school telling him I was a fan and asking some questions about his version of LOTR, and received a long, thoughtful response that answered my questions and then some. I just remember thinking he came off as very warm and friendly and also very open and engaging. I cannot for the life of me remember where I got his email address from, but I do remember kicking myself for forgetting to forward the email to a different account when my father switched internet providers and we all had to change our emails.


Aug 9, 4:45am

Post #9 of 9 (120 views)
Recent tweet by Ralph Bakshi [In reply to] Can't Post

He posted unused footage:


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