|"The Hobbit" (1977). Photo: Warner Bros.|
Although I was not yet born when these films first came out, I have seen them numerous times and am very fond of them, especially "The Hobbit". Contrary to Jackson's "Hobbit" films, the Rankin/Bass special maintains the spirit of being a children's tale. The whimsical illustrations, the impeccable cast of voice actors, and an catchy soundtrack reminiscent of some of the company's other specials ("Frosty the Snowman", "The Year Without a Santa Claus", and so on) make for a film that is great fun for the whole family.
As an adaptation, "The Hobbit" manages to find an equal balance between appealing to longtime Tolkien fans as well as those experiencing the story for the first time. There are some omissions to the story – Beorn, for example, has been completely left out – which are clearly done to save time and avoid complicating the story with too many characters or plot points. Such omissions do not detract from Tolkien's original story, but instead help to advance the film in a way that is easy for audiences unfamiliar with Middle-earth to follow; Tolkien fans will find the lack of new characters, subplots, and drawn out action scenes to be very refreshing. While the film is by no means a perfect adaptation of The Hobbit, it captures most of the essence of the original story and is a great venture into Middle-earth.