Don’t have time to watch the whole two-movie HOBBIT from Peter Jackson, or even the Rankin Bass version? Well then maybe this 1968 “limited animation” version which clocks in at under 12 minutes is more your speed.
It’s actually a recently unearthed version of the Hobbit written by the legendary Gene Deitch (Tom and Jerry) and based on drawings by Czech illustrator Adolf Born.
When we tell you you have never seen the Hobbit like this, we mean, You have never seen the Hobbit like this.
As in: this is Thorin Oakenshield:
Scenarist Deitch also took some liberties with the storyline, replacing the 12 dwarven companions with….a princess. Who…well, let’s just say there is a ROMANCE along the way.
Of course there’s a wacky back story to this strange cartoon. Producer Bill Snyder was trying to hold onto the rights to the Hobbit (which he’d acquired from the Tolkiens in a totally crap deal for the Tolkien family) in the face of its sudden popularity surge in the late 60s. Deitch tells the rest of the story:
Why invest money, plus a year-and-a-half of work, when you can make money without all that sweat? Not only had the Tolkien estate lawyers given Snyder the rights for peanuts, but in their ignorance of film terminology, they had left a million-dollar-loop-hole in the contract: It merely stated that in order to hold his option for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Snyder had to “produce a full-color motion picture version” of THE HOBBIT by June 30th 1966. Please note: It did not say it had to be an animated movie, and it not say how long the film had to be!
Thus this strange, rushed animatic.
Which calls the dragon “Smag.” Rhymes with swag.
Tolkienistas will recall the stunningly inappropriate covers for the original Ballantine paperback trilogy by Barbara Remington, a talented artist who was given only a vague outline of what the books were about (Ballantine was in a race itself to compete with an unauthorized version by Ace Books.) The covers were so odd that they led to Tolkien complaining in his letters of inauthentic “pumpkins in a tree.” (An even less germane lion has been removed from the above.)
Well, let’s just say that the Deitch/Born version of the Hobbit is the perfect version of the story to go with the Remington covers.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.