The Hobbit (1977)

the hobbit poster 1977 movie
7.5 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 7/10

Sentimental favorite, better than the live-action version

Tough adaptation, animation is not for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Hobbit

Studio:  ABC Video Enterprises/Rankin/Bass Productions/Topcraft

Genre(s):  Animated/Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Family

Release Date(s):  November 27, 1977

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

the hobbit dwarfs gandalf bilbo baggins animated

Gandalf is the like the Godfather of Middle-Earth

Bilbo Baggins has been recruited for an adventure.  Hired by Gandalf to join a quest led by dwarves, Bilbo finds himself on a quest to free the Misty Mountain from the dragon Smaug.  When Bilbo finds a strange ring which gives him the powers of invisibility, the dwarves’ thief might finally live up to his title.

Directed by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., The Hobbit is an animated action-adventure.  The made-for-television special was an adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 novel.  The movie originally aired on NBC on November 27, 1977 and was rather well received by critics.

The Hobbit was my first introduction to Tolkien and in addition to my sister reading the book to me, I can remember listening to the read-a-long record book of this movie over and over again.  I don’t even believe I saw the movie until much later but felt I always knew it.  With the bloated and over-produced Hobbit films directed by Peter Jackson now released, I wanted to revisit this childhood film…and find it better at less than ninety minutes.

the hobbit gollum bilbo baggins riddles in the dark animated

The real riddle should be “how can this be a nine hour epic?”

The Hobbit is a short story.  The novel isn’t that long and telling it can be rather straight forward with some rather unnecessary plot points dropped.  The animated film takes this approach, but is still able to even incorporate some of the fun (and memorable) music into the telling.  Could it have been expanded?  Yes, but it didn’t really need to be in this format, but Jackson went way overboard with his version(s).

For a TV animated film, The Hobbit did some nice casting.  Orson Bean provided the voice for Bilbo and director John Huston was the voice of Gandalf.  Director Otto Preminger voiced the Elvenking, and Richard Boone was the voice of the dragon Smaug.  The rest of the cast is filled out with comedians and voice actors, but for an animated movie (especially at this time), it was rather strong.

the hobbit smaug dragon animated

Let’s break right here for a sequel movie…

The art for the film was provided by the Japanese company Topcraft. Topcraft later evolved into Studio Ghibli and you can see a lot of this in the animation.  Smaug in particular has a rather Japanese style to the dragon and though not done entirely in anime style, a lot of the films design have an anime style to them.  This did not sit well with some viewers since Japanese animation at the time was much less familiar.

The Hobbit is a fun little film that will be enjoyed by kids and fans of the book.  It is fairly faithful to the source material and does a much better job getting the tone of the novel than Jackson’s versions of the story which resemble his adaption of The Lord of the Rings much more.  Rankin/Bass also did their own adaptation of The Lord of the Rings and released The Return of the King in 1980.

Related Links:

The Return of the King (1980)

The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey (2012)

The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Two Towers (2002)

The Lord of the Rings:  The Return of the King (2003)

The Lord of the Rings (1978)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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