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Western Animation / The Hobbit

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"Far o'er the Misty Mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old...
We must away, ere break of day
To seek the pale, enchanted gold!"

The Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Hobbit has an animesque style similar to their adaptation of The Last Unicorn. It might have to do with the fact it was animated by Topcraft, which would later make Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. It also had a number of Celebrity Voice Actors, including John Huston as Gandalf.

Released for television in 1977 and followed up by R-B's adaptation of The Return of the King.

Provides examples Of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Generally, the movie does a very nice job boiling down the novel into a good seventy minute movie. Reductions include:
    • The dwarves all arrive at once, shortly after Gandalf, rather than individually or in groups the next day.
    • The riddle game is shortened to two riddles apiece (rather than five each), not counting Bilbo's wondering "What have I got in my pocket?".
    • The eagles fly the company directly to Mirkwood rather than to near Beorn's house, where they stayed for an extra day or so in the book.
    • The enchanted river in Mirkwood, and Bombur's falling in and being rescued, is omitted.
    • The earlier encounters with the wood-elves are alluded to, but never shown.
    • Bilbo only goes into Lonely Mountain once, stealing the cup and then conversing with an awakened Smaug while discovering his weak spot. In the book, these happened in two separate visits.
    • The elven-king is never shown visiting Laketown after its destruction; he simply arrives with an army to demand a share of the treasure. Likewise, his scenes after the battle are left out.
    • The plotline with the Arkenstone is left out, as is Thorin directly sending Roac the raven to contact Dain for help (instead, Dain's army simply shows up to help without having been asked for specifically).
    • The entire journey home (save for a brief scene of Bilbo and Gandalf conversing) is unseen, along with Bilbo's actual homecoming and the auctioning of his belongings.
  • A Death in the Limelight: Bombur, a minor character in the book is one of the only dwarves who is pushed into the background. He also Takes A Level In Kindness and acts as a mentor to Bilbo when it's not Gandalf... and is killed off.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole:
    • It's never explained how the dwarves got the supplies necessary to travel through Mirkwood without meeting Beorn.
    • The first meeting with the wood elves was left out... and then alluded to in the second meeting as "the wood elves had returned."
    • The dwarves never put out a call for reinforcements, leaving Dain's arrival just in time for the battle to be completely unexplained.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Bard first appears during the Company's stay in Lake-Town, instead of during the battle with Smaug.
  • Adaptational Heroism: With the Arkenstone cut, Bilbo's more dubious decisions regarding it are absent. Additionally, due to this change while Thorin still insults Bilbo for trying to avoid war with the Lakemen and elves, he never kicks him out of the company or implies he wouldn't be given his promised 1/14th share of the treasure.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: The Elf-king just shows up to demand a share of treasure for flimsy reasons, when his book counterpart aided the Lake-men after the destruction of their town and was the most reluctant to go to war over the treasure. You can hardly blame Thorin for not wanting to give anything to that jackass.
    • Thorin himself has one when he randomly decides to withhold the entire treasure without sharing it with the people of Laketown, even after they slayed Smaug for him. While still a dick move in the book, there it at least made some sense considering the dwarves were coerced into making a deal in exchange for some desperately needed hospitality from them. Here he simply refuses to share because "the treasure belongs to the dwarves."
  • Adaptational Ugliness: The wood elves are described as beautiful in Tolkien's writings, but here are shown as ugly and having blue skin. Elrond and his elves remain fair, however, which makes it seem as if they are two different species.
  • Adaptational Villainy: The trolls are far more menacing and much more intelligent, having their decision over how to cook them not be an argument but each following their own personal preference. This makes Gandalf's victory less a matter of cleverness and more a display of raw power; instead of playing for time he makes the sun come up earlier.
  • Adaptational Wimp: When Gandalf arrives in Goblin-Town, the books' version has him emit a number of sparks from his staff that cause the goblins to go mad with pain for a short while. Here, the sparks don't do very much aside from distract the goblins. Also in the same scene, Thorin and Gandalf kill several goblins in the book while being chased. Here, the Dwarves merely flee.
    • After the Battle of Five Armies, Bilbo tells Bombur he got a slight crack on the head during the battle. While this references an actual injury he accrues in the book, the incident itself is never portrayed, giving the implication that Bilbo just straight up lied about his injury to cover for sitting the battle out.
  • Adapted Out: The stone giants, the Master of Laketown, Roäc the raven, Bolg, and, most notably, Beorn are omitted. Dáin is mentioned but does not appear. Also, the Arkenstone is omitted, and Gandalf never mentions the Necromancer. The Necromancer is referred to, but it is so vague that the audience wouldn't know Gandalf was referring to him if they only saw this; he says only that he has "pressing business in the south". Bilbo's mythril coat is also omitted, with his instead receiving (and discarding, when he leaves the battlefield) a "deucedly uncomfortable" suit of armor "forged in the foundries of [Thorin's] grandfather".
  • All There in the Manual: Just like in the book, The Elvenking's real name, Thranduil, is never mentioned.
  • An Aesop:
    • The film's theme song, "The Greatest Adventure".
      The man who's a dreamer, and never takes leave
      Who thinks of a world that is just make-believe
      Will never know passion, will never know pain
      Who sits by the window will one day see rain
    • Regarding the Battle of the Five Armies and how wars fought for greed are incredibly stupid.
  • Animal Eyes: The Goblins have cat-like eyes with dilated pupils.
  • Animesque: Virtually all the animators and one of the two character designers were Japanese, some of whom went to work for Miyazaki so this may actually be more half-Anime than pseudo-Anime Animesque.
  • Artistic License – Biology: What are called ponies more closely resemble small mules.
  • Aside Comment: Bilbo after the dwarves chant about attacking the human and elvish armies: "Personally, I'd rather be back in Hobbiton."
  • Audible Sharpness: Sting. And how!!
  • Badass Adorable: Bilbo establishes himself as one when he kills a Giant Spider for the first time and names his blade Sting. Then he rescues the dwarves from other giant spiders, kills some more of them, and rescues the dwarves again from the wood elves. Too bad he doesn't participate in the Battle of the Five Armies, though it's pretty accurate to the book as well.
  • Badass Boast: Smaug has his infamous speech boasting his terrifying power, albeit in a truncated form from the book.
    "I am Smaug! I kill when I wish! I am strong! Strong! Strong! My armor is like tenfold shields. My teeth are like swords. My claws, spears! The shock of my tail, a thunderbolt! My wings, a hurricane! And my breath, DEATH!"
  • Big "NO!": The Great Goblin right before Gandalf kills him.
  • Big Ol' Unibrow: Unlike his book counterpart (who is specifically noted in The Fellowship of the Ring as having separate eyebrows), Gandalf sports one. Unlike most examples though, he is neither evil nor are he or his unibrow played for laughs.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the amount of violence involving swords found in the film, there's not a drop of blood to be seen anywhere except for a bit smeared on Thorin's bandages after the Battle of Five Armies.
  • Call-Forward: A line added just for the animated version has Gandalf cheekily commenting that Bilbo's story has "the ring of truth to it", making it obvious Gandalf knows Bilbo omitted the part of finding the One Ring.
  • Catlike Dragons: Smaug is depicted as very mammalian, with a distinctly catlike face sporting a short muzzle, prominent triangular ears, bushy cheek fur and slit-pupiled feline eyes. Interestingly, this is a design similar to East Asian dragons, so it could be an influence from the Japanese animators, but given how everything has a more European aesthetic to it, it's more likely that Smaug's more feline head is a reference to his 'purring' as he sleeps, as described in the book.
  • Cephalothorax: The Goblins. Canonically, the Chief Goblin could bite your head off. Indeed, his mouth is so big in this version, it could swallow a dwarf.
  • Chekhov's Gun: This film puts greater emphasis on the Ring and its future importance, with Gandalf even outright telling Bilbo at the end that it will come into play in a future story.
  • Chromosome Casting: Just like in the book, there is not a single woman to be found in this story − not even a nameless, background character.
  • Cue the Sun: The film makes it looks like Gandalf actually summoned the Sun when he appears to save the dwarves from the trolls, instead of simply stalling the trolls by keeping them talking until sunrise the way he did in the book.
  • Dark Reprise: When Bombur dies, a very melancholy version of "roads go ever ever on" can be heard.
  • Death by Adaptation: More of the Company die in the film, including Bombur. At the end there are only six left alive; in the book, ten survived the battle, including the aforementioned character.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Bilbo is seen smoking one early on, though he doesn't get to bring it with him on the journey.
  • Disease Bleach: Bombur's hair is jet black for the first half of the movie. At some point in the second half, it turns white, possibly from all the stress of the company's close shaves, making the contrast between his lively introduction and dying in Bilbo's arms all the sadder.
  • Dragon Hoard: Smaug sleeps on his treasure as if it were a bed.
  • Enemy Mine: Explicitly parodied at the end of the film.
    Gandalf: Dread has come upon you all! An army of Goblins with claim to the treasure comes from the north! Behold! They ride upon wolves!
    Thorin: Oh, great Elf-king! My truest friend and ally! We must join forces against this common scourge!
    Thranduil: But...of course...o noble King under the Mountain. Your people are like brothers unto mine.
    Bard: And my Men and all their weapons are as one with yours. Together, we shall vanquish the foul foe!
    All: TOGETHER!
    Bilbo: (to himself) Thorin is correct, I simply do not understand war.
  • Everything's Better with Sparkles: Elrond has the sparkles, from the gems in the crown he's wearing, greatly enhanced.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Thurl Ravenscroft provides the bass in "Goblin Town" and "Funny Little Things", likely pushing those songs over the edge. Then there's Smaug of course and finally the trolls.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: There's no blood in this film, but the aftermath of the Battle of Five Armies is still a gruesome spectacle with the sheer number of corpses littering the field.
  • The Film of the Book: The first major adaptation of Tolkien's work that was put to film.
  • Freak Out: Gollum has a rather epic one upon discovering that his "precious" has been stolen by Bilbo. As later books would show, there is a very good reason for his attachment to it, beyond its (admittedly immense) practical use of making him invisible.
  • Frog Men: Gollum is depicted as particularly frog-like.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Smaug's eyes shine like spotlights, illuminating whatever he's looking at.
  • Gold Fever:
    • Smaug's loot after his defeat causes war amongst three differing races, all staking claim to the treasure.
    • Gollum and the ring.
  • The Hero's Journey: The film is about Bilbo's journey with the dwarves to Lonely Mountain.
  • Hobbits: The Hobbit.
  • I Call It "Vera": "Now I will give you a name — and I shall call you Sting!"
  • Incendiary Exponent: Smaug. Who else?
  • In the Style of: Word of God is that the look of the film was based on the art of Arthur Rackham.
  • It Has Been an Honor: Just before he dies, Thorin apologizes to Bilbo for calling him a coward before.
  • Large Ham: Quite a few of the voice actors bring the ham to their characters, Gollum's and Smaug's in particular.
  • Limited Animation: The Battle of the Five Armies as seen from space. In the book, the scene cuts from Bilbo being knocked unconscious and missing the rest of the battle, to him waking up. The scene works here as an "and the battle continued for some time" passage, allowing us to pick up where Bilbo regains consciousness, unaware of what's happened or how things ended. It also cuts down on the on-screen gore.
  • Low Clearance: Bilbo is separated from the Company in the Misty Mountains when one of the Dwarves (either Dori or Nori judging by the clothes) attempts to follow the rest through a low tunnel and accidentally knocks Bilbo off his back.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Fifteen Birds", a cheerful Goblin song. It's directly from the book.
    Roast 'em alive or stew 'em in a pot! Fry them! Boil them! Eat them hot!
    Bake and toast 'em. Fry and roast 'em 'Till beards blaze, and eyes glaze,
    Till hair swells and skins crack, Fat melts and bones black
    In cinders lie beneath the sky, SO THE DWARVES SHALL DIE!
  • Made-for-TV Movie: It's a television movie, with blatantly obvious cliffhanger-and-Fade to Black moments showing where commercials were supposed to go.
  • Mr. Exposition: Elrond, whose dialog mostly consists of explaining to Bilbo (and the audience) what moon runes are and what the secret message on Thorin's map is.
  • Never Got to Say Goodbye: Averted with Thorin. Played straight for Bombur. Bilbo realizes he's hurt, but Bombur won't tell him anything (maybe not wanting to worry his friend?) but dies before Bilbo can understand what's happening. The last frame before it cuts to Gandalf learning that Bombur is "gone" is Bilbo rushing with a look of shock, and distress, implying he truly didn't understand that the wounds Bombur had sustained over the course of the battle were fatal (until Bombur's death made it clear) or was in denial about it.
  • Manly Facial Hair: The dwarves and Gandalf all have big beards, and Bard is given a big mustache.
  • The Musical: As with all Rankin/Bass films. However, (almost) all the lyrics are from the book.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: The Goblins.
  • Named Weapons:
    • Elven swords Orcrist, The Goblin Cleaver and Glamdring, The Foe Hammer.
    • After using it on the giant spiders, Bilbo gives his weapon the name "Sting."
  • No Body Left Behind:
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Smaug is based on Norse dragons, which share the long skinny bodies of eastern dragons. He also has a distinctly cat-like head, which actually entered the zeitgeist for a while and did influence the live-action version slightly.
  • Our Elves Are Different: You see, Tolkien based his elves on the traditional myths about fairies, but by Tolkien's time, the term "fairy" had been corrupted to mean something unbearably twee, so Tolkien used the term "elf" instead, even though, as he well knew, traditional myths about elves were very different. The film, however, compounds on this, because it actually makes use of the very vague descriptions Tolkien gave for the elves in The Hobbit specifically - while Elrond looks very noble, the wood elves are much closer to the original Scandinavian depictions of such creatures, being short, a bit ugly, and having blue skin. Which makes them very different from other depictions of elves in Tolkien's wake!
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins in this film look very unique, with their large throats and bull-like horns.
  • Porn Stache: Bard has one. It's the '70s, after all.
  • Red Shirt Army: The dwarves.
  • Refusal of the Call: "We hobbits are plain, quiet folk; adventures make one late for dinner."
  • Rump Roast: Bilbo, after fleeing back up the secret tunnel from an enraged Smaug: "Extinguish me!"
  • Running Gag: An early one involves Gandalf telling Bilbo to think of his favorite things whenever he's feeling down or afraid. Bilbo repeats the mantra many times over for the next several scenes, but develops out of it after his encounter with Gollum.
  • Sarcasm Mode: This exchange, after Smaug boasts that his underside is as armored as the rest of him:
    Bilbo: Well, I don't know know about that...
    Smaug: "You don't know about that." I will show you!
  • Savage Wolves:
    • The wargs the goblins ride while chasing after the dwarves.
    • Smaug's got a wolfish head and snout, the better to make his snarling visage into even greater nightmare fuel when he's truly pissed off.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: To enforce the War Is Hell aesop, several more dwarves were killed, particularly Bombur, who is is notably kinder then his book self and his friendship with Bilbo is given extra focus. He is then shown getting stabbed on screen, stumbling to where Bilbo was by pure accident, and living just long enough to say that they won before dying. Showing how war is not epic battle scenes between heroes and villains, sometimes the kindest, gentlest people can get caught up in conflict through peer pressure, and die unceremoniously.
  • Say My Name: Two instances.
  • Secret Passage: "Stand by the grey stone when the thrush knocks and the last light of the setting sun will shine upon the key-hole."
  • Scenery Gorn: Gollum's spacious dark cave. Also, a panorama of the aftermath of the Battle of Five Armies.
  • Scenery Porn: At times, in terms of artistic renderings, especially Laketown and the Lonely Mountain.
  • Sequel Hook: Gandalf tells Bilbo that his story is only beginning, just as the final shot of the film focuses on the One Ring glinting over the mantelpiece. This film was followed up in 1980 with The Return of the King, which skips the first two books of The Lord of the Rings due to Ralph Bakshi's adaptation that covered them.
  • Shrouded in Pipeweed Smoke: "Gandalf! Not the wandering wizard?!" "The same."
  • Smoking Is Cool: Bilbo's collection of giant, er, pipes.
  • The So-Called Coward: When Bilbo expresses reluctance to join in the war between the dwarves, elves, and men, Thorin rebukes him and calls him a coward. As a slight inversion, this is already after Bilbo has proven his bravery to the Company by rescuing them from the spiders and elves, and sneaking into Smaug's lair alone— all of which Bilbo points out as he stands his ground against Thorin's dismissive attitude. When they meet again after the Battle of Five Armies, Thorin admits that he was wrong and apologizes to him for it.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Discussed when Bilbo asks how Gandalf manages to keep appearing just ahead of the company during their travels without any of them having seen him. "Well he is a wizard, you know."
  • Sundial Waypoint: The aforementioned Secret Passage can only be opened when the sun shines on a particular bit of cliffside on a particular day.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Ring and Sting, after overcoming Gollum and the spiders.
  • There Is Another: "Oh, Bilbo Baggins, if you really understood that ring, as someday members of your family not yet born will, then you'd realize that this story has not ended, but is only beginning."
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Thorin when the cave door closes behind the Dwarves.
    "We're trapped, the Goblins have us!" [cue the Goblins chaining the Dwarves]
  • Time-Compression Montage: A variation. When Bilbo and Gollum are riddling, we only hear one riddle from each of them, and then the camera pans away, and all we see are rocks and the tunnels in the mountain, while we hear a slightly-creepy, sung version of a third riddle, after which we return to the game, and Gollum asks his "Time" riddle. The pan-away and song represent an extended period of time passing while they trade riddles back and forth, only returning once things get interesting again.
  • Token Human: To be more specific, Token Hobbit, making this film Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Bilbo is both the only hobbit involved in the dwarves' quest and the only Hobbit appearing in the film. Despite the opening narration stating that Bilbo lives in the village of Hobbiton, no other hobbits appear, and the village itself is barely glimpsed through Bilbo's windows during the opening credits. Even Bilbo's dreams of enjoying the potential rewards of the quest feature only dwarves waiting on him.
    • The only actual human in the movie is Bard.
  • Truer to the Text: Aside from some of the design decisions, this version is widely considered more faithful to the tone and story of the original book than Peter Jackson's film trilogy, due to the latter's reliance on inventing new subplots and incorporating elements from other sources to stretch out quite a short novel into three films. In this one, nothing is added, and the only really major plot elements that are missing are Beorn and the Arkenstone.
  • Unexplained Accent: Thranduil, the Elven King, speaks with a distinct German accent thanks to the voice talents of Otto Preminger. Elrond, however, sounds comparatively un-accented.
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The great mountain where Smaug lives.
  • Villain Song: "Goblin Town," which is based on a text-only song the goblins sing in the book, and plays when they ambush the company in the Misty Mountains.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: When Bilbo climbs up the tree in Mirkwood for a look and finds himself surrounded by butterflies. The beauty of the sight is enough to make him feel like even if he never does return home, perhaps getting to see such things is worth it.
  • You're Insane!: Bilbo points out how insane their plan is to the dwarves when he realizes that they fully intend to have the 14 of them go to war against an assembled host of 10,000 Lakemen and Mirkwood elves. Thorin retorts that Bilbo just doesn't understand war.
  • Your Size May Vary: Gollum (magnified by 1000 in the darkness). See this alternate image, for instance.


Video Example(s):


The Rankin/Bass goblins

Rankin/Bass's interpretation of goblins strays far from the usual mold, but they can sure sing a tune.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / VillainSong

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