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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-Induced Plot Hole: The first meeting with the wood elves was left out... and then alluded to in the second meeting as "the wood elves had returned."
  • Adaptational Ugliness: The wood elves are described as beautiful in Tolkien's writings, but here are shown as ugly and having green skin. Elrond and his elves remain fair, however.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Badass Adorable: Bilbo establishes himself as one when he killed Giant Spider for the first time, and named his blade Sting since then. Then he rescues the dwarves from other giant spiders, kills some more of the spiders, 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!"
  • Bloodless Carnage: Despite the amount of violence involving swords found in the film, there's not a drop of blood to be seen anywhere.
  • 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.
  • Cat-like 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.
  • Cephalothorax: The Goblins. Less so in The Return of the King. 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 summoned the Sun.
  • Death by Adaptation: More of the Company die in the film, including Bombur. At the end there are only six left alive.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Bilbo smokes a pipe.
  • 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.
  • 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 died, Thorin apologized 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.
  • 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.
  • Mr. Exposition: Elrond.
  • Moral Dissonance: When the men of Lake-town and the wood elves both demand a share of the treasure after the death of the dragon Smaug. See Headscratchers for details.
  • 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.
    • Interestingly, The Orcs also have names for these weapons. Biter and Beater, respectively.
  • No Body Left Behind:
  • Notable Original Music: "Fifteen Birds in Five Fir Trees" and "Goblin Town".
    • Most of the songs are musical adaptations of text-only songs from the book (which is not to suggest that they aren't thoroughly excellent). Some of these songs are at or near Ear Worm status, especially "Goblin Town" (and the Rivendell song in a way that is potentially more annoying).
    • "The Dwarf Song" as well; this one was so notable that a later adaptation took obvious pains to not make it just the same song, and didn't entirely succeed, which is for the best because people wanted this song again:
    The sword is sharp, the spear is long, the arrow swift, the gate is strong.
    The heart is bold that looks on gold... And dwarves no more shall suffer wrong.
    The King has come into his hall... Under the mountain dark and tall.
    The worm of dread is slain and dead, and ever so our foes shall fall!
  • No Pronunciation Guide: In this film, Bofur and Smaug are pronounced as "Boffer" and "Smog" rather than "Boafer" and "Smaog". However, Dáin is pronounced properly (day-in, rather than Dane).
  • The One Guy: To be more specific, The One 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.
    • Rankin/Bass' sequel adaptation of ''The Return of the King" increases the number of on-screen hobbits to five—i.e., Frodo, Samwise, Merry, and Pippin, the hobbit members of the Fellowship of the Ring, along with an aged Bilbo.
  • 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 can say that again.
    • 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 elfs (yes, Tolkien also invented the use of "elves" and "dwarves," as opposed to "elfs" and "dwarfs," as the plurals of "elf" and "dwarf") 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 green skin. Which makes them very different from other depictions of elves in Tolkien's wake!
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins/orcs in this film look very unique, with their large throats and bull-like horns.
  • 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.
  • Say My Name: "I am Gandalf, and Gandalf meansME!!"
  • 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 Erebor 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.
  • 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 proved 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.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: "Well he is a wizard, you know."
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Ring and Sting, after overcoming Gollum and the spiders.
  • Sundial Waypoint: The aforementioned Secret Passage can only be opened when the sun shines on a particular bit of cliffside on a particular day.
  • 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 Madness! 14 against 10,000? "This is WAR! WAAAAAR!"
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Your Size May Vary: Gollum (magnified by 1000 in the darkness). See this alternate image, for instance.