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Western Animation / The Lord of the Rings

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The Ralph Bakshi adaptation of The Lord of the Rings is a combination of the first book, and half of the second book. It was released in 1978 and meant to be three films, but was forced to be shortened to two, with the intention of finishing with the sequel. Due to Executive Meddling, the original title, The Lord of the Rings Part I, was tossed out, resulting in some disappointment from viewers who expected closure to the story. And while the film did well at the box office, grossing more than enough to break even (which was very rare for non-Disney animated feature films at the time) the rest of the second book and the third book was never completed by Bakshi. Later, Rankin Bass produced a version of The Return of the King, and Peter Jackson did his own take on the story.note 


The film mixes bits of Rotoscoping and live action footage. There's also a little bit of traditional animation that doesn't use rotoscoping, but it's one of those blink and you'll miss it moments in the film.

If you pay attention, Peter Jackson borrowed some things from this movie for his series - particularly the famous shot of the hobbits hiding from the Ringwraiths in the roots of a tree and the shot where a Hobbit has his very large feet propped up on a table during Bilbo's birthday speech.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Adaptational Comic Relief: The film turned Samwise into a goofy, incompetent oddball of a hobbit, but in the books, he is brave and loyal. He was meant to become more serious in the second film, which was never made. In the last third of the film, Sam starts taking control of the situation. The turning point comes at Galadriel's Mirror when he's pressed by Galadriel whether he would go home but abandon Frodo; his answer is a resigned, heavy "no". When snarking at Gollum or being Frodo's support when the latter is beginning to falter from the weight of the Ring, he's lost his "golly gee wow!" personality and is more serious, annoyed and brave.
  • Aside Glance: After Frodo wakes up in Rivendell.
  • Battle Chant: Done by the Orcs from Isengard when they assault Helm's Deep.
  • Battle of the Still Frames: Gandalf's battle against the Balrog.
  • Big Red Devil: Sauron vaguely resembles one, having horns and a beard.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: There's a line delivered by either Merri or Pippin saying "...and nothing for poor Grishnakh, gollum". The Finnish subtitles translated the Verbal Tic as "or Gollum either".
    • The German dub did that, too... the tic becomes "just think of Gollum".
  • Breaching the Wall: Saruman sends huge bolts of magic energy that destroy the wall of Helm's Deep.
  • Compressed Adaptation: It just about doesn't come more compressed. At times, it feels like Bakshi sliced up whole pages of dialogue and left in only the lines that most people remember. Almost nothing is given a full explanation, and what we do get is usually rushed and leaves out important details. For example, Gandalf asks Frodo if he sees any writing on the ring. When Frodo says he doesn't, Gandalf tosses the ring into Frodo's fire, then pulls it out a moment later, remarking that it is still quite cool. But he doesn't bother looking for the writing he was attempting to reveal. Later, after several lines stating outright that the ring is indestructible, Elrond declares that the ring must be taken to the fires of Mount Doom. What he doesn't tell us, unfortunately, is that this is the only fire capable of melting it. Without that line, non-readers have no idea why the Fellowship is undertaking this quest.
  • Continuity Lockout: It's a major problem with this film. To some viewers, this film is difficult to understand if you have not read the book. For example, it doesn't explain why Aragorn's broken sword is important.
  • Death by Adaptation: Unlike the books its implied with Bill the Pony. The last we see of Bill is a whole bunch of tentacles about ensnare him. Shortly afterwards, Poor Sam is lamenting "Poor old Bill. Poor old Bill."
    • Though, Bill didn't return til far later in the actual story, so it's just a case of What Happened to the Mouse?, since the story never reaches the part where Sam and Bill reunite.
  • Defiant to the End: Boromir and Frodo.
    Frodo: By all the Shire, you shall have neither the Ring, nor me!
  • Determinator: Boromir is shot by three arrows. He pulls them out and keeps fighting. It takes another four to finally take him down.
  • Evil Cripple: An interesting idea not seen in the Peter Jackson films—both Saruman and the Ringwraiths walk with noticeable limps.
  • Exact Words: The line mentioned above really came out as "...and nothing for poor Grishnakh, Gollum".
  • Gag Dub: The Walking Tacos Screwed Up Dub. (Which may still be available on Youtube.) Has several running gags, like Gandalf rolling his "R"s, Pippin sqwalking like a peacock, and the inability of the characters to remember if Saruman is called Aruman (eventually the character starts calling himself Saru-Aruman...) While devolving to random muttering silliness from time to time, the dubmakers (while voicing the characters) DO discuss the importance of the film, ultimately deciding that it is an honest, if flawed, attempt at making the story come to life.
  • Gilligan Cut: After Boromir voices his objections to going to Lothlorien and Aragorn chides him, the movie smash-cuts immediately to Galadriel welcoming them.
  • Gonk: Oh, Sam, what did they do to you?
    • The orcs are even uglier than they are in the Peter Jackson movies, with glowing red eyes and apelike faces.
    • To be fair, Sam was Played for Laughs during what was to be the first half of the film. One may notice as Frodo gets weaker, Sam gets more assertive and less silly.
  • I Can See You: The second Frodo puts on the Ring at Weathertop, the Nazgul immediately snap their attention to him, complete with Scare Chord.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Aragorn gives a potent Implied Death Threat that if he really wanted the Ring, he could just slaughter the hobbits and take it for himself.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: Frodo says words to this effect after getting stabbed by a Ringwraith. He gets better.
  • Inconsistent Dub: Saruman vs. Auruman, enforced due to Executive Meddling-apparently the head honchos thought that the audience wouldn't understand the different between Sauron and Saruman, so they had the actors redub the line to pronounce it as Auruman.
  • Large Ham: Gandalf is a more subdued example, being a very animated speaker, almost constantly moving his arms when speaking, and being extremely dramatic when explaining the One Ring to Frodo.
  • Left Hanging: Children of the late 1970's and early 1980's who saw this were left pondering things like "Who is Treebeard, and is he good or bad?" and "Who is 'she'?"note 
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the four previous Bakshi films, content-wise.
  • Limited Wardrobe: It's not too much of an issue for most of the movie but it's particularly glaring when the Fellowship is trying to cross the Pass of Caradhras.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Boromir makes this motion while trying to convince Frodo to give him the ring. For Gandalf, it's a way of life.
  • Non-Answer: When Théoden asks Aragorn if there's any hope, Aragorn remains silent for a long while, then rides off.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Unlike in Jackson's adaptation, we never really see Sauron, only his shadow.
    • And his eye in Galadriel's mirror. "Do not touch the water!"
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Oddly enough averted, Gimli is human sized and Moria has some of the most hideous faces on its walls.
  • Off-Model: Strange faces in order - Frodo, Gandalf, Frodo again, more Frodo, Sam, the woman in the war, Strider, Legolas, Bilbo, Sam, and Boromir.
  • Race Lift: Aragorn seems to be Native American.
  • Rotoscoping: Pretty well done for the most part, but there are still plenty of examples of bad rotoscoping. For example, during the opening exposition that is visually delivered in silouhette, it's painfully obvious that Gollum is a guy in a big rubber mask and gloves. However, the most jarring example has to be the Prancing Pony scene.
  • Scary Impractical Armor: After the Ringwraiths attack the Hobbits' bedroom in Bree, they remove their hoods, revealing frightening masks and black armor underneath their cloaks.
  • Screaming Warrior: Boromir, literally. After getting shot by orcs, he leans on a tree, then lets rip a roar so intimidating, the orcs are startled back dramatically.
  • Sequel Hook: Due to Executive Meddling, this was supposed to have been titled The Lord of the Rings Part I, but this was deleted from the posters; however, the end still retained a voiceover stating that this film was the end of the first part. The home video editions redubbed a new voiceover without the hook.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Type 4 (Near Identical Adaptation); while a lot of content from the books was forced to be removed, what content that did get in is very faithful to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Unfortunately, that content is so haphazard and patchwork, viewers unfamiliar with the story would find it difficult if not impossible to follow. A less faithful adaptation might have produced a better, more coherent film.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Much like the books, this movie is more on the idealistic end of the scale, which is pretty different for Ralph Bakshi who usually makes more political, cynical films.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Saruman vs. Aruman.
    • It's corrected to Saruman in the DVD subtitles.
  • Time Passes Montage: "Seventeen years passed sleepily in the Shire."
  • Those Two Guys: Merry and Pippin.
  • To Be Continued: Unfortunately, no.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Merry and Pippin, at one point in the movie just run into a camp of orcs.


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