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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 heavy 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,note  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 Ringwraith 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.

On a more trivial note, this movie was a record-holder as the longest animated film in the history of Western cinema, clocking in at 2 hours and 13 minutes, for 34 years until it was surpassed by the independent film Consuming Spirits in 2012. It continued to be the longest animated film from a major American studio for 45 years until it would be surpassed by Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse in 2023.

Provides Examples of:

  • Adaptational Badass: Saruman. In the book (and the Jackson film) of The Two Towers, the "fire of Isengard" that breaches the Deeping Wall is explosives. Here it's interpreted as Saruman literally shooting fireballs all the way from Isengard like guided missiles to blow up the wall, a feat neither his novel or Jackson versions are capable 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, although he does start taking some more control in the last third of the film. 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, short-fused, and brave.
  • Adaptational Ugliness: In the books, Sam was described as being a normal-looking, if heavyset, hobbit. Here, he's a downright gonk.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Gandalf does much worse fighting the Balrog than his counterpart in the books. In the books, Gandalf breaks the Balrog's sword before destroying the bridge. Here, Glamdring is broken by the Balrog's sword and the Balrog is only stymied by Gandalf breaking the bridge.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job:
    • Unlike in the books, Gandalf wears blue, rather than gray.
    • In the books, Saruman originally dressed in white, later changing his wardrobe to one of many colors. Here, he wears red, which combined with his long white hair and beard, makes him look almost like a thinner, hippie version of Santa Claus.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: More than a few.
    • Probably the most glaring is the missing ring inscription. How does Gandalf know this is the One without seeing the inscription?
    • Aragorns broken sword is never explained and is suddenly repaired after Rivendell thanks to Narsil's story being cut.
    • Boromir's line about hiding and destroying at the Council of Elrond is pure nonsense, since they cut the lines discussing their options for doing this.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Just like in the live-action films by Peter Jackson, Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, as well as the Barrow-Wights, don't make any appearance here with the film skipping stright to Bree.
    • Gildor Inglorion and his Elves don't appear either.
    • Glorfindel does not appear; Legolas takes his role in transporting Frodo to Rivendell.
    • Arwen is never seen in this film at any point.
  • Art Shift: The film wildly jumps between traditional animation, rotoscoping, and live-action footage with filters placed over it.
  • 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. It more than makes up for the lack of animation with absolutely jaw-dropping paintings.
  • 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 Grishnákh, 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.
  • Composite Character: Legolas takes Glorfindel's place as the rider that Aragorn and the Hobbits meet on the way to Rivendell, and he is portrayed as an Elf of Rivendell (like Glorfindel was in the book) instead of Mirkwood since he answers to Elrond and he is never mentioned to be a Wood-elf.
  • Compressed Adaptation: It just about doesn't come more compressed. At times, it feels like Peter S. Beagle 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. However, 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. (Interestingly, it does include scenes that Jackson left out, such as the "who you can trust" scene.)
  • Death by Adaptation: Unlike the books it's implied with Bill the Pony. The last we see of Bill is a whole bunch of tentacles about to ensnare him. Shortly afterwards, Poor Sam is lamenting "Poor old Bill. Poor old Bill." Although Bill didn't return until far later in the actual story, so it's also mixed with 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. Subverted for the latter; the Ringwraiths only pretend to be limping, since they later begin walking upright once they shed their hooded cloaks after the attack on the Prancing Pony. Inverted with Gandalf, a protagonist with a severe limp.
  • 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 squawking 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 and Celeborn welcoming them.
  • Gonk: Oh, Sam, what did they do to you? At least part of this case stems from Sam having Billy Barty for an Ink-Suit Actor.
    • The orcs are even uglier than they are in the Peter Jackson movies, with glowing red eyes and apelike faces.
  • Horns of Barbarism: Boromir wears a horned helmet and a Beard of Barbarism for reasons not entirely clear, as Gondor is generally portrayed as anything but barbaric. None of the Gondorians wear it, and had he appeared, it was likely to differentiate Faramir from Boromir.
  • I Can See You: The second Frodo puts on the Ring at Weathertop, the Nazgûl 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. Aruman, enforced due to Executive Meddling — apparently the head honchos decided halfway through that the names Sauron and Saruman sounded too similar, so they rewrote the remainder of the script to pronounce it as Aruman. By the time anyone who might've thought to rerecord the earlier lines learned of the change, it was too late to do so.
    • The film's original Hungarian dub is mostly faithful to the translations of the novels, but Rivendell is strangely referred to by its original English name. Apart from the first, long-discarded translation of The Hobbit, all other translations of Tolkien's works changed Rivendell to "Völgyzugoly".
  • 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: Softened by the later Rankin/Bass adaptation of The Return of the King, but the remainder of The Two Towers was still untouched by either studio. Children of the late 1970s and early 1980s 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.
  • Ms. Fanservice: The film's version of Galadriel is a very sexy blonde lady whose low cut dress offers us a very lovely view of her impressive front.
  • 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.
  • Race Lift: Aragorn looks more Native American than Caucasian.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Nazgûl and all of the orcs have glowing red dots for eyes.
  • 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 silhouette, 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 and then lets rip a roar so intimidating the orcs are startled back dramatically.
  • Sequel Hook: This was supposed to have been titled The Lord of the Rings Part I, but due to Executive Meddlinginvoked, 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.
  • Shadowed Face, Glowing Eyes: The Nazgûl or Ringwraiths.
  • Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification: Type 4 (Near Identical Adaptation): while a lot of content from the books was forced to be removed, Bakshi was passionately adamant that what content that did get in would be very faithful to The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and it is. Unfortunately, that content is so haphazard and patchwork that viewers unfamiliar with the story would find it difficult if not impossible to follow. A less faithful adaptation might have produced a 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, but the blu-ray subtitles are accurate to the dialogue.
  • Time-Passes Montage: "Seventeen years passed sleepily in the Shire."
  • To Be Continued: Unfortunately left hanging.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Merry and Pippin, at one point in the movie, just run into a camp of orcs.
  • Unexplained Recovery: It isn't explained as to how Gandalf got Glamdring reforged after it was broken by the Balrog.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film doesn't make it clear what happened to Bill the Pony, though it implies that the Watcher in the Water takes him. Similarly, Merry and Pippin disappear from the movie after they meet Treebeard in his one and only scene. Likewise, Theoden makes a point of introducing us to his niece, Eowyn, as if she's going to be important, but the movie ends before she gets a chance to do anything.