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Why Yes, I AM a Fan of the Old Rankin & Bass Hobbit Movie, And I’m Not Afraid To Admit It

January 13, 2012

And it looks like I’m not the only one.

I’m pretty sure this:

is at least in part an homage to this:

Partly, of course, that’s because both utilize the same source material.  But the style of the song in the Peter Jackson/Howard Shore version of The Hobbit is strikingly reminiscent of that of the song in the Rankin & Bass version. (It’s also a bit reminiscent of Aragorn’s song in Jackson’s version of “Return of the King”, but that’s probably because it’s the same composer.)

The lament of the dwarves, as portrayed in the Rankin & Bass version, was actually a big inspiration to me. It became the model for a particular culture in my currently-shelved novel-I’ve-been-working-on-since-forever, “Project SOA”. Not the typical trappings of Dwarves – the beards, the battle-axes, the mines, the covetousness, the hating-of-elves. No: the singing. The deep, melodic, basso profundo; the sound of melancholy. The idea that songs of mourning and longing are central, integral, to a given culture has wormed its way into my head, and I wanted to express that in “Project SOA”. Reconciling that idea with the attached fantasy-cliche baggage of Tolkienian Dwarves is one of the troublesome aspects of worldbuilding that I had not yet unraveled (and didn’t feel qualified as yet to unravel) that lead me to temporarily shelf “Project SOA” until I have acquired sufficient skill to justice to the concept.

While on the subject of Tolkien and movies and music… This brought to mind my worries back when I first heard that Lord of the Rings was going to be a live-action movie. I was… worried really, about the music of the new movies.  I’d grown up watching the Bakshi version of Lord of the Rings (which, tragically, ended partway through the books).  In fact I’d watched the Rankin & Bass “Hobbit” and the Bakshi “Lord of the Rings” long before I ever actually read the books.  And for me, Bakshi’s film defined the sound of Middle Earth.  It had a really good, stirring, heroic theme and frightening, dark Mordor theme.   And I wanted the new live action movies to sound the same.

In the end, however, I was just blown away by what Howard Shore produced.  It was incredible, beyond my fears and expectations, and it easily knocked such classics as Star Wars and Superman from their perch as my favorite soundtracks of all time.  I still love the sound and the themes of the old Bakshi film.  But now, for me, Howard Shore is the sound of Epic Fantasy.

Incidentally, I somehow forgot in my recent Christmas post that one of the soundtracks I got for Christmas was actually the Lord of the Rings Symphony.  Symphonic arrangements of the Lord of the Rings score?  Score!

Anyway, now, just for the fun of it, here are a few of my other favorites from Rankin & Bass’s “Hobbit”:

You know what’s funny, though?  I don’t have the same attachment or fondness for the Rankin & Bass adaptation for Return of the King as I do for their version of The Hobbit.  That’s probably because I’ve never actually seen it, of course.  Until Peter Jackson came along, I’d never seen the end of Tolkien’s books.  That’s why I had to read the books.  Bakshi left me hanging.

I think I’m done gushing over the impending Hobbit movie, for now. Just had to get that out of my system, because it’s going to be a long wait…

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2012 2:40 pm

    The worst part for me is, almost twenty years later, still being able to sing Fifteen Birds from memory.

    • January 13, 2012 3:22 pm

      Heh heh. I do this with intention, quite frequently. Although, to be honest, I can only do the first verse from memory. Also, admittedly, I usually have to hum it softly and sing the words in my head, because I recognize my enthusiasm for the material is not universal.

  2. January 14, 2012 3:20 pm

    Interesting comparisons and reflections. I recently stumbled on a series of post about Rankin & Bass on Jason Carney’s blog that started with the Hobbit. Maybe you’ve already seen it? http://novums.blogspot.com/2012/01/animation-masterpieces-of-rankin-and.html

    If not, I thought you might find it interesting. Cheers!

  3. January 15, 2012 1:30 am

    Well, I raved about Howard Shore already in the other thread, so I’ll just add that the lighting of the torches in RoTK is the most thrilling combination of music and visuals I can think of in any recent movie.

    Also, I really like the idea of a “Yes I AM a fan of … and I’m not afraid to admit it” post. I have a couple of things I could talk about…

    (Also, I’m hoping you don’t have this many embedded videos in future posts. My computer kept locking up, and I nearly had to use my Kindle to write this comment. :-) )

    • January 17, 2012 10:52 am

      I have to agree about the torch-lighting scene. It was stirring in a way that was wholly unexpected. And yes, this overload of video-embeds is a once-in-a-very-long-time sort of thing. I can’t say it won’t happen again at all, but I can say it won’t happen again for the foreseeable future.

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