The Hobbit is the first on screen foray into the world of Middle-earth. Long before Peter Jackson brought J. R. R. Tolkien’s work to life, Rankin/Bass of Christmas special fame created their own animated TV special in 1977. My brother remembers seeing the movie, but my memory is practically non-existent. The Hobbit is a simple adventure just as the book intended. Not bloated into three overly long 2 hour movies. Although Rankin/Bass created the special, the very crude animation was done in Japan. By the company that would become Studio Ghibli no less.
The Hobbit simplifies a lot of the original story while remaining very faithful to the book’s British pleasantries. The animation meant keeping it kid friendly with musical songs from the book. Orson Bean voices Bilbo Baggins and John Huston voices Gandalf. If you know The Hobbit, then following the 1 hour & 30 minute story is easy. Bilbo is very quickly sent on an adventure with Gandalf, Thorin, and his Company of Dwarves. When Gandalf disappears we never know where. Their adventure takes many familiar stops in the Shire, Rivendell, Goblin-town, Mirkwood, Lake-town, and their final destination at the Misty Mountain.
Where they hastily battle hungry trolls, fearsome goblins, vicious wargs, and the magnificently eloquent dragon Smaug. Bilbo also has an extended confrontation of riddles with Gollum where he finds the One Ring. Gollum and most of the creatures have a very unique design, but nothing is more strange than their green interpretation of the woodland elves. When Smaug is quickly defeated by the man Bard, the Battle of the Five Armies is mostly implied. Ending with a hint of Lord of the Rings to come. The Hobbit has a crude charm that’s interesting to revisit after seeing three big-budget adaptations.