I have had a wonderful and difficult and exceptionally busy week, preparing for Mythmoot and then attending live online. I have so much I would like to say, but I thought, for now, and for a smile, I would simply share this discovery from the conference: the 1967 animated short film, The Hobbit. This 12-minute film directed by Gene Deitch (comic illustrator, including Popeye and Tom & Jerry) and Academy Award-winning writer, William Snyder.
Rembrandt Films had purchased film rights to produce a film by 1967, but a Hollywood feature-length deal fell apart. According to the Wikipedia page, the film was produced cheaply and quickly–Mythmoot lore places it at 7-10 days–and premiered on the last day that the contract, paying people to see the film. Having fulfilled the contract, they were able to return rights to Tolkien, opening possibilities for future adaptations, including the 1977 animation (which I call “the cute Hobbit” in my mind), and the trilogy epic of the fairy tale in the early 2010s by Peter Jackson, which some may have heard about.
In this 1960s work of art, Thorin becomes “General Oakenshield,” earthy trolls are treelike groans, “Slag the Terrible” is the agent of evil on earth, Gollum is a deranged peach with arthritic limbs, a ginger Bilbo the dragon slayer has a bowtie, and there is a strange love interest–though less strange than the Peter Jackson dwarf-elf heart epic. I would encourage you not to try to decipher the runes.
Though the Rembrandt Films version might have some merit to it, this version looks more like a strong sixth-grade group art project. As a teacher, I would have given the students strong marks for narration and original artwork, given they are children, but only moderate marks for film editing and a failing grade for adaptation of an original piece of work. A good film adaptation must take a literary piece and transcend written possibilities with all the strengths of sound and sight, re-embodying the original into something unique to its genre. This film makes every possible change that might decrease the value of both the movie experience and rediscovering the original–though I like the phrase “the white heart of Dale” as a poetic line.
Personally, I still await the Hobbit adaptation of my dreams. Though I liked the intensely overdone second Jackson trilogy, I want a Hobbit adaptation to do for me what The Lord of the Rings Jackson films did: filling out my imagination and drawing me deeper and deeper into the books. Or even what the Harry Potter films did, which was to give me another way to love characters, the world, the adventures, and the original books themselves. Still, this is pretty cool and weird and worthwhile when you have a coffee break!
And, as a bonus, the Soviet-era made-for-TV film, Khraniteli, based on Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Mythmooters stayed up late, watching the film and commenting on it within our digital platform. Exhausted, I slept, and cannot vouch for how great its terribleness is. But I did awake to 550 unread messages on Sunday morning. You can find part 1 with English subtitles here.