Praise Be to Bakshi - An Editorial On the Animated LOTR Movies

Three cheers for Ralph Bakshi. I have gotten into some scraps with people on the Messageboard over the 1978 Bakshi release of LOTR. I have never heard him quoted before, nor heard any explanation from him or United Artists. If I had know he had a website, I might have come across this news sooner.

I have a problem with those that revile Bakshi, as if he was the mastermind behind the truncated storyline and ensuing confusion. To my mind, his clear re-telling and loyalty to Tolkien's style will always be a shining example of Visual Arts. Without huge egos to placate (since the actors were animated), and working in a milieu that pre-dates today's Formula (action) Movies, Bakshi was in a unique position to remain true to Tolkien's vision.

As an avid Tolkien Enthusiast, Bakshi gave me imagery to augment my own mind's-eye. I did not depend on him to populate my imagination, but I did give him license to show me His vision---and to use it as a comparison and companion to my own.

Perhaps we can all imagine what it must be like to be mired in an artistic endeavor, only to learn that the business side (United Artists) was chopping your canvas into pieces just large enough to cover their cabooses.

I have heard enough spleen from Bakshi haters to vent a little of my own. In one of the articles I unearthed on Bakshi, a Critic wrote of the 1978 release: "Overlong, erratically paced, and overpopulated with all manner of Hobbits, elves, dwarfs, humans, Orcs and wizards, the movie is a cornucopia of confusion that only the most devout Tolkien addicts will be able to decipher." All that this Critic proved was that HE was not familiar with the books. Bakshi's pace, length, and populations were precisely what Tolkien dictated. Bakshi has been the target of inane and inaccurate abuse since his LOTR unveiling.

Bakshi: "I don't want a director's Lord of the Rings, I want Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. You don't change Tolkien's sequences, you don't combine, you don't collapse, you don't throw away. ... You change nothing if you're doing Tolkien. Why change brilliance? I mean, who the hell are we to change Tolkien? It's the height of Narcissus." There is much in this Bakshi quote that should quiet those on the Messageboard who patronizingly tell us that Movie-Making is an art above us, and of course it is the Director's Vision, not ours and not Tolkien's. Bakshi has been there and back, and he still firmly believes that a dazzling gem such as Tolkien's does not need to be filtered to be presented, appreciated, and admired. This is not to say that some changes, shortcuts, or minor revisions are unavoidable. Bakshi skips Glorfindel in order to get us to Legolas sooner. I don't know why, but I didn't feel cheated. It certainly did not matter for the movies sake nor the storyline.

I suggest that many people are only regurgitating criticism of Bakshi, instead of making a real evaluation for themselves and watching it again. I highly recommend it, as a heartfelt and greatly talented attempt at bringing LOTR to the screen. The failing here was the studio's, not Bakshi's. And I agree with Ralph that I wish PJ and WETA all the luck in the world, and hope fervently that they are half as devoted as RB.

Dan Mihm

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