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

by Jul 7, 2000Other News

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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