“The Hobbit” – Rambling Ever On Revisits a Classic

“The Hobbit” was released in 1977, way back before most of the moviegoing world knew anything about Tolkien, Elves, Dragons, and Hobbits due to the enormously successful Peter Jackson series of films. Before epic battles, transcendent visuals, and award- worthy films, we had a quirky and fun animated romp through the world of Middle Earth.

From filmmakers Rankin/Bass, “The Hobbit” was many people’s introduction to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. A wonderful cast helped bring all of Tolkien’s characters to life, including John Huston as Gandalf and Orson Bean as Bilbo Baggins. Filled with memorable songs and plenty of humor, “The Hobbit” worked on a number of levels. As you will read in the recollections below, we each came to this film in our own unique way, which seems fitting for a film as unique as “The Hobbit”.

Daniel Plunkett celebrates “The Hobbit”.

I love this cartoon! And that is probably not the most unbiased way to start a review. But at least you know the review is from someone who knows the cartoon well. I’m not sure if I watched this cartoon first or if my brother Ben read the book to me first, but both, along with reading “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, are wrapped up in my love of Tolkien’s Middle Earth that began in childhood.

I’ll start with a couple good elements of the movie, then move to a couple of not so good elements and conclude with a couple of things that are awesome.

The Good

For a cartoon that is nearly 50 years old, the animation is not bad. I mean, certain technical elements aren’t but the art is unique and most of the creatures and characters look good (some like the wood elves are odd). Smaug looks very cool. Another good element is the songs. If you’ve read Tolkien, you know that poetry and song is a major element of his stories, and this cartoon manages to work in many of those songs with surprisingly catchy tunes. If you watch this and don’t enjoy “Down Down to Goblin Town” there’s something wrong with you.

The Not So Good

The biggest problem isn’t actually a problem with the original cartoon itself, it’s a problem with recent releases of the film, including those you can rent on streaming services. They are corrupted. Apparently, there was a fire that destroyed some of the original film and when the film was re-released most recently it was missing a lot of the audio from the original. Some dialogue (though nothing key) is missing along with quite a few sound effects (arrows splintering off of Smaug’s hide, rocks sliding, etc.). It leads to some dead-sounding moments that were not intended to be that way.

Unless you have an old copy of the VHS or find some clips on YouTube you can’t see the original until/unless the studio takes the time to get the missing audio and release the movie again. It doesn’t by any means destroy the film but it’s a bummer.

Another negative that would bother some folks is that the cartoon cuts some things, most notably the whole Beorn interlude. It makes sense to cut that section of the book out, but he’s a cool character. That said, the cartoon moves at a brisk pace and doesn’t add a bunch of stuff to the story unlike the massively bloated live action trilogy.

The Awesome

The movie is very quotable. Though it’s a cartoon the movie keeps much of Tolkien’s language and what isn’t original sounds very Tolkienesque (e.g., “O great elf king, my truest friend and ally, we must join together against this common scourge!”). Lastly, the voice acting is wonderful. The piece de resistance is Gollum played by “Brother Theodore.” With respect to Andy Serkis who did a great job with the character in the live action movies, Brother Theodore will always be the quintessential voice of Gollum to me. Gollum is weird, funny, and creepy at the same time.

Nostalgia definitely plays a role in my love of this cartoon, but it holds up: I’ve watched it multiple times with my boys, and they all say they like it. We all laugh through the Gollum scene, quote the trolls, and try to sing as wonderfully well as goblins do (apparently). To all those who also love this cartoon I say, “Your people are as brothers unto mine!”

Phill Lytle reminisces about “The Hobbit”.

My introduction to “The Hobbit” is very different from Daniel’s. I did not grow up watching this movie. In fact, I had never even heard of the book it’s based on until I was in the 9th grade. I was living in Kingsport, Tennessee and we were assigned the novel for our English class. While many of my classmates were renting the cartoon because they were struggling with the book, I fell in love with the book and only decided to watch the movie after I had finished reading.

I can’t say I instantly loved the movie. I enjoyed aspects of it – the songs in particular, but it felt a bit flimsy compared to the book. Yes, Bilbo and Gandalf were charming and interesting. And Smaug, while not at all how I envisioned him looking or sounding, was strangely captivating. But I thought the film felt rushed and so much great stuff was cut out to keep the runtime as short as possible for the desired audience – children.

Over the years I have grown to love the film for what it is. Daniel and his brother Ben played a huge role in this growing appreciation. For one, they quoted the film ALL. THE. TIME. If you spent any time with them, you would hear a random quote from “The Hobbit.” And they didn’t just quote it. No. They performed it – with accents and cadence. Ben’s Gollum impression was glorious. How could I not love the movie more after all that nonsense!

Since my first viewing of the film back in 1992, it has taken on an almost mystical quality for me. While the film takes many liberties with the source material, it feels connected to it in an almost spiritual way. While I love Peter Jackson’s “Hobbit” trilogy, those films feel like prequels to his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy more than an adaptation of Tolkien’s novel. The 1977 “Hobbit” has the simplicity and charm that are paramount in capturing the tone of the book. As for me, I’m glad we have both adaptations.

Final Thoughts

We would love to read your thoughts about “The Hobbit”. Do you love it? When did you first see it? Please tell us all about in the comments below or on one of our social media profiles. We’ll leave you with just a little taste of what this wonderful movie is like. Thanks for reading.

Phill Lytle
Follow me

Phill Lytle

Phill Lytle loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, his family, his friends, his church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Whiteheart, Band of Brothers, Thai food, the Nashville Predators, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation...

2 thoughts on ““The Hobbit” – Rambling Ever On Revisits a Classic

  • April 26, 2024 at 9:18 am

    I so enjoyed you two reminiscing about the movie.

  • April 26, 2024 at 11:07 pm

    I recently watched this movie for the first time, and I now quote it at least once a week. Mostly “The Greatest Adventure” theme.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.