How many know that there is a animated film of Lord of the Rings?

Ash nazg durbatuluk, ash nazg gimbatul,
ash nazg thrakatulûk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul

Three Films at the Cineasta Jackson under the New Zealand sky,
Too many versions for viewers in their video stores,
Nine hours of films for the Umana Platea that the long vision awaits,
One for the cartoon from Bakshi shot,

In the room of the rotososcope, where reality becomes animation.
An Opera to fascinate them, an Opera to find them,
an Opera to unite them and chain them in the darkness of the hall,
In the room of the rotososcope, where reality becomes animation.

If you want, when and if we should meet, I could recite you in Black Language, which is perhaps the most famous passage of the Poetry of the Ring. This prodigious ability comes to me well before reading the mega biblion by JRR Tolkien "The Lord of the Rings", but when I was accompanied to the cinema by my parents, in a small arthouse cinema outside which stood a poster depicting a sorcerer with a sword in his hand and two small figures.

From watching the animated film by Ralph Bakshi (1978) I was astonished and fascinated as I was frightened.

The poster of the animated film in all its glory
The poster in all its glory

The first version

La genesi of the work was at least troubled.

After purchasing the rights to the work for a fistful of pounds, the "United Artist" entrusted the project to John Boorman (Zardoz, A peaceful weekend of fear, Excalibur, The tailor from Panama) who "managed" to condense the whole story into one live-action movie, with parts created from scratch, others completely cut, with a consequent distortion of the work.

To begin, the history of Middle-earth of Sauron and the one Ring would have been told during the Council of Elrond via one theathral show (like Japanese kabuki), with stylized and emphatic acting, eccentric costumes and rock music ... but that's nothing!

One of the most controversial scenes was that in which Frodo, in order to look in Galadriel's mirror, would have had to have a sexual relationship with her (with consequent elimination from the story of her husband Celeborn). This is because, in Boorman's intentions, Galadriel would have been the sexual interest of many of the protagonistswho, throughout history, would try to seduce her in any way.

Galadriel, Frodo and Sam in front of the mirror
I don't even want to imagine Boorman's scene sincerely

Boorman's tragedy had to end ...

Arwen's character was transformed into an elven girl (hello hello Aragorn), guiding spirit of the Company. Their first encounter would have been at least peculiar: it would have saved Frodo from the Morgul Dagger, through a painful open heart operation, with red-hot irons, under the threat of Gimli.

Poor Gimli, mistreated in every version, in Moria would have suffered a real beating by the companions to remind him of the word to open the doors (in spite of the "Say" friend "and enter"!).

The film ended with the departure, under a rainbow that was reflected in the waters, towards the Immortal Lands of Gandalf, Frodo, Bilbo, Galadriel, Arwen and Elrond. On the coast they stayed to greet the departing friends, Gimli and Legolas, who, seeing the spectacle of the lights, exclaimed: “Look, only seven colors! The world is in ruins! We live in a diminished world! ”.

The result did not please (euphemism) to the production, which fired Boorman in the trunk, albeit paying him 3 million dollars for the trouble (!). This after having previously forced him, due to budget problems, to cut the flying creatures for the Nazgul during the battle of Minas Tirith, and had made them replaced with skinless horses with exposed muscles.

The Nazgul in all their glory

The Nazgul in all their dark magnificence

Bakshi's ideas

The director and animator Ralph Bakshi (Fritz il gatto, Wizards, ice and fire, Escape from the world of dreams) already in the early 50s he had been interested in Tolkien's novel so, with Boorman's dismissal, he took the opportunity to step forward.

His idea was of divide the novel into two films, more relevant to the original work. Bakshi promised Tolkien's daughter Priscilla, when she met her, not to focus on a live-action film anymore, but on a animated film because, in the director's own words: «It is important […] that Tolkien's energy survives. It is important that the quality of the animation matches Tolkien's quality. "

The film covers the first book and part of the second, there are only a few small differences with the novel, but in general is very faithful to the work.

Big changes have been made to theappearance of different characters, the color of Saruman's clothes, red instead of white and then multi-colored (but there is a very interesting play of light to overcome this), Legolas is dressed in light colors (silver and gray) to compensate for the dark tones of the film.

The creative guise of the animated film
The creative guise of the animated film

The clothes worn by Aragorn instead are the least of the problems, since it almost looks like a American native (feature much contested by several lovers of the novel), Boromir instead, is a stereotyped one vichingo.

Aragorn and Boromir's clothes in the animated film
Aragorn and Boromir

The fundamental characteristic, and then trademark of Ralph Bakshi, is the use of the technique of rotoscoping (a hyper-realistic animation mode in which previously shot images are traced and reshaped), Bakshi defined his work as “the first example of realistic painting in motion”.

Bashki and his Orcs
The Orcs of Bashki

The soundtrack

Bakshi wanted the Led Zeppelin group to work on the soundtrack, but production imposed Leonard Rosenman, a choice never shared by the director or by other critics, who defined the music too simple and traditional and which did not coincide with the atmospheres of Tolkien's novel.

The sequel

The second part was never filmed because the production failed the project unsuccessfully (against an investment of 4 million dollars, the film grossed more than 30), even if it was she, with some of her choices, that left the viewers confused. The main mistake was not to specify that the film would be released in two parts, this for fear of losing spectators, because the public was not used to these solutions. Those who went to the cinema were so taken aback, as the film stopped abruptly without ending!

There is a "Return of the King" (1980) and a "The Hobbit" (1970), considered spiritual heirs of the Bakshi film, but which share little or nothing with this visionary, experimental work considered to be of the highest value in the history of animation cinema.

The legacy

It took 23 years for the hope of many enthusiasts to Tolkien to be able to see transposed on the big screen the work of Professore of Oxford were built.

Much has been said and written about the Peter Jackson trilogy, but it is common belief that without Bakshi's film we would hardly have had such a great visual rendering in Jackson's work. The New Zealand director himself said he was inspired and paid homage to Bakshi's film in several scenes.

The similarities between the animated film and the Jackson film
Very similar right?

To conclude, I would also like to mention that Bakshi's work and work have become seminal for many authors. In recent years even in the field of Games, just think of "The Banner Saga"and "Ashes of Gods: Redemption".