The Rankin/Bass cartoon The Hobbit, released in 1977, features beautiful artwork, catchy music, and great acting. As a child of the 1980s, science fiction author Matthew Kressel is one of the film’s many fans.
“It was kind of tear-jerking re-watching this,” Kressel says in Episode 427 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I think maybe 20 years ago I watched this, just for nostalgia. But watching it again now—and the songs—just kind of brought me back to my childhood. It was wonderful.”
TV writer Andrea Kail prefers the cartoon version of The Hobbit to Peter Jackson’s live action trilogy, which runs to almost nine hours. “Peter Jackson is notorious,” Kail says. “He just doesn’t cut his scenes. He writes them long, he shoots them long, and then doesn’t edit. That’s always his problem.”
But Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley thinks the Rankin/Bass version, with a runtime of only 90 minutes, makes too many cuts to the story. “There are parts where they cut stuff out that needed to be in there in order for it to make sense,” he says. “The thing that bothered me most about the cartoon, re-watching it, was that they got rid of the Arkenstone of Thrain altogether, which I think is actually the most important part of the story.”
Humor writer Tom Gerencer agrees that the cartoon is too short, and feels that more than one film is probably necessary to tell the story.
“I didn’t like that [Jackson] made it three movies, but I liked that he wove in the story of Radagast the Brown, and the story of what Gandalf was actually up to,” he says. “There are so many cool elements that maybe two 90-minute movies would have been better than three 3-hour movies.”
Listen to the complete interview with Matthew Kressel, Andrea Kail, and Tom Gerencer in Episode 427 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Andrea Kail on The Hobbit:
“This is what led me to [reading] The Hobbit, and eventually to The Lord of the Rings. It was personally meaningful to me, so that was why watching it was an experience. … The Lord of the Rings was the book that made me want to be a writer, and I can tell you exactly the moment. I was 12 years old, I was in my parents’ bedroom, and I was reading The Fellowship of the Ring. It was the escape from Moria scene, and I was just entranced. I got to the end of the chapter, and it was like coming out of a dream. I was sweating, I was panting—like I was running with them—and I said to myself, literally said in my head, ‘I want to be able to do that.’ And that’s how I decided to be a writer.”
Tom Gerencer on The Sword in the Stone:
“When he tries to pull the sword out, in the book, he can’t pull it out. There’s a little pond around the bottom of the anvil, and a fish pops up out of the pond and goes, ‘Put your back into it, lad. Remember when you were a fish and you had a strong backbone?’ And then a hawk in the courtyard says something else to him, and every animal that he’s been comes in with a piece of advice for him about how to pull this sword out of this stone. It all comes together, and he pulls it, and you’re like, ‘Oh, the education!’ There was all this stuff he was learning, that he thought was just fun. Whereas in the movie he just reaches out and pulls it out, and I’m like, ‘How is the movie about education? It’s not.’”
David Barr Kirtley on The Secret of NIMH:
“It’s super confusing in the movie, because it seems like all the animals wear clothes and talk, regardless of whether they’ve had their intelligence boosted or not. … These rats escaped from this lab and had their intelligence boosted, but you would never know that—it doesn’t get explained until almost the end of the movie. What’s the point of having a cool premise if you watch most of the movie without knowing what it is? This movie should have started off with the rats escaping from the lab, and then we jump ahead. Because without that, it doesn’t make any sense at all. But even knowing that, I’m still confused about why Auntie Shrew has clothes. I’m totally baffled about that.”
Matthew Kressel on Titan A.E.:
“I love the animation style of it, and I thought there were parts of it that were really cool, but it kept doing really stupid things with the plot that bothered me to the point that I got frustrated. I found [Cale] to be just insufferable. He was whiny, complaining, arrogant, self-righteous, and self-centered. He’s not anybody that I want to follow for two hours. I think a lot of this comes from Star Wars: A New Hope, where Luke, at the beginning, he’s kind of whiny. But then he matures and grows up pretty quick. I feel like a lot of people who don’t quite get story think, ‘Oh, we’ve got to make him really whiny, like Luke.’ But that doesn’t work long-term. There needs to be a character arc there.”