Before Ranking and Bass’s animated version of The Hobbit premiered on television in 1977, there was another animated version that was produced but never screened publicly until very recently. This eleven-minute film is the product of animation legend Gene Deitch and came about as he was trying to secure financing to produce a feature-length adaptation of the classic children’s book. However, due to a fast-looming deadline that required a finished film or else the rights would reverse back to author J R R Tolkien, Deitch’s producer William L. Snyder ordered him to prepare the following short version as a way to fulfill the letter of the contract so they can hold on to the rights for a bit longer. A similar ploy would be used two decades later by Roger Corman in order to keep the rights to the Fantastic Four comic book characters. You can read Deitch’s fuller version of the story at his blog.
If you have any friends who are bemoaning any changes that Peter Jackson may have made in the his adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s book, you may want to point them towards this short animated version of the story to let them know that things could have been far worse. Honestly, the cartoon isn’t that great and I am presenting it more as a curiosity then as an essential film you should view multiple times to dissect whatever meaning there is to find. Still, despite its complete unfaithfulness to the source material and its hurried production, there is a certain charm to the art used.