The Hobbit (1977)
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's YA-novel favorite has cartoon violence in battle scenes. There is a village-destroying dragon, predatory giant spiders, and discreet fatalities; sometimes dead bodies are shown in the distance. Sympathetic characters do die after a climactic battle. Students assigned to read The Hobbit in school might be tempted to use this faithful adaptation as a shortcut. This is not to be confused with a super-sized, live-action Hobbit later directed by Peter Jackson.
What's the story?
After creating seasonal animated classics for TV such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and others, the team of Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass produced this cartoon adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's ever-popular fantasy novel. In the mythic realm of Middle Earth, a monstrous "worm" (dragon), the fire-breathing Smaug, seized the golden horde dug up by a race of dwarves. To defeat Smaug and restore 13 dwarf warriors to their rightful throne, the great wizard Gandalf hires an unlikely agent, Bilbo Baggins, to lead the expedition through dangerous territory. After close scrapes with trolls and goblins, Bilbo stumbles across a powerful sword and a magic ring that, along with his own wits and surprising courage, help him in the perilous quest.
Is it any good?
THE HOBBIT premiered on American network TV as a Thanksgiving-period special and remains well remembered by a generation. Though it somewhat simplifies the beloved storybook in some details and has a narrative a bit structured around TV-commercial breaks, this is an entertaining and even stirring fantasy whose delicate flavor and realistically amiable hero bridge the gap between toddler fairy tales and more grownup, slightly harder-edged fantasies (especially in the third act, when "good guys" suddenly get greedy and turn against each other). It rarely condescends, even with much backstory and narration happening in singsong verse and poetry -- really pretty faithful to Tolkien's bardic prose, though a bit old-fashioned for 21st-century viewers. Character designs and animation are effective, and though visuals were Japanese-outsourced, this doesn't have the cookie-cutter look of familiar "anime," and the eclectic voiceover cast is especially good.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the incredible world of imagination and legend created by J.R.R. Tolkien. Ask young readers if they think this cartoon gets it right.
Talk about how the small hobbit proves his strength. Ask kids if they feel too small and meek for life's challenges, or do they persevere like Bilbo?