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The How and Why of Bakshi's LotR film

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  • Ron Bryant
    On Tue, 15 Jun 1999 at 23:54:23 EDT FrMacKen@aol.com ... wrong ... matter? It s due to the rather strange legalities surrounding film rights, and the way
    Message 1 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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      On Tue, 15 Jun 1999 at 23:54:23 EDT FrMacKen@...
      wrote:

      > Why didn't Ralph Bashki ever finish the animated film of The Lord of
      > the Rings? Although key scenes were written out, and lines spoken by
      wrong
      > characters, I still think it was a worthy project. I am alone in this
      matter?

      It's due to the rather strange legalities surrounding film rights, and
      the way
      they're tied directly to each of the three individual volumes of the
      trilogy.
      At the time, Bakshi's company, Fantasy Films, had the rights for
      "Fellowship"
      and "Two Towers," only, and still didn't make use of all the story
      because
      of time constraints.

      Meanwhile, the rights to "Return of the King" was held by Rankin/Bass,
      the
      folks also responsible for the animated "Hobbit" which appeared on TV in
      1976. "The Return of the King" aired as a TV movie on ABC not long after

      the release of Bakshi's LotR to the theatres in late 1978, and all three
      of
      these quaint '70s animation pieces are available on videocassette.
      Look for them in the children's section if your favorite purveyor of
      videos
      doesn't have a proper and conscientiously maintained animation section
      ...

      Best,

      Ron


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    • Wayne G. Hammond
      ... To correct Ron Bryant s post: Bakshi intended to film the rest of _The Lord of the Rings_, but did not because the first part was a financial flop (many
      Message 2 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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        Ron Bryant wrote:

        >> Why didn't Ralph Bashki ever finish the animated film of The Lord of
        >> the Rings?
        >
        >It's due to the rather strange legalities surrounding film rights, and
        >the way
        >they're tied directly to each of the three individual volumes of the
        >trilogy.
        >At the time, Bakshi's company, Fantasy Films, had the rights for
        >"Fellowship"
        >and "Two Towers," only, and still didn't make use of all the story
        >because
        >of time constraints.
        >
        >Meanwhile, the rights to "Return of the King" was held by Rankin/Bass,
        >the
        >folks also responsible for the animated "Hobbit" which appeared on TV in
        >1976. "The Return of the King" aired as a TV movie on ABC not long after
        >
        >the release of Bakshi's LotR to the theatres in late 1978, and all three
        >of
        >these quaint '70s animation pieces are available on videocassette.
        >Look for them in the children's section if your favorite purveyor of
        >videos
        >doesn't have a proper and conscientiously maintained animation section

        To correct Ron Bryant's post:

        Bakshi intended to film the rest of _The Lord of the Rings_, but did not
        because the first part was a financial flop (many would say, a flop on all
        counts). The fact that he did not film the whole story at once may have had
        something to do with time constraints, but had nothing to do with rights.
        He, or rather the producer Saul Zaentz, owned the rights to the entire
        book; indeed, Zaentz still owns the film rights to both _The Hobbit_ and
        _The Lord of the Rings_. Rankin/Bass did not have the rights to _The Return
        of the King_, and in fact seem not to have had even a sublicense, but
        simply went under the assumption that RK was in the public domain in the
        United States, a false assumption that grew out of the Tolkien copyrights
        dispute of the 1960s and has since been firmly squashed by the courts. I
        think (none of this has ever been made clear officially) that Rankin/Bass
        had a sublicense for their _Hobbit_, but I may be wrong. In any case it's
        somewhat telling that neither Rankin/Bass video is commercially available
        in the U.K., where Tolkien's copyrights have never been in question.

        Wayne Hammond
      • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
        Wayne, Thank you for clearing this matter. Although Bashki s version of the Lord of The Rings had many drawbacks including the omission of Tom Bombadil (rather
        Message 3 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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          Wayne,
          Thank you for clearing this matter. Although Bashki's version of the
          Lord of The Rings had many drawbacks including the omission of Tom Bombadil
          (rather surprising for the fact that Peter Beagle had a hand in the script),
          I still thought the animation was first rate and at least Bashki's film made
          an attempt to potray Tolkien's Middle-Earth as it should have been. The film
          is so much better than Rankin/Bass' version.
          Thanks,
          Ron
        • WendellWag@xxx.xxx
          In a message dated 6/16/99 10:25:22 AM Eastern Daylight Time, ... commercially ... question. Almost 10 years ago, I asked Rayner Unwin (Tolkien s publisher)
          Message 4 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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            In a message dated 6/16/99 10:25:22 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
            Wayne.G.Hammond@... writes:

            > In any case it's somewhat telling that neither Rankin/Bass video is
            commercially
            > available in the U.K., where Tolkien's copyrights have never been in
            question.

            Almost 10 years ago, I asked Rayner Unwin (Tolkien's publisher) about the
            status of the Rankin/Bass movie _The Return of the King_. He said that
            originally it was not authorized, but that at some point Rankin/Bass and the
            Tolkien estate came to an agreement. Perhaps neither wanted to fight it out
            in court. Apparently the agreement was that Rankin/Bass would pay the estate
            some appropriate amount and that the film would only be available in the U.S.

            Wendell Wagner
          • Wayne Hammond Jr
            ... Beagle spoke briefly at the 1987 Mythcon before a showing of the Bakshi film, and basically washed his hands of it, noting that although he got
            Message 5 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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              On Wed, 16 Jun 1999 FrMacKen@... wrote:

              > Although Bashki's version of the
              > Lord of The Rings had many drawbacks including the omission of Tom Bombadil
              > (rather surprising for the fact that Peter Beagle had a hand in the script),

              Beagle spoke briefly at the 1987 Mythcon before a showing of the Bakshi
              film, and basically washed his hands of it, noting that although he got
              co-screenwriter credit, his contributions were largely ignored by Bakshi.

              Wayne Hammond
            • Lisa Deutsch Harrigan
              ... To correct Wayne: Rankin Bass got permission to do The Hobbit and a sequel, unspecified. When they found out that Bakshi wasn t going to finish LoTR,
              Message 6 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
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                At 10:28 AM 6/16/1999 -0400, Wayne G. Hammond wrote:
                >To correct Ron Bryant's post:
                >
                >Bakshi intended to film the rest of _The Lord of the Rings_, but did not
                >because the first part was a financial flop (many would say, a flop on all
                >counts). The fact that he did not film the whole story at once may have had
                >something to do with time constraints, but had nothing to do with rights.
                >He, or rather the producer Saul Zaentz, owned the rights to the entire
                >book; indeed, Zaentz still owns the film rights to both _The Hobbit_ and
                >_The Lord of the Rings_. Rankin/Bass did not have the rights to _The Return
                >of the King_, and in fact seem not to have had even a sublicense, but
                >simply went under the assumption that RK was in the public domain in the
                >United States, a false assumption that grew out of the Tolkien copyrights
                >dispute of the 1960s and has since been firmly squashed by the courts. I
                >think (none of this has ever been made clear officially) that Rankin/Bass
                >had a sublicense for their _Hobbit_, but I may be wrong. In any case it's
                >somewhat telling that neither Rankin/Bass video is commercially available
                >in the U.K., where Tolkien's copyrights have never been in question.

                To correct Wayne:

                Rankin Bass got permission to do "The Hobbit" and a sequel, unspecified.
                When they found out that Bakshi wasn't going to finish LoTR, they jumped in
                with their "Return". This wasn't really kosher and they did end up with the
                agreement with the Tolkien Publishers mentioned in Wendall's notes. But it
                should be noted that is the reason Unwin wasn't going to fight it out in
                court was that Rankin/Bass could have won, since what they did was a
                "sequel". Much better to settle and shut the matter up than trust it to the
                capricious US courts.

                We currently have what we call a "Bakshi Sandwich". R/B Hobbit, B LoTR, and
                R/B Return all on one video tape. We forewarn people before we show it. But
                "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" is so bad, it has to be shared with
                those who appreciate crazy real bad stuff. And, lousy as it is, it did
                inspire my daughter to go for the real stuff when she was old enough.

                I like Bakshi's Wizards (which was his test ground for LoTR) much better. He
                should have stopped there.

                Mythically yours,

                Lisa
              • Wayne Hammond Jr
                ... Got permission from whom? Not from Tolkien s publishers, nor from the Tolkien Estate, who by then didn t have the rights to give. The film and television
                Message 7 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
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                  On Wed, 16 Jun 1999, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:

                  > Rankin Bass got permission to do "The Hobbit" and a sequel, unspecified.
                  > When they found out that Bakshi wasn't going to finish LoTR, they jumped in
                  > with their "Return". This wasn't really kosher and they did end up with the
                  > agreement with the Tolkien Publishers mentioned in Wendall's notes. But it
                  > should be noted that is the reason Unwin wasn't going to fight it out in
                  > court was that Rankin/Bass could have won, since what they did was a
                  > "sequel". Much better to settle and shut the matter up than trust it to the
                  > capricious US courts.

                  Got permission from whom? Not from Tolkien's publishers, nor from the
                  Tolkien Estate, who by then didn't have the rights to give. The film and
                  television rights to _The Hobbit_ and _The Lord of the Rings_ were held,
                  as now, by Saul Zaentz. Again, I don't have official word on this, but the
                  credit line on the Rankin/Bass _Return of the King_ packaging is
                  significant: "Based on the Original Version of _The Hobbit_ and _The
                  Return of the King_". This says to me that they were relying on the
                  then-questionable U.S. copyright status of the first (unrevised) editions
                  of _The Hobbit_ and _The Return of the King_, that is on the assumption
                  that these works were in the public domain in the U.S. (Their status is no
                  longer questionable. The U.S. courts, far from being capricious, have made
                  it clear, in remarkably direct language for a legal document -- I've read
                  the decision -- that although Houghton Mifflin did not follow the letter
                  of the copyright law, it did not lose Tolkien's copyrights. And under the
                  latest GATT accords his U.S. copyrights are even more strongly protected.)

                  Tolkien's publishers may well have been reluctant to fight Rankin/Bass in
                  U.S. court to avoid drawing more attention to the copyright dispute --
                  although I suspect that it was Saul Zaentz and his Tolkien Enterprises who
                  had the real standing to do so. Otherwise, Tolkien's publishers and estate
                  have pursued the copyright question vigorously in U.S. courts, and as I
                  say have prevailed. Outside of the U.S., that is in those parts of the
                  world long protected under the Berne Convention, where Tolkien's
                  copyrights have never been in question, the Rankin/Bass videos are in fact
                  illegal, which is why they are not available in Britain (except in pirated
                  or private copies). The Bakshi film, in contrast, is (or has been) widely
                  available outside of the U.S., and has even been shown at the National
                  Film Theatre in London.

                  Lisa is of course correct that Rankin/Bass jumped on the bandwagon with
                  their _Return of the King_, after Bakshi.

                  Wayne Hammond
                • Diane Baker
                  ... By all means, keep it out of the US courts! Capricious is hardly the word to describe them. ... This qualifies---even the thought of it still makes me
                  Message 8 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
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                    Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:

                    > Much better to settle and shut the matter up than trust it to the capricious US
                    > courts.

                    By all means, keep it out of the US courts! Capricious is hardly the
                    word to describe them.

                    > But "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" is so bad, it has to be shared with those who appreciate crazy real bad stuff.

                    This qualifies---even the thought of it still makes me laugh! :)

                    > I like Bakshi's Wizards (which was his test ground for LoTR) much > better. He should have stopped there.
                    >
                    > Mythically yours,
                    >
                    > Lisa
                  • FrMacKen@xxx.xxx
                    To all, Thank you for the reply. It seems like I opened a can of worms with that query. Or should I say a gaggle of Hobbits? Thank you as well for overlooking
                    Message 9 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
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                      To all,
                      Thank you for the reply. It seems like I opened a can of worms with
                      that query. Or should I say a gaggle of Hobbits? Thank you as well for
                      overlooking my mispelling of Ralph Bakshi.
                      One thing: Can anyone tell me the web address of the new live-action
                      of The Lord of the Rings? I hope that whoever does it makes a good film and
                      not a farce. It will be a massive undertaking to say the least.
                      Ron
                    • Diane Baker
                      ... Here s the site, which I cut and pasted from another source. I hope it shows up as a site you can click on; I don t know how to do that yet. It was
                      Message 10 of 11 , Jun 18, 1999
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                        FrMacKen@... wrote:

                        > One thing: Can anyone tell me the web address of the new > live-action of The Lord of the Rings? I hope that whoever does it makes > a good film and not a farce. It will be a massive undertaking to say > the least.
                        > Ron

                        Here's the site, which I cut and pasted from another source. I hope it
                        shows up as a site you can click on; I don't know how to do that yet.
                        It was underlined when I pasted it. (You may get ten copies of this; if
                        you've gotten this already, please disregard.) ---djb.

                        > The official site also provides some background on the film
                        > and how the art was put together...
                        > http://www.lordoftherings.net/main.html
                      • Jim Bohannon
                        ... Here are the addresses Ron: http://www.lordoftherings.net/ http://ringbearer.org/ Jim
                        Message 11 of 11 , Jun 18, 1999
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                          FrMacKen@... wrote:
                          >
                          > One thing: Can anyone tell me the web address of the new live-action
                          > of The Lord of the Rings? I hope that whoever does it makes a good film and
                          > not a farce. It will be a massive undertaking to say the least.
                          > Ron

                          Here are the addresses Ron:

                          http://www.lordoftherings.net/

                          http://ringbearer.org/

                          Jim
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