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Re: The How and Why of Bakshi's LotR film

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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 1 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
      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 2 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
        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 3 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
          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 4 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
            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 5 of 11 , Jun 16, 1999
              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 6 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
                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 7 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
                  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 8 of 11 , Jun 17, 1999
                    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 9 of 11 , Jun 18, 1999
                      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 10 of 11 , Jun 18, 1999
                        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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