Re: The How and Why of Bakshi's LotR film
- In a message dated 6/16/99 10:25:22 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
> In any case it's somewhat telling that neither Rankin/Bass video iscommercially
> available in the U.K., where Tolkien's copyrights have never been inquestion.
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.
- On Wed, 16 Jun 1999 FrMacKen@... wrote:
> Although Bashki's version of theBeagle spoke briefly at the 1987 Mythcon before a showing of the Bakshi
> 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),
film, and basically washed his hands of it, noting that although he got
co-screenwriter credit, his contributions were largely ignored by Bakshi.
- At 10:28 AM 6/16/1999 -0400, Wayne G. Hammond wrote:
>To correct Ron Bryant's post:To correct Wayne:
>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.
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.
- On Wed, 16 Jun 1999, Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:
> Rankin Bass got permission to do "The Hobbit" and a sequel, unspecified.Got permission from whom? Not from Tolkien's publishers, nor from the
> 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.
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.
- Lisa Deutsch Harrigan wrote:
> Much better to settle and shut the matter up than trust it to the capricious USBy 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,
- 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.
- 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.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...
- FrMacKen@... wrote:
>Here are the addresses Ron:
> 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.