The Lord of the Rings (1978)

PG | 115 mins | Fantasy | 15 November 1978

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HISTORY

A narrator provides exposition at the beginning and throughout the film.
       End credits contain a company credit for Image Transform, Inc.
       Walt Disney Pictures acquired film rights to J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, in 1956, according to the 12 Jan 1976 HR. While production notes in AMPAS library files mentioned Stanley Kubrick’s one-time association with the project and indicated that United Artists Corp. (UA) acquired the rights in 1968, Publishers Weekly reported on 3 Nov 1969 that the studio had finalized a deal to acquire the film rights after two years of negotiation. Although the Beatles had attempted to buy the rights and singer Arlo Guthrie expressed interest in participating in any film adaptation, UA partnered with Katzka-Berne Productions, Inc. in the deal.
       The 26 Jun 1970 HR and 1 Jul 1970 Var announced that John Boorman had been hired to produce, direct and co-write with Rospo Pallenberg an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gabriel Katzka would serve as associate producer on the movie, which was scheduled to film in Ireland. According to an interview with the director in the 11 Jan 1974 LAT, however, UA balked at the cost of producing Boorman’s script. Neither Boorman, Pallenberg, Katzka or Katzka-Berne are credited onscreen.
       In the intervening years, director Ralph Bakshi petitioned UA several times to direct The Lord of the Rings as an animated feature. In 1975, the studio allowed Bakshi to take control of the project at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). However, M-G-M’s involvement ended with the departure ...

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A narrator provides exposition at the beginning and throughout the film.
       End credits contain a company credit for Image Transform, Inc.
       Walt Disney Pictures acquired film rights to J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, in 1956, according to the 12 Jan 1976 HR. While production notes in AMPAS library files mentioned Stanley Kubrick’s one-time association with the project and indicated that United Artists Corp. (UA) acquired the rights in 1968, Publishers Weekly reported on 3 Nov 1969 that the studio had finalized a deal to acquire the film rights after two years of negotiation. Although the Beatles had attempted to buy the rights and singer Arlo Guthrie expressed interest in participating in any film adaptation, UA partnered with Katzka-Berne Productions, Inc. in the deal.
       The 26 Jun 1970 HR and 1 Jul 1970 Var announced that John Boorman had been hired to produce, direct and co-write with Rospo Pallenberg an adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Gabriel Katzka would serve as associate producer on the movie, which was scheduled to film in Ireland. According to an interview with the director in the 11 Jan 1974 LAT, however, UA balked at the cost of producing Boorman’s script. Neither Boorman, Pallenberg, Katzka or Katzka-Berne are credited onscreen.
       In the intervening years, director Ralph Bakshi petitioned UA several times to direct The Lord of the Rings as an animated feature. In 1975, the studio allowed Bakshi to take control of the project at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M). However, M-G-M’s involvement ended with the departure of its studio chief, whereupon Bakshi approached his friend and former collaborator, producer Saul Zaentz, for help. Zaentz purchased the rights to The Lord of the Rings and agreed to make the film with Bakshi, according to production notes and DV on 15 Dec 1976 and 11 Jan 1977. An article in the 8 Nov 1978 NYT provided a slightly different account of events, reporting that M-G-M backed out of a deal to make the movie when it failed to grasp Bakshi’s creative process. The studio would allow Bakshi to retain the rights to The Lord of the Rings if he could reimburse UA the $600,000 the company had spent to develop the property. Otherwise, the rights would revert back to M-G-M the next day. Bakshi contacted Zaentz, who acquired the rights immediately and agreed to be his partner.
       Although they owned the rights wholly, Bakshi and Zaentz secured the blessing of the Tolkien estate and the novels’ British publishers before proceeding. As stated in production notes, screenwriter Chris Conkling, a young Tolkien scholar, wrote early drafts of the screenplay, which were later revised and polished by his co-writer, established fantasy author, Peter S. Beagle.
       The Lord of the Rings was in pre-production as of a 10 Jan 1977 UA press release, and principal photography began on 17 Jan 1977, as announced in the 14 Feb 1977 Box. Bakshi’s creative vision involved making two films, The Lord of the Rings, Part I and The Lord of the Rings, Part II, to encompass the scope of the trilogy, and innovating a new kind of artistic process that would lend the animation more realism than had ever been seen, according to production notes and the 12 Jan 1976 HR. After hiring actors to play the human and humanoid roles, Bakshi shot Part I as a live-action film on soundstages and on locations on two continents. Sites in CA included the Mojave Desert and locations in Spain included a castle that served as the setting for the movie’s “Helm’s Deep” sequence. The director then conducted the dubbing of the characters’ voices by actors in London, England, as reported in production notes, in DV on 11 Aug 1978 and in LAT on 6 Nov 1978 and 14 Mar 2002.
       Next, Bakshi oversaw the process of transforming the live action into animation. To accomplish this, according to production notes, the 11 Aug 1978 DV and the Oct 1978 Millimeter, the director added 184 staff members to his company, Ralph Bakshi Productions, primarily by hiring art students based solely on the strength of their portfolios. Animators used a Rotoscope to project the completed live action film to cel size and the illustrators traced over and enhanced the images on each frame. Since the director’s intention was to give the animation a new verisimilitude, his team developed new paints, papers and colors to create over 10,000 painted backgrounds, devised a way to create slow-motion animation and increased the density of action in the frames.
       According to the 14 Mar 2002 LAT, actors Billy Barty and Sharon Baird physically enacted the roles of “Sam Gamgee” and “Frodo Baggins” respectively. However, neither is credited with a character name. The 7 Oct 1977 HR announced actor Maurice Downs had been hired, but his name does not appear in onscreen credits.
       Composer Leonard Rosenman planned to assemble a ninety-piece orchestra, adult and children’s choruses of one hundred members each, and a small orchestra of ancient instruments for the film’s musical accompaniment, reported the 23 Nov 1977 Var.
       Accounts of the length of production varied. Production notes state that production took less than three years and the 14 Mar 2002 LAT reported the live action portion took over six months, followed by a year of animation work, while Millimeter, maintained that animation production alone took just under eighteen months.
       Although the 30 Aug 1978 HR announced that Bakshi was in the process of completing The Lord of the Rings, Part I and the 10 May 1978 HR reported that Part I was scheduled to end Sep 1978, according to the 9 Oct 1978 HR and the 6 Nov 1978 LAT, production on the picture concluded the weekend of 7 Oct 1978 and Bakshi finished the film in its entirety 29 Oct 1978, five days before the first industry screening. Later, in the 14 Mar 2002 LAT, Bakshi bemoaned the time constrictions he faced: in order to meet an end-of-the-year release deadline, he had only four weeks to edit the film.
       The reporting of production costs differed among sources as well. Several publications, including the 12 Jan 1976 HR, announced that the movie’s $3 million budget was supplied by private funds, including Zaentz’s company, Fantasy Films and Fantasy Records. While the 12 Jan 1977 LAT reported a $5 million budget and the 24 Jan 1977 Box indicated that Part I and Part II would cost $3 million each, the 17 Mar 1978 DV claimed Part I alone was budgeted at $6 million and the 11 Aug 1978 DV stated that negative costs on the first film were between $7 and $8 million. The 8 Nov 1978 NYT announced that it cost $2 million to shoot the live action portion of the film and the 14 Mar 2002 LAT noted that total cost for Part I was $12 million.
       The14 Nov 1977 DV and the 21 Dec 1977 Var indicated that The Lord of the Rings would open as early as 16 Jun 1978 but the 26 Jul 1978 Var announced the movie would open in limited release 15 Nov 1978, then expand nationwide 20 Dec 1978. According to production notes, the picture opened at the Regent Theatre in Westwood, CA, on 15 Nov 1978.
       The 1 Dec 1978 HR reported that UA claimed The Lord of the Rings grossed more money in less time in fewer cities than any movie it had ever released. The film earned over $2 million after twelve days in limited release, according to the 4 Dec 1978 HR, and it grossed a total of $27 million domestically, reported the 14 Mar 2002 LAT.
       The 10 May 1978 HR announced that Bakshi had a contract and a completed storyboard for The Lord of the Rings, Part II and the 22 Nov 1978 DV reported that work had begun on a script for the sequel and that Zaentz hoped it would be released in 1980. However, the 14 Mar 2002 LAT noted that Bakshi declined to do the sequel when he was offered half the salary he earned for Part I.

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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Albuquerque Journal
23 Dec 1978
Section B, pp. 1-2
Box Office
24 Jan 1977
---
Box Office
14 Feb 1977
---
Daily Variety
26 Dec 1975
pp. 1-2
Daily Variety
19 Mar 1976
---
Daily Variety
14 Dec 1976
p. 1, 12
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1976
p. 7
Daily Variety
11 Jan 1977
---
Daily Variety
14 Nov 1977
---
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1978
---
Daily Variety
11 Aug 1978
pp. 1-2
Daily Variety
22 Nov 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1970
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Jan 1976
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Oct 1977
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Jun 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
30 Aug 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Sep 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
9 Oct 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Nov 1978
p. 3
Hollywood Reporter
10 Nov 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
1 Dec 1978
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Dec 1978
---
Los Angeles Times
11 Jan 1974
Section D, p. 1
Los Angeles Times
12 Jan 1977
Section IV, p. 8
Los Angeles Times
6 Nov 1978
---
Los Angeles Times
15 Nov 1978
p. 1, 17
Los Angeles Times
14 Mar 2002
pp. 57-58
Millimeter
Oct 1978
p. 18, 142
New York Times
8 Nov 1978
---
New York Times
15 Nov 1978
p. 21
Publishers Weekly
3 Nov 1969
---
Variety
1 Jul 1970
---
Variety
23 Nov 1977
---
Variety
21 Dec 1977
p. 1, 71
Variety
26 Jul 1978
p. 3, 38
Variety
8 Nov 1978
p. 18
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Fantasy Films Presents
A Film By Ralph Bakshi
A Saul Zaentz Production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Still photog
FILM EDITORS
Negative cutter
Negative cutter
COSTUMES
Spec cost des and const by
Spec cost des and const by
MUSIC
Mus comp and cond
Mus ed
SOUND
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Re-rec
Re-rec
Re-rec
Dolby consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Sp kaleidoscopic eff by
Title des
PRODUCTION MISC
Studio prod supv
Asst to the dir
Asst to the dir
Asst to the prod
Prod staff
Martin Cohen
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
Prod staff
ANIMATION
Anim prod supv
layout
layout
layout
layout
Landscapes painted by
Landscapes painted by
Landscapes painted by
Landscapes painted by
Landscapes painted by
Background asst
Background asst
Background asst
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Key anim
Anim
Anim
Anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Asst anim
Col models
Anim eff
Anim eff
Ink and spec eff
Ink and spec eff
Ink and spec eff
Ink and spec eff
Ink and spec eff
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Ink & paint supv
Anim checker
Cel reproductions
Anim cam
Anim cam
COLOR PERSONNEL
Color by
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novels The Hobbit, Or, There and Back Again; The Fellowship of the Ring: Being the First Part of "The Lord of the Rings" and The Return of the King: Being the Third Part of "The Lord of the Rings" by J. R. R. Tolkien (London, 1937 and 1954).
LITERARY SOURCE AUTHOR
SONGS
"Mithrandir," music by Leonard Rosenman, words by Mark Fleischer.
SONGWRITER/COMPOSER
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings, Part I
Release Date:
15 November 1978
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 Nov 1978
Production Date:
17 Jan 1977--Oct 1978 in CA and Spain
Copyright Info
Claimant
Date
Copyright Number
The Saul Zaentz Production Company & Fantasy Films
22 February 1979
PA26474
Physical Properties:
Sound
Recorded in Dolby Stereo
Color
Lenses
Lenses and Panaflex Camera by Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
115
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25398
SYNOPSIS

Long ago, elves created several “rings of power” for the men, dwarves and elves who inhabited Middle Earth. The Dark Lord of Mordor, Sauron, forged one master ring more powerful than the others and soon defeated his enemies. One human ruler, Prince Isildur, procured the ring, but later lost it, and in the thousands of years that passed, Sauron turned the nine men who possessed the human rings of power into shadowy black riders known as “ringwraiths,” doomed to wander the earth looking for the master ring in order to return it to its creator. When a man named Smeagol finds the ring, it warps his mind, body and actions until his people start calling him “Gollum” instead. Gollum loses the ring and Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit, finds it and takes it home with him to the Shire. Some time later, the wizard Gandalf "the Grey" Stormcrow visits Bilbo and urges him to honor their prior agreement and relinquish the ring to Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo Baggins. Having fallen under the ring’s spell slightly, Bilbo reluctantly acquiesces, then leaves the Shire to travel the world. Seventeen years later, Gandalf returns to the Shire and explains to Frodo that Sauron knows the hobbit has the ring and will come looking for it. Frodo decides to leave home in order to forestall Sauron from ravaging the Shire in search of him. Gandalf agrees to the plan’s wisdom and suggests Frodo seek counsel from the elves at Rivendell but cover his true mission by telling everyone in the Shire he is going to live with his cousins Peregrin “Pippin” Took and Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck. ...

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Long ago, elves created several “rings of power” for the men, dwarves and elves who inhabited Middle Earth. The Dark Lord of Mordor, Sauron, forged one master ring more powerful than the others and soon defeated his enemies. One human ruler, Prince Isildur, procured the ring, but later lost it, and in the thousands of years that passed, Sauron turned the nine men who possessed the human rings of power into shadowy black riders known as “ringwraiths,” doomed to wander the earth looking for the master ring in order to return it to its creator. When a man named Smeagol finds the ring, it warps his mind, body and actions until his people start calling him “Gollum” instead. Gollum loses the ring and Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit, finds it and takes it home with him to the Shire. Some time later, the wizard Gandalf "the Grey" Stormcrow visits Bilbo and urges him to honor their prior agreement and relinquish the ring to Bilbo’s nephew, Frodo Baggins. Having fallen under the ring’s spell slightly, Bilbo reluctantly acquiesces, then leaves the Shire to travel the world. Seventeen years later, Gandalf returns to the Shire and explains to Frodo that Sauron knows the hobbit has the ring and will come looking for it. Frodo decides to leave home in order to forestall Sauron from ravaging the Shire in search of him. Gandalf agrees to the plan’s wisdom and suggests Frodo seek counsel from the elves at Rivendell but cover his true mission by telling everyone in the Shire he is going to live with his cousins Peregrin “Pippin” Took and Meriadoc “Merry” Brandybuck. Frodo’s friend, Samwise “Sam” Gamgee, overhears the plan and asks to accompany Frodo on the adventure. Meanwhile, Gandalf goes to Isengard to consult the leader of his order, the wizard Saruman "the White," only to learn that Saruman is currying Sauron’s favor. When Gandalf protests the evil alliance as folly, Saruman imprisons Gandalf. Elsewhere, Pippin and Merry hear of Frodo’s mission and insist on also joining his quest. The hobbits stop at an inn for the night and encounter Aragorn, a mortal man who divulges that Gandalf sent him to look after them. Although Aragorn is worried because he has not heard from the wizard, he can protect and guide the hobbits to Rivendell as planned. Late that night, as the black riders seek the hobbits at the inn, Frodo realizes that when he puts the ring on his finger, he can enter the shadow men’s world and interact with them. A fight with a wraith leaves the tip of the enemy’s knife in Frodo’s bloodstream. Frodo removes the ring and returns to the real world, but is sickened by the metal, which will turn him into a wraith if it reaches his heart. The next morning, Aragorn and the hobbits run into the elf, Legolas, who has come to lead them to their destination. On the way to Rivendell, the band is overpowered by the black riders until a stream washes the wraiths away. Overcome by the poisonous metal, Frodo falls unconscious and wakes up at Rivendell to find Gandalf next to him. Gandalf explains how Frodo triumphed against the ringwraiths and describes his own escape from the traitorous Saruman. Since the black riders are temporarily defeated, the immediate threat is the white wizard, who wants the power of the ring for himself. After Frodo recovers, he is happily reunited with Bilbo. Later, at a special council comprised of representatives of the races of Middle Earth, Frodo learns that Aragorn is a descendant of the prince who took the ring from Sauron. Elrond, the elven leader of Rivendell, suggests that the only solution is to return the ring to the fire at Mordor that was used to forge it. Another council member, Boromir, protests they should not destroy the ring but use it to help Middle Earth, starting with his homeland, Gondor, which is already under attack by Sauron’s forces. But Gandalf insists it is not safe to use the ring because anyone who does so will be corrupted by its power and then broadcast the ring’s whereabouts to Sauron. Instead, Gandalf suggests that the Dark Lord may be so intent on locating the possessor of his ring, he may be blind to anyone sneaking into Mordor to destroy it. Although Bilbo volunteers for the mission, it is decided that Frodo will attempt to breach Mordor, accompanied by Gandalf, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir and Gimli the dwarf. On the way to Mordor, the band is attacked by evil humanoid soldiers known as orcs and a winged, whip-wielding, fire-breathing creature called Balrog. Gandalf battles the monster until the two combatants fall into a deep pit. As his friends watch him plummet, Gandalf urges them to go on without him, then disappears from sight. The group continues on and arrives at the elven land of Lothlorien where they rest, recuperate, and soon after, depart by boat. Later, as Frodo decides how he wants to proceed, Boromir approaches the hobbit and suggests they all go to Gondor and use the ring there to defend his people. When Frodo refuses, insisting that the ring causes evil, no matter the wearer’s intentions, Boromir tries to take the ring by force, but Frodo dons the ring and vanishes. Boromir reports Frodo’s disappearance to the others and the hobbits run away looking for him with Gimli and Legolas in tow. Aragorn chides Boromir for making Frodo leave, then orders him to guard Pippin and Merry. Aragorn urges Sam to follow him, but Sam sneaks away, deducing that Frodo went to the shore. Sam finds Frodo there and the two hobbits head to Mordor in a boat. Meanwhile, Pippin and Merry run into orcs, who carry them away. Boromir finds and defends the hobbits until the orcs shoot him with arrows. Moments later, Aragorn discovers Boromir, who admits with his dying breath that he tried to take the ring from Frodo and that the orcs captured the hobbits. Later, as Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas decide to save Merry and Pippin, the orcs tell the hobbits they are going to Isengard. On the way, blond warriors known as the Riders of Rohan attack the orcs. Elsewhere, Frodo and Sam disembark near Mordor’s Mount Doom and encounter Smeagol, whom Frodo knows has been following them since they left Moria. In exchange for the hobbits sparing his life, Smegal agrees to lead them to the gates of Mordor through a secret path. Meanwhile, the orcs and the blond warriors battle each other as Merry and Pippin escape to a nearby forest where a sentient, mobile tree called Treebeard carries them to safety. Elsewhere, Legolas, Gimli and Aragorn lament losing Merry and Pippin’s trail until Gandalf approaches them. The wizard explains how he vanquished Balrog and escaped. He asks them to accompany him to aid Edoras, a nearby kingdom where Saruman’s orcs are due to descend in two days. Theoden, the country’s aged king, is under the advice of Grima Wormtongue who is secretly working for Saruman. When Aragorn notes that there are not enough Rohan riders to stop Saruman’s legions, Gandalf suggests they divert the orcs to a nearby stronghold called Helm’s Deep. Perhaps they can keep the evil forces distracted long enough for Frodo to complete his quest. Meanwhile, Saruman instructs his orc troops that if they can defeat the Rohan, they can take the rest of Middle Earth. In Edoras, Gandalf exposes Wormtongue’s duplicity to Theoden and as Wormtongue escapes, the wizard convinces the king to occupy Saruman’s forces at Helm’s Deep. Soon, Theoden, his men and the four travelers depart Edoras. Gandalf rides away from the group, instructing the king and Aragorn to look for him at Helm’s Deep. Elsewhere, Frodo and Sam continue following Smeagol toward Mordor, despite their mutual distrust, as Samuran’s evil forces approach Helm’s Deep where the Riders of Rohan lie in wait for them. During the battle, magic bolts sent from Isengard help the orcs breach the hold. The king, his friends, and his remaining soldiers retreat to a cave where Theoden announces he would rather die in combat than trapped in a hole. The others join him in returning to the battlefield. Elsewhere, Frodo notes that they are about a day from Mordor. He thanks Sam for his steadfast friendship and admits he is looking forward to ending the adventure because the ring has gotten very heavy. Smeagol urges the hobbits to keep moving and they wearily continue. Although King Theoden and his allies defeat many orcs back at Helm’s Deep, they soon realize there are many more orcs on the way. Theoden calls out for Gandalf, who suddenly appears. With the wizard’s help, they dispatch the forces of darkness and remove them from Middle Earth.

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Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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