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Friday, 18 January 2013

The Beatles in Middle Earth

It's been awhile since I've seen Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even longer since I last saw the animated version that was directed by Ralph Bakshi way back in the mid to late 1970's.

When I saw the new Blu-Ray edition of Bakshi's Lord of the Rings in the local supermarket I decided that perhaps now is the time to revisit the movie. Especially after Jackson's Hobbit part one recently bored me rigid in the cinema but left me hungry for a return to Middle Earth.

The Fab Four
Director and animator Ralph  Bakshi was in the right place at the right time when he managed to get the rights to adapt J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a project that had previously stymied filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and John Boorman . He set about to create a new look for Middle-earth by using the rotoscope technique, to shoot large portions of the film as live-action and then provide the footage to his animators to essentially trace. It was an ambitious project and although it was originally intended to cover the entire trilogy, it was decided that there would be two movies covering one and a half books each. In initially the film was to have been released under the title, Lord of the Rings Part One but the studio, fearing people wouldn't pay to see half a movie dropped Part One from the title, which caused confusion with movie fans and angered the director.

"I told them they can't drop the Part One, because people are going to come in thinking they'll see the whole film, and it's not there. We had a huge fight, and they released it as Lord of the Rings. So when it came to the end, people were stunned in the theater, even worse than I ever realized they would be, because they were expecting to see the whole film. People keep telling me I never finished the film. And I keep saying, 'That's right!'" Ralph Bakshi.

The film was however a commercial success and it seemed certain that the follow up would be made to complete the story but, for reasons that are unclear this never happened. There was an unoffical follow up of sorts with 1980's The Return of the King from Rankin Bass animation but this was made for television, was a musical and was tonally different to Bakshi's.

There were many attempts to bring the Lord of the Rings to the screen before the animated version. Perhaps the most outlandish was a version that was to be directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring The Beatles. This almost came about - the books were favorites of John Lennon who pushed the possibility of the Beatles doing an animated version with Apple Films.

Apple Films had seen The Beatles dominate the box office  in  Yellow Submarine, so the prospect of the band involved in the adaptation of a bestselling book was obviously tantalizing. The central driving force was John Lennon, an huge fan of the books.

Lennon had set his sights on the role of Gollum, whilst Paul McCartney would be assigned Frodo, Ringo Starr would take on Sam, and George Harrison would beard up for Gandalf. Apple went so far as to approach a pre-2001 A Space Odyssey Stanley Kubrick. However the project fell apart as the Beatles themselves started to fall apart.

I don't need a magic ring, my friend
Cos magic rings won't buy me love.

Alas, it never happened and so Tolkein fans had to wait for this version from Ralph Bakshi to see Middle Earth brought to life on the big screen.

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