Growing up there were two fantasy movies that I watched over and over again: The Hobbit and The Last Unicorn. Both animated films that were produced by Rankin and Bass. The Hobbit aired on TV in 1977, while The Last Unicorn was in theaters in 1982.However, I saw both films on TV.
I remember how every year we’d watch The Hobbit at school. The teacher would roll in the TV on a cart and we’d all sit in the dark classroom and get engrossed in the action. Oh, I’m sure some kids didn’t like it and slept through it, but many of them watched with interest. I know I did. I think The Hobbit was my principal’s favorite movie and it was his choice to have his elementary students watch it. After he left and another principal took his place, we stopped watching The Hobbit. However, I would watch it on lazy Saturday or Sunday afternoons if it was on television.
The Last Unicorn also played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I never saw it as school though. From about age 5 until age 12, I was in love with Unicorns. I had a stuffed Unicorn named Uni that my father had bought for me, a T-shirt with a winged unicorn flying under a rainbow on it, posters with unicorns on them, books with unicorns in them and a Unicorn coloring book. So, it was only natural that I loved The Last Unicorn as well.
I read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle several years after I first saw the film and loved the book as well. Though it was a lovely fantasy, it was also adult in many ways. The themes of losing belief in magic, losing faith, selfishness and greed were not something you’d think you’d find in a kid’s book or movie. But there they were, along with references to Shakespeare’s King Lear and the legend of Robin Hood. Perhaps the most touching was the ending where Amalthea returns to her unicorn form changed by her time as a human. She regrets and that, according to Beagle, is the most human of emotions.
I read The Hobbit in December of 1988 after I got The Lord of the Rings book set from my Aunt Barb at Christmas. She loved the books and knew I had an interest in fantasy, so she thought I might like the books as well. I eagerly devoured The Hobbit, which was much more detailed than the movie, and moved onto The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and Return of the King. At the time there was only the Rankin and Bass cartoon of The Lord of the Rings, so I got that out of the library. They’d never shown that movie in school, so I was surprised it was out there.
The Rankin and Bass movie The Lord of the Rings was better than nothing, but it was very much a shallow imitation of the books. It mostly followed the books, but a great deal was left out. I was disappointed by The Lord of the Rings cartoon. Some twelve years later when the live action The Lord of the Rings movies came out I was more than thrilled and extremely satisfied by Peter Jackson’s rendition.
Finally, Peter Jackson was able to get the rights to The Hobbit and make that movie as well. I just sat down to watch The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey recently. While the special effects were wonderful and I appreciated the details he included, it did seem to drag on a bit. I thought perhaps dividing it into two movies might not have been the best idea, but I will definitely still be sure to catch part two anyway.