Why The Animated Hobbit Is Better Than Peter Jackson’s

The Hobbit

Please hear me out before you start hurling stones at me. I’m a fan of everything that Peter Jackson and his crew have accomplished over the past 13+ years. Peter has done wonders for Tolkien’s work by bringing it to the forefront of popular culture. He’s made it possible for the masses to not only enjoy the stories but to know everything about Middle Earth without ever having to endure the books. Sure a few details might be altered here and there but when does a book ever get translated into a movie word for word?

The first time I watched the Hobbit was at a Cub Scouts “lock-in” over at my local elementary’s gymnasium. I was probably around 8 years old and had never heard of the Hobbit much less J.R.R. Tolkien. The group consisted of around 15 boys in the age range of 7 to 10 with at least 6 fathers in tow, one of which was my own. One of the dads started pushing in the huge cart thing that held up the now ancient television with it’s VCR and gave us a little intro to what we were going to watch. As soon as I heard tell of wizards, dragons and elves I was instantly hooked without ever seeing the opening sequence. The movie played on for around an hour and fifteen minutes or so and I was glued to the screen the entire time. Some people say that the animated version of the Hobbit was a little too intense for a younger audience, but when you’re a boy who spends time drawing dragons and trolls in his sketchbooks, it’s the best movie ever. I wish that I could go back now and watch the dad’s faces as their sons embarked on the epic quest with Bilbo and the dwarves. I’m sure they were thrilled to introduce what’s arguably one of the best “children’s” stories to their offspring without having to bore them with the actual text.

Some of you might say that nostalgia persuades me to think that this animated classic from 1977 is better than the trilogy that Jackson has presented us with. I would maybe concur with that if it wasn’t for the simple fact that I had just watched it again this past weekend. I was amazed at how entertained I still was with the film and found myself wishing that I had it on BluRay so that I could avoid the damn commercials. This movie solidly holds up, in my opinion, and is still a better telling of the Hobbit than the new trilogy.

Gollum The Hobbit

GET TO THE POINT LUCAS!

Ok ok, here’s why…

The Music

Howard Shore has done a brilliant job with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and did a fine job with the Hobbit’s too. Yet, when I watch the new movies and find myself humming the songs from the animated film, that’s when I know that something is better than the other. I love “the Greatest Adventure” from Glenn Yarbrough along with some of the others like the one above – “Misty Mountains Cold”. Just something about the folkish tunes that seem to bring the book to life far better than the resounding scores of today’s movies.

Epic Creepy Gollum

Sorry that I’m using YouTube clips to illustrate my points, but if you haven’t seen what I’m talking about then everything is for not. Andy Serkis and what they did with Gollum from LOTR was phenomenal and a game changer when it came to CGI motion capture. Though I always wonder how much of Serkis’ performance pulled from the animated Gollum? The way he slunks around the caverns, touches himself on the face, and freaks out when his ring is found missing all seem to be pretty on point with how Gollum was depicted within the animated version. The look of the animated creature seemed to better fit what I read in Tolkien’s description far better than how he was displayed on screen in the recent adaptations. (especially the eyes, the way they were soulless and gave Gollum a ghoulish look) Also, I find myself really enjoying Gollum’s voice from the 1977 classic because it’s all that more creepy and chilling. When the first film of the trilogy came out, the only highlight that kept getting praise was the Gollum sequence – and while I would agree that it was probably the most entertaining part – it just didn’t quite do it for me compared to the animated version.

The Creature Design

The Hobbit Trolls

The only creature design that I find rewarding from the new films are the Great Goblin and Smaug. (let’s face it Smaug is so completely bad ass … he could easily be one of the best depictions of a Dragon to ever grace the silver screen – and Cumberbatch’s voice = perfect for the part) Ok enough of me getting all mushy about that … moving on. No really though, the animated feature easily trumps the live action in creature design because they actually look like what I had imagined within what Tolkien described. The orcs (which, why are they even in the movie?) are just behemoth men with overbites and really look more like LOTR’s Uruk-hai. The goblins could’ve been styled more like the Great Goblin with grotesque features. The trolls were ok, but the CGI seemed completely wasted and if you look above – those trolls are a far better design. I can go even further and say that the Weta workshop should’ve tried to take some cues from the animated vision because for me – all the creatures start to blur together in how they look. Similar facial features and disfigurations tend to come across as “been there done that”. Exaggeration can go a long way within creature design and the mark was missed with Peter Jackson’s version.

It Only Needed One Movie

The Hobbit

I see the light at the end of the tunnel – this post is coming to an end!

This is the easiest thing to compare. The 1977 Hobbit needed one film to tell the tale, yet for one reason or another Peter Jackson needed not one, not two, but three entirely lengthy films to get the story across. WHY!? He could have easily made it two films and probably would’ve gained more respect for it, but he felt compelled to not only tell Bilbo’s journey, but every forsaken character of the entire book. He even threw in plot lines that have nothing to do with the book. They are only included to help complete his masterpiece which is what I like to call Peter Jackson’s Version of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Volumes 1 – 6.

Again, I don’t want this to sound like I’m complaining about the vision and films that Jackson has given us. I find them entertaining to some degree but I don’t think I’ve ever looked at my watch so many times within a single movie as I did with “An Unexpected Journey”. If you’re able to find an hour and fifteen minutes, do yourself a favor and watch the animated version. For anyone who is a fan of the book or the new films, it’s just an added treat that I’m sure you’d enjoy just as much if not more.

 

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Hey guys & gals, my name is Lucas Tetrault and if you like this post or any of the others I’ve written – please feel free to venture over to my Blog and take a gander at some other stuff I write about. Heck, you can follow me on Twitter if you want. I promise I don’t intend to waste your time. 

I work as a Creative Director and spend time away from my job with my family, writing for Unreality, and trying to be creative with my own personal projects.


  • MegaSolipsist

    In the books, orcs and goblins were the same thing. I think orc was simply the hobbit word for goblin.

    • Lucas Tetrault

      But I’ve seen arguments where they aren’t. For example, if the orcs are goblins … and goblins HATE daylight – then why do we see the them riding after the dwarves in the daytime? I think when you compound this with the Uruk-hai from LOTR it all starts to get blurred …

      Yet, that’s all beside the point I’m trying to make – which is the fact that if you’re going to have all these different baddies – let’s make them all look different too! It helps the audience to differentiate between everything and it’s more fun that way.

    • Bill Maddox

      I think they’re the same race but the orcs are larger than the goblins.

  • EarthDragon2189

    You make it sound like Jackson deliberately drew out the Hobbit movies out of his own misguided desire to make the series as long as possible.

    Heck, the guy didn’t even WANT to direct the Hobbit movies, but the studio basically twisted his arm. Not only did they drag him back to the project, but they demanded that he make it another trilogy in order to maximize profits (because unnecessarily stretching one movie’s worth of material into two movies is all the rage ever since studio execs took the wrong message from what Warner Brothers did with Harry Potter).

    Blame Jackson’s higher-ups if you want, but don’t blame him.

    • Lucas Tetrault

      No actually I praised his movies and his vision more times than I can count within the post. I’m sorry that the execs twisted his arm and “made” him do 3 films as you would have me believe. He could’ve walked away but everyone has their price I guess. I’m a huge fan of Peter and his films … But you missed the point entirely. The animated hobbit movie is a better representation of the book than the 3 films we’ve been given. IN MY OPINION. 😉

  • Robert Dean

    Most of the stuff Jackson added to the Hobbit is stuff from the appendices, stuff that ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

    Also, there would be NO character development in a single Hobbit film. It would just be Bilbo going from place to place, doing stuff, and then it’s over. Thorin’s character (which is much better than the book’s version) and all the other dwarves would be glorified extras.

    Keep in mind, Jackson and his team LOVE what Tolkien has done, they have more respect for Tolkien than anyone, but they know they can’t be slaves to the material. Just because it works in a book doesn’t mean it’ll work on film.

    • Lucas Tetrault

      I agree with you on your points. Though, I didn’t say the live action film had to be a single film. I actually made mention that it wouldve worked as a two parter.

      And yes, I know the “extra” stuff is from the appendices…but the animated film didn’t need that stuff in order to be a good movie about the hobbit and to tell the tale. 😉 (more so on the point that I’m making in general here…than what your arguing)

    • David R

      You say “Just because it works in a book doesn’t mean it’ll work on film” but also defend all the stuff jammed into the current film adaptations by reminding us that it’s from the appendices? Also, none of this stuff “actually happened,” even though I know what you mean.

      But wherever it came from, the embellishments on Tolkien’s novel have been implemented onscreen in a way that makes them a massive distraction from the emotional thru-line. Admittedly, that’s partially an execution thing, as the new stuff mostly feels contrived and/or weightless in comparison to both the LotR movies and the source material itself.

      I’m not sure exactly how one might determine that Jackson/Co. have more respect for Tolkien than “anyone,” but the current series of films doesn’t feel like Tolkien at all to me. Looks like it. Sounds like it, sometimes. Feels like it almost never.

      • Lucas Tetrault

        Boom! This x10. Finally someone staying on point.

    • Shawn

      “Keep in mind, Jackson and his team LOVE what Tolkien has done, they have more respect for Tolkien than anyone”

      In your opinion, For myself and many others, him and his team trampled all over the source material and Sir Tolkien is probably rolling in his grave.

  • Zach

    I completely agree with this. I love the LoTR movies but the Hobbit movies have been terrible.

    • Robert Dean

      How are they terrible?

      • Zach

        When I watch them, I find the entire experience unpleasant. The dwarves are silly instead of serious, the action is hyperactive and consequence-free, the additions are boring and distract from the main story. It just goes on and on but hardly anything happens. It feels like Jackson doesn’t really give a crap and is just churning stuff out. And from interviews, and even just his general attitude in the various ‘making-of’ shorts, he just doesn’t seem to be engaged.

        And I say this as a fan of the books (I’ve read them umpteen times, including The Silmarillion). I’ve watched the directors cuts of three LoTR films multiple times and enjoy them all the way through.

        I was even onboard when the first big trailer came out. The scene of the dwarves singing gave me goosebumps. But the actual films just felt shallow and spiritless.

        • Lucas Tetrault

          Couldn’t have said it better myself.

          Though I don’t find the new films terrible. I just find them lacking compared to the animated Hobbit. 😉

          • Zach

            Terrible after the bar was set by the first trilogy? 🙂

          • David R

            I think terrible is pretty accurate, regardless of any other qualifiers.

          • Robert Dean

            I’ll take the Hobbit films over the SW prequels in a heartbeat, and I think most people would.

  • Shawn

    I agree. The animated movie is all I need, I haven’t even bothered seeing the new one(s)

    • Robert Dean

      How can you agree the animated version is better if you haven’t seen PJ’s versions?

      • Shawn

        Because I’ve seen the trailers and read the reviews, and I wasn’t a fan of PJ’s take on LOTR. In fact I think the animated version of LOTR is better than PJ’s LOTR as well.

  • Having read the book before watching the animated film when I was in grade school, I found it extremely goofy compared to the epic vision in my head and I’ve just never been able to enjoy it. I really wish del Toro had stayed on for the new films. While I loved the first one, PJ was clearly not feeling the second film and now I’m worried about the third. I’ve wanted this on the big screen for so long and it isn’t going to happen again anytime soon so it sucks to see it done wrong.

    • Lucas Tetrault

      See, I read the book after I saw the movie so that’s how I pictured everything. All a point of perspective I suppose.

      I do find myself consistently wondering what it could’ve been with del Torro at the helm…

  • Bill Maddox

    I love Tolkien’s books and I lost my confidence in Peter Jackson with The Two Towers. It wasn’t the things he left out, but the things he made up and threw in that drove me crazy. “Let’s throw Aragorn off a cliff for no reason!” “Let’s make Faramir a badguy most of the time!” “Let’s cast a 20-year old as Frodo!”

    I feel like the Lord of the Rings movies lost a good part of the spirit of the books by the second movie and they just left a bad taste in my mouth. Bad enough that when I heard about the upcoming Hobbit movie I just groaned. But man, I could not have guessed how far off the rails they could go with the Hobbit. Legolas! Christopher Lee again! Made-up Fighting Elf Girl! Made-up Nemesis for Thorin! A book you can read in one day turned into three 2-hour movies! Hooo-leeeee crap.

    The cartoon version wasn’t perfect but it whips the tar out of Hollywood Jackson’s nonsensical mess.

    • Robert Dean

      What’s wrong with Frodo being played by a 20 year old? I’ve never heard many people lambasting Elijah Wood’s casting.

      And Faramir was never a bad guy! They needed him to be an obstacle (rather than make up something) since Shelob was moved into the third film. All he wanted was to take the Ring to his father to prove himself, while in the book, he was immune to the Ring’s power for no apparent reason. That wouldn’t have worked on film.

      • Bill Maddox

        In the book, Frodo is about 50 when he leaves Hobbiton. I understand why casting a 50-year-old is a problem for Hollywood, but Frodo is supposed to be an older mentor figure to the other hobbits – certainly not the youngest of them.

        As for Faramir, he and Aragorn are the two characters from the race of men with the strongest moral fiber in the story. Faramir is a semi-tragic figure who is superior to his older brother in every way yet can’t earn his father’s approval. He is a great leader and wholly honorable. He was not immune to the Ring’s power; he was simply strong-willed enough to resist it (as were Gandalf and Aragorn). In the end, he was a fitting Steward for Gondor and a worthy match for Eowyn. I would argue that making him a weak-willed bully robbed him of the viewer’s sympathy necessary to build suspense when his father is about to burn him alive. I think they were just worried that portraying him accurately would accentuate how weak Viggo Mortensen was as Aragorn.

        I know I sound bitter. But those movies sucked.

  • Bill Maddox

    I think the main point for lovers of the book is that the animated movie didn’t have to be that great in order to be better than Peter Jackson’s movies.