Apr 3, 2010

John Huston

Before D&D there was The Hobbit. And if there is any one thing that set me on the course to being a fan of all things fantasy it was the Rankin & Bass animated version of The Hobbit narrated by John Huston.

To this day he IS the voice of Gandalf in my head when I read the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit. I still think he was one of the greatest voice actors of all time.

Not long ago I bought the Rankin and Bass The Hobbit on DVD and I was not disappointing. It has held up surprisingly well. Some things in its favor are that it is based on the original drawings of JRR Tolkein himself, John Huston's voice acting, and the editing of the story is so well done. The scenes with Smaug are still some of the best ever put to film, and who can forget the riddles in the dark with Gollum!?

When I was a child and saw this for the first time it blew my mind. The next day I ran to the school library and asked for the book to read. The librarian said it was a "little old for me" and directed me to CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Now, I loved Chronicles of Narnia and don't begrudge her misdirection, but I still wanted to read Tolkein's work. And eventually did, several times.

Smaug - one of the greatest characters of all time. All dragons pale in comparison to his magnificence.

"Adventures make one late for dinner."


  1. I too bought the Rankin/Bass DVD, late last year to be exact. My wife had never seen it & was impressed with the quality of both the animation & the artwork (being an artist & all). "The Hobbit" is one of my favorite stories ever, & the classic 1977 cartoon captures the spirit of the book perfectly.

  2. This movie makes me consider having the orcs and goblins in my game sing all the time!

  3. Huston's voice is one of the most-used in my collection of "funny" voices when DMing. Dwarf lords, wizards, priests, and merchants have all shared his voice.

    As for singing orcs, I always found it amazing that they could barely speak but had such great singing voices. I do find something a bit unnerving about singing humanoids though.

  4. I love the "oral tradition" feel of the Rankin-Bass Middle-Earth films. Also: Wow, whether it's Rudolph, Mad Monster Party, or The Last Unicorn, I adore R-B production design.

  5. Now, if only they would release a DVD that didn't lose many of the sound effects.

    You'll note that there is no sound of the ineffective arrows glancing off Smaug's underbelly and the gold the dwarves are playing in, the sound effects for when Thorin and Gandalf take a closer look at the swords in the troll's lair, the slashing sound when the goblins, including the Goblin King are hit with Glamdring.

    As a huge movie geek, it was incredibly frustrating when I finally got the DVD.
    I had to go a re-acquire an older VHS so I could watch it properly (note, the VHS that 'matches' the DVD has the same major sound problem).

    -Eric (MachFront on DF and elsewhere)