As we head into the final stretch of Peter Jackson-directed “Hobbit” installments—all comprehensive and extravagant three of them—take a moment to remember a time when “Lord of the Rings” was still an under-realized property. Before Jackson’s films, the most successful attempt came in 1978 from “Wizards” director Ralph Bakshi, and proved an accomplished but flawed film, one given zero favors by strict deadlines and financial woes. However, time has allowed interest to grow, and now a glimpse of the project’s original vision has begun to reveal itself.
For some months now, Bakshi’s son Eddie has been quietly sorting through his father’s archives and uploading “lost” artwork to Bakshi’s Facebook page. The clips, though only ten or so seconds in length, offer a more complete sketch of the director’s work and ideas, and this especially relates to Bakshi’s ’78 version of “Lord of the Rings” with two unseen clips. The recently uploaded pair (via BoingBoing) flesh out the iconic fight between Gandalf and the Balrog in the Mines of Moria: originally just a 30-second slideshow of stylized still images, but now rendered with different character looks and a stronger immediacy.
“[It’s] hazy, but I was trying to make memories different than the real time story,” Bakshi said regarding the sequence when asked about the visual change. “I was wrestling with trying to separate the styles.”
The elder Bakshi also pointed to approaching deadlines as the reason for the scene’s revision. “If you’re getting close to delivery, it’s better to cut the animation out to make the scene work, than racing to reanimate it to make the cut work,” he said. And certainly, the ’78 “Lord of the Rings” feels quite abridged in order to work, even ending abruptly right after the battle at Helm’s Deep. The 1980 Rankin-Bass “Return of the King” attempted to deliver a solid conclusion, but the end product failed to cohere with Bakshi’s original vision.
It’s unclear if more deleted scenes from Bakshi’s 'Rings' adaptations are coming soon, but in the meantime check out the two Balrog fight clips below along with the sequence that ended up in the final film.