A group of hobbits are charged with carrying a magical ring into Mordor to be destroyed knowing the Dark Lord will do everything in his power to stop them.
That Ralph Bakshi’s ambitious but unfinished adaptation of Tolkien’s tale has acquired a cult status is testimony to the quality of work the animator completed before the financial plug was pulled.
Bakshi’s first innovation was to introduce live-action tracing and painting alongside traditional animation techniques. These lend the finished cartoon an unusal look, but one that largely succeeds in pitting our disparate Fellowship against a (genuine) phantom menace in the land of Mordor.
Echoing come of Tolkien’s own drawing in the landscapes, each region is given its own distinctive feel through a broad use of colour. Narrative jumps sometimes make the plot hard to follow, and only half of the three books are covered. The enforced ending is rather hurried, but at lest the closing battle makes for a fitting climax – smoky, demonic red and cold, stony blue.
It might seem a little crude in these days of CGI, but ultimately Bakshi’s succeeded in his most basic of tasks: a vivid imagining of Tolkien’s timeless tale of Good and Evil.
What most people remember is the mix of the live-action tracing within the traditional animation and just how effectively creepy it managed to be, but for the time this did a pretty good job of adapting the dense novels.