The Legend of Slag the Dragon: The First Hobbit Animated Feature

Before Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, before his Lord of the Rings films, before the Rankin Bass Return of the King and The Hobbit, before even Ralph Bakshi’s Lord of the Rings, there was another film based on Tolkien’s works. In 1966, there was a Hobbit animated feature created–and it was just under twelve minutes long.

Suffice it to say, this film makes Jackson look like a purist of the highest order. It tells the story of Bilbo Baggins, General Torin Oakenshield (no, that’s not a typo), an unnamed watcher, and the young Princess Mika go to kill that great dragon Slag who has destroyed Mika’s kingdom of Dale. Along the way they meet Groans, who try to eat them alive but are tricked by Bilbo into fighting until dawn. Bilbo falls into a Grablin hole and meets Goloom (pronounced “ghoul-loom”). In the hole, the One Ring finds its “true” bearer–Bilbo. At the end, Bilbo saves the day by stealing the heart-shaped Arkenstone from Slag, fitting it as an arrowhead to a giant arrow and launching said arrow at the dragon using a giant crossbow. He then marries Princess Mika, rules Dale, and later returns to his hobbit hole.

I…don’t even have words. It’s crazy how far this departs from the original story. It’s even worse than the film that Morton Grady Zimmerman was trying to make in the late ’50s. In that version, Boromir was spelled Borimir, Radagast was an eagle, Rivendell was a “shimmering forest,” lembas is a food concentrate, and hobbits munch “ridiculously long sandwiches” (Letters, 266, 270-276).

Get it together, guys. Why bother with an adaptation if you just want to write your own story anyway?

If you care to watch this yourself, see the video below. You can also read the writer/director/animator’s comments on his blog.

Photo credit: Hector Alejandro


  6 comments for “The Legend of Slag the Dragon: The First Hobbit Animated Feature

  1. August 6, 2014 at 5:06 am

    This was an ashcan copy, made only so that the rights could be retained (since the licence required a movie to be produced by a certain date), because the producer anticipated that he would be able to sell them later for a higher price. However, on this occasion that does not excuse the wild variations from the source material, since Gene Deitch says that it was a condensation of a full, feature-length screenplay that he had already written. As he explains in the comments:

    “I came out of Hollywood at a time when it was normal to rewrite any book that was made into a movie. It was only four years later, when I began to do Weston Woods films for Mort Schindel, that i learned to respect the integrity of books I adapted.”

    • Emily
      August 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

      From the older (1970 and earlier) movies I’ve seen that were based on books, there was very little respect for the author’s original works. Even as other adaptations go, though, this one is pretty darn bad.

      It would be really interesting to read the original script. Do you happen to know if it’s available online anywhere?

  2. August 7, 2014 at 11:47 am

    “this film makes Jackson look like a purist of the highest order.”

    Hah! Best Jackson-Tolkien sentence ever … :D

    • Emily
      August 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Haha, thanks! Honestly, this version makes even Ralph Bashki with his deliberately-asexual Frodo, crossed-eyed Legolas, technicolor Saruman, and Galadriel-who-can’t-pronounce-her-husband’s-name look like a purist…

  3. September 19, 2014 at 7:26 am

    I have the original script saved on my computer. I will upload it to my site tonight and post the link here. Great article, it cracked me up!

    • Emily
      September 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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