Animation director Ralph Bakshi. Haven’t heard that name in a long time but he was always one of the more interesting creative forces with the projects he worked on. One noted, interesting factor, was his animation style of using extensive rotoscoping. This technique involved scenes being first shot in live-action, then traced onto animation cels. This technique has been used in many ways, one notableexample being director Richard Linklater’s 2006 science fiction film A Scanner Darkly.
However, long before that, in 1978, Bakshi used extensive rotoscoping for his adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. While the film wasn’t a massive success in it’s day, it became a huge cult classic and went so far as to inspire and influence director Peter Jackson when he did his own live-action LOTR trilogy. Back on the 1978 film though, which used a hybrid of traditional cel animation and rotoscoped live action footage, you’d be surprised to know that Bakshi was at the center of a bit of a surprising craze in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Back in that time, J.R.R. Tolkien’s LOTR books were actually incredibly popular with a particular group…the music scene. Not only did The Beatles almost develop their own movie adaptation of the story (With Paul McCartney as Frodo?!), but Bakshi himself revealed today that several notable musicians in that time wanted to be apart of his own adaptation.
Led Zeppelin, for example, was originally lined up to provide the soundtrack. Zeppelin had in fact written many Tolkien-inspired tunes by that time but licensing issues kept Zeppelin from partaking in the film itself. But in the below quote from today’s interview, the biggest shock Bakshi revealed was who almost voiced Frodo:
So I get a call from Mick Jagger, he wanted to come up and see what we were doing on Rings. So I’m walking through the studio with Mick Jagger and the girls start to scream and faint. I had 2,200-3,000 people working on four floors, and the word spread to each floor that Jagger is walking around, and people got from one floor to the other through the staircase, and there was thunder like horsemen coming down, shaking the staircase… So that was just hysterical. [Jagger] wanted to do the voice of Frodo. I told him I would have used him easily but I was already recorded and everything. He’d be a pretty good Frodo, I guess. I don’t know.
Ultimately, English actor Christopher Guard took on the role, but it is interesting to know so many musician wanted to be apart of the story. McCartney or Jagger, it would have certainly changed the idea of what an adaptation of LOTR would have turned out like. Then again, who knows how it would have turned out really? In any case, Bakshi’s LOTR film may never have won an Oscar like Jackson’s films did, but it has found a niche audience that has allowed the film to endure for 40 years. Stay tuned!