In response to yesterday’s mail, I’ve had a lot of e-mails from Ringers who seem to recall seeing an extended version of the Rankin/Bass movie ‘The Hobbit’ than the one on video. Never fear however, for there are always people out there who can shed light on a situation.

Here are just some of the people who mailed in wondering the same thing, and also offered some suggestions as to what Jeff was referring to.

I remember watching the show when it originally aired, and I have also owned it on VHS (two different versions) as well as the new DVD. There is definitely only one version of the animated film (although one of the VHS editions has some missing animation, due to the print being in bad shape), and Beorn is definitely not in it (and neither is the Arkenstone). I also own the “Deluxe” Abram’s edition of The Hobbit, illustrated with art from the Rankin-Bass film, and it’s true that Beorn appears in it. But the illustration is inconsistent with the rest of the art in both style and quality; it was clearly produced for the text only, along with a drawing of a Warg-skin and Goblin-carcass, because otherwise that chapter would have had no illustrations. Another interesting example of this sort of thing is the illustration of Shelob that appears in the old Milton Bradley board game of The Lord of the Rings. The art for that game came from the Bakshi animated film, but of course Frodo & Sam never got anywhere near Shelob’s Lair in that adaptation. Elentir

I too thought I had once seen a longer version of the Hobbit when I was a lot shorter than one. I could have sworn it had Beorn in it as well as more about the Arkenstone. Later when I rented the video and there was no Beorn in it, I figured I had just dreamed those extra scenes. Please if you hear any news about the existence of a longer version of ‘The Hobbit’, I too would die to have it. Although I’ve heard some people had less than kind words for the animated movie of the Hobbit (mbe orc talk, LOL) I thought It was just fine, a very nice way to introduce little kids to Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth. Bill

I was interested to read your piece on the possibility of a longer Hobbit video. I seem to also remember a longer version of the Rankin/Bass edition. It was broadcast on the Disney channel some years ago, and seemed much more complete than the version currently available. There was a scene with Beorn, which I distinctly remember, and the travels through Mirkwood were much longer, including the Black River incident. Hope this might trigger some memories for others. Mike

If you watch the scene where Bilbo exits the tunnel after talking to Smaug, as soon as he exits, there is a very bad edit that jumps to “There we go, there we go… always glad to help a friend…”(Thorin). In the television version, I DISTINCTLY remember watching him run about on the doorstep yelling “Extinguish me!!!.” I also seem to remember other, now deleted scenes from when I saw it on TV back around 1986. (Heh… even though I was only seven at the time.) I’d LOVE to know the answer to this one and get ahold of the full cut. Awful animation, but a lot of great voice actors and /some/ decent music. Christopher

Perhaps the person thought that “The Hobbit” and “The Return of the King” were the same movie. “The Hobbit” is 78 minutes long. Add in commercial breaks and its 90 minutes. “The Return of the King” is 97 minutes long. Add in commercial breaks and it’s 2 hours. They are mistaken, I think. Brett

I am fairly sure this person is imagining the existence of a longer version. I owned the soundtrack album when I was a kid, which was a two-record set with illustrated booklet, and I don’t remember Beorn being in it. I KNOW there was no Black River scene. There’s no way it could have been two hours – I seem to recall the original TV broadcast with commercials running only 90 minutes. I may see if I can get a vintage TV guide from the week of its original broadcast and see what the original run time was. Now I’m curious. Brian

Back in the 70’s the Hobbit was two hours long…the only reason I know that for sure is that I had the version that I taped myself, and in 1981, I worked in a rather Bohemian store that had lots of videos for that day, and we had a version on video about 2 hours long. It was also that long on CED disks (which were disks that came in large sleeves that weighed like 15 pounds a piece and they stopped making the players in , like 1987). I have The Lord of the Rings in that form as well, and it is longer than the movie that most people are familiar with (only by five minutes). It is also the original version, that is… ended with Gollum leading Frodo and Sam to Shelob’s lair, rather than ending with Gandalf throwing the sword up into the air, and riding off in to the dust, which was a change that was made after the film was out one month in theatres. I have NO IDEA where you would get these today. I taped The Hobbit on Showtime in the 80’s and ROTK, and those are different versions than are on video today…and I don’t really know why. It would have never come up except we had friends and their kids over for a slipover, showed the movies, and the parents said that their forms were different that they had purchased in the 90’s or currently. I can no longer watch my version of LOTR, because the CED player that I have no longer works (much to everyone’s annoyance). I have just recently been told that there is someone who may be able to fix it. I will have to look into it. That’s all the light I can shed on this situation…I hope it helps. Diamond T

Other ringers mailed in and pointed the finger at the illustrated book of the Rankin/Bass version of ‘The Hobbit’.

In regards to a longer version of the Rankin and Bass ‘The Hobbit’, I have an illustrated book of ‘The Hobbit using the Rankin and Bass illustrations from the movie. If I remember correctly it does have the Beorn Illustrations in it. Jeremy

I too have an edition of ‘The Hobbit’ with illustrations from the cartoon. Many of the illustrations are stills from the movie, but many were drawn later to fill in the blanks. Beorn IS shown in an illustration, but the artwork is clearly not from the movie. This doesn’t prove that there isn’t a longer version of the movie, but since IMDB lists the running time as 77 minutes and makes no reference to a longer version, I suspect the e-mail writer is mistaken. Steve

I am reasonably certain that there is no long version of The Hobbit. The photos of Beorn are from pre-production drawings. There are quite a few stills in that book that are not in the movie and the common denominator among them is that they are all of relatively poor (read: hastily rendered) quality. I believe that’s because they are storyboard or pre-production drawings. I’ve yet to see any evidence whatsoever that a longer cut of the movie exists. Jeff

I recall the book referred to. When the Rankin/Bass Hobbit originally aired, a large format hardcover edition (slightly abridged) version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit was released as a tie-in. It was illustrated mostly with preproduction images from the film, and additional drawings representing scenes not included in the cartoon. I assume that these extra images were created for the book’s sake. There are many illustrations that are not only absent from the film, but done in a style that is looser and more sketchy than the final designs. Bilbo, for instance has a mass of scriggly wrinkles under his eyes. Smaug is green, and lacks the furry red-fox appearance. There’s also a Lord of the Eagles wearing a crown, an arkenstone, and strangely an image of the ring itself with a diamond-stone on it. I’m certain that Beorn was never intended to appear in the film, or why else would the eagles deposit the dwarves at the very entrance to Mirkwood. These additional images were obviously either earlier design concepts, abandoned, or done deliberately to fill the narrative gaps in the novel. Joe

However, the closest thing we have to an official statement about this little mystery are two mails from two very different people involved with the Rankin/Bass movie itself. First, Marbpl sent in this e-mail she received from Rick Goldschmidt, author of The Enchanted World of Rankin Bass.

I am not a ‘Hobbit’ expert BUT I have found nothing in the archives saying it was released to theatres in another format. As far as I know, the DVD/video release is the whole thing and it was specifically made for TV.

Secondly, Joey sent in this e-mail which seems to be hold the key to this argument.

The “Long Version” in question does not exist– I am good friends with (snip), one of the sound engineers for both The Hobbit and RoTK. He was kind enough to dub for me copies of both movies in the early Eighties from the Rankin\Bass masters and also gave me original scripts from both movies. In neither the master tape, nor the script does Beorn exist. There are some parts in the script that were cut out of the final movie (the Stone Giants for one), but according to (snip), the audio was edited to it’s nearly final form before animation would even start.

So there you have it…make from all that what you will!