In 1966, animator Gene Deitch collaborated with Czech illustrator Adolf Born to create the very first film version of The Hobbit. This version — which took some sizable creative liberties with J.R.R. Tolkien’s original story — never saw the light of day. What the heck happened?

As Deitch tells it, the story began his producer, William Snyder, briefly acquired the rights to The Hobbit in 1964. Deitch wished to film The Hobbit using cel-animated characters and 3D-modeled backgrounds, an ambitious procedure for the time. More..