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The Return of the King (1980 film)

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File:RankinBass' The Return of the King.png
The cover of the DVD release.

The Return of the King is an animated adaptation of the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien which was released by Rankin/Bass as a TV special in 1980. It has since been released on VHS and DVD.

The film was created by the same team which had worked on the 1977 animated version of The Hobbit.

Orson Bean returned as the voice of the older Bilbo Baggins, as well as that of the story's hero, Frodo Baggins. John Huston was back as well, as the beloved wizard Gandalf, and co-starring with them were: William Conrad as Denethor, Roddy McDowall as Samwise Gamgee, Theodore Bikel as Aragorn the King himself, and reprising his darkly spoken role of Gollum was the grumpily dangerous Brother Theodore. Rankin/Bass stalwart Paul Frees replaced Cyril Ritchard as the voice of Elrond; Casey Kasem, best known for his role as Shaggy in Hanna-Barbera's Scooby-Doo, was Merry with Sonny Melendrez as Pippin; Nellie Bellflower as Eowyn; and Glenn Yarborough returned as principal vocalist, billed here as simply "the Minstrel of Gondor".

Rather than picking up where Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings had left off in 1978, Rankin-Bass present The Return of the King as a sequel to their 1977 adaptation of The Hobbit — giving the audience a brief recap of the events, and adapting a few story events from The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, while leaving out some major details. The visual style of The Return of the King is largely shared with the 1977 Hobbit.

Reception for the animated TV special is varied. Some commentators view it affectionately as an adaptation which children and parents can enjoy together [1]. However, others regard it with disdain, comparing it unfavorably to Ralph Bakshi's earlier animated film and Peter Jackson's later live-action film [2], [3]. Glenn Yarborough's songs are widely derided, although some admit to a campy affection for the surprisingly tuneful Orc marching song "Where There's a Whip, There's a Way" or the ballad "Frodo of the Nine Fingers" [4].

The animated Return of the King is available on DVD from Warner Bros., both individually and as a "boxed trilogy" with the Rankin/Bass Hobbit and Bakshi's Lord of the Rings.

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