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Lord of the Rings - The Making Of - Part 2

Excerpt from the Ralph Bakshi Art Book titled 'UNFILTERED - THE COMPLETE RALPH BAKSHI' By Jon Gibson and Chris McDonnell. Published by RIZZOLI



Ralph appealed to Saul Zaentz, whose Fantasy Records helped finance

Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic with soundtrack deals and whose Fantasy

Films had just won an Academy Award for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's

Nest. "Zaentz wrote MGM a check to cover their debt, and then agreed to

foot the entire $8 million budget for my film."

"I didn't own the rights to the bible, but now we had the rights to the other

greatest story ever told, " Ralph laughs.

Before starting, Ralph and Zaentz insisted that the Tolkien estate receive

residuals and got the blessing of Tolkien's daughter, Priscilla Anne Reuel.

"Priscilla was a doll," Ralph says. "She said that her father would be proud

of how I was approaching the film, and she even showed me his writing

studio at Pembroke College. It was untouched since his death. As an artist,

that was a surreal experience."

Ralph knew audiences wouldn't buy into a broad, cartoon version of Rings,

because Tolkien's world demanded realism in its rendering - but even the

best artists have difficultly animating believable human movement. Using

the knowledge of rotoscoping he gained on Wizards, Ralph planned to

shoot the entire picture in live-action, then animate over his actors.

In earlv 1977, Ralph was off to shoot the live-action footage in Spain

- making use of its massive, standing castles, the best horseback riders

in the world, and rolling, majestic, endless landscapes. Plus, it was cheap

He left behind a crew of trusted and new artists - Ed Hirth, Mentor Huebner, Carol Keiffer Police, Crystal Russell, Joseph Zucker - including background artist Barry Jackson to continue visual development. "Ralph

put me in a room and just said, Make art!" says Jackson.

Ralph would review character designs, model sheets, and various

production paintings assistant director John Sparey would send to him via

Federal Express and fax - but only after 18 to 20-hour days on set. "He'd

be lucky if he slept two hours a night," says wife Liz. "He was in rough


The Spanish union bosses were sticklers, bull-horning lunch breaks in the

middle of massive setups, herding hundreds of actors dressed like ores

towards craft service while cameras rolled (a scene that Ralph secretly shot

and used in the film). And Ralph nearly got trampled after falling thirty

feet from a camera crane into a horde of oncoming gypsy riders.

But that wasn't the worst of it.

The Spanish film development lab, after discovering telephone lines,

helicopters, and cars in the distance of Ralph's shots, nearly incinerated

weeks of footage. "They told my first assistant director that if that kind of

sloppy cinematography got out, no one from Hollywood would ever come back to Spain to shoot again. The entire industry would shut down. They didn't want to risk it, so they'd rather burn the film and take the heat. They didn't understand that I was shooting an animated picture, and we just weren’t going to trace all the stuff in the background - we were going to paint mountains and castles to replace'em."


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