40. William L. Snyder

Unhappy Ending

Extravagantly optimistic: “Snyder & Deitch will rule the world!”
Supremely self-assured: “I never catch colds. I refuse to believe in colds!”
Openly narcissistic: “I am a beautiful man!”

This unfazeable, unstoppable, unreasonable, endlessly resourceful man came finally to an end none could have imagined for him. He fell victim to Alzheimer’s syndrome and died in his sleep on June 4th, 1998 at the mere age of 80, though he seemed to me to have enough steam to reach 100. He once told me matter-of-factly that neither of us could expect to live more than another 20 years, so we had to “make it now!” That was 50 years ago.

Of the two persons who had the greatest effect on my “second life”, William L. Snyder and Morton Schindel, it was Snyder who was full of gigantic dreams and giga-projects, with his famous slogan, “Snyder and Deitch will rule the world!”  But it all fell to earth like fizzled fireworks. One of Bill Snyder’s Havana cigar smoke-dreams was that he would make me so rich that any Social Security pension would be a joke. The joke was that while I was working hard on his projects which never got anywhere, and was also busy pursuing my love affair with Zdenka, and earnestly sidestepping the Czechoslovak communist regime, I did not notice that Snyder was not paying into my Social Security fund. The result is that I now get only half the pension I should be getting. Snyder put a 25% percent of net profits into all my contracts. (Tranlation: ZERO.) Somehow I’ve survived. It was exciting as well as exasperating with Snyder, and a great learning process.

Snyder evoked so many mixed reactions from people, that he is impossible to summarize.  My two oldest sons thought he was a con man. The women in the Prague film organizations loved him. They giggled at his outrageous remarks.

He reveled in the outrageous, and loved to show his bravery by uttering politically taboo remarks while in communist Prague. The women loved him especially because he always brought them rare presents from the West.

I have the greatest problem in measuring him. He discovered the possibility of producing animation films in Prague. He had excellent taste. He chose great books to adapt. But he came on too strong for me. He was a show off. He was exasperating. He didn’t hesitate to embarrass.

Once, we were sitting in a luncheonette, I trying to have a serious discussion with him, when the waitress arrived. Snyder stopped in middle of his answer to my urgent question, grasped the waitress’s hand, and plowed right in:

“Darling, you are a nice looking girl, but you are really wearing too much makeup!” He called all younger women, “darling.” At such moments – and there were many such moments – I wished I could fall through the floor.

He was insufferable in many ways. Whenever we were outside he was constantly hacking and spitting, and there was that omnipresent cigar. Cigar smoke makes me nauseous.

When we walked along together, to ensure he had my full attention he insisted on stopping when he had a point to make. I had to stand stock still to listen to him.

He was extremely critical of my character, as contrasted to his own, and he missed few opportunities to lecture me.

Yet he revelled in his personal saucy tales. True? What is true is that he was a world-class charmer. I couldn’t match his escapades.

We were different, that’s all. Bill Snyder evokes such a mix of emotions in me that I can hardly make a sum of the man. He changed my life. He brought me to Zdenka, (albeit unwittingly).  He also brought me to colly-wobbled anxiety and economic distress.

I could never prevail in a confrontation with him. He was a master of attack-as-defense.  Once I went to his office in New York, determined to get a settlement of money he owed me. Before I could open my mouth, and without a word of greeting, he leaned forward in lecture mode: “Gene, there are three things I can never forgive you for!” and launched into a litany of nonsense, forcing me into long rebuttals, smothering any chance of my getting to my own points. He had a sixth sense.

I didn’t have the wit to point out to him at that moment, that there might be something I couldn’t forgive him for; just for one thing, his 1971 letter to Henry White, of Saggitarius Films, effectively sabotaging my Charlotte’s Web project. (See Credit 30. E.B.White), and only by a millimeter did he miss spoiling my relationship with Mort Schindel and Weston Woods. (About that in “Credit 51.”)

In 1961, when my film of Jules Feiffer’s story, MUNRO, won the Oscar, I was working in Prague.  Bill picked up the statuette at the Hollywood ceremony, announcing to the world, “Thanks to Gene and Jules and Al!”  Who?  So William Snyder’s name is on the Oscar for a film on which he had zero creative input.  I had contracted with Jules Feiffer for the film rights, and with voice actor Howard Morris, and I personally directed all creative aspects of Munro’sproduction. Bill contracted for the Prague studio production facilities. Period. According to the Academy rules, an Oscar for a short film goes to “the individual most directly responsible for the concept and creative execution of the film.” In 1960, the rule was unclearly stated, but the intention was the same. The MUNRO Oscar was not won by Bill Snyder, who had no role at all in its creative execution.

(See page 40 of the official Academy Awards Rule Book.)

However, Bill Snyder did give me great creative latitude, During the decade of our association, from 1959 to 1969, my productions for him won four more Oscar nominations, and I had many chances to try new things. I created Nudnik during that period, and my personal favorite “Self-Help” Series: SELF-DEFENSE FOR COWARDS, HOW TO LIVE WITH A NEUROTIC DOG, HOW TO WIN ON THE THRUWAY, HOW TO AVOID FRIENDSHIP, and THE GIRL-WATCHERS’ GUIDE.  I had great fun with those films, having ”movie butler” Arthur Treacher do the narration.

THE HOBBIT!!! The long-awaited Peter Jackson film finally came out in 2012. I can nowI tell you the zaniest Bill Snyder story of all, and announce to the world that the very first film adaption of Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT was made by us, and actually played publically in New York in 1966!  It was my “impossible” assignment.  Here is the true story:

Snyder came up with some amazing projects for me. In 1964, before anyone but some obscure Brit kids ever heard of it, Bill handed me a worn little 1937 children’s book named, The Hobbit. He recognized it was a great story, and he obtained the film rights to it and the other works by a fusty old English philologist, named John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Snyder’s rights extended to June 30, 1966. Just enough time. He set me to the task of making The Hobbit into a feature-length animated movie.

After reading the book, I caught the fever, and intensively began working up a screenplay. My dear old friend Bill Bernal, the same man who led me to UPA, and who later joined me at The Jam Handy Organization, flew to Prague to collaborate. The great sweep of the adventure, the fabled landscapes, and the treasury of fantasy characters, made the story a natural for animation. Although the first book of the later trilogy, The Lord of The Rings, was published in 1954, we did yet not know of it. The Tolkien craze was still a few years in the future. Snyder had happened onto something of major value, and he had gotten the rights for peanuts!

We were well into the Hobbit screenplay when The Lord of The Rings came out in paperback editions. I had assumed there was only The Hobbit to contend with, and following Snyder’s wish, I had taken some liberties with the story that a few years later would have been grounds for burning me at the stake. For example, I had introduced a series of songs, changed some of the characters’ names, played loosely with the plot, and even created a girl character, a Princess no less, to go along on the quest, and to eventually overcome Bilbo Baggins’ bachelorhood! I could Hollywoodize as well as the next guy…

When I did manage to get and read “THE LORD OF THE RINGS,” I realized I was dealing with something far more magnificent than what appeared in THE HOBBIT alone, and I then back-spaced elements from The Lord into my script so as to logically allow for a sequel. First Bill Bernal, and then I worked on the script for most of a year.

In January, 1966 Snyder asked Zdenka and me to come to America to do a presentation to 20th Century-Fox. It would be Zdenka’s first trip to America, and I wanted her to get the feel of the distance, so I decided we should go by ship. The six-day crossing would also give me time to do the last-minute rewrites. There were only typewriters in those days, but I did achieve a sort of high-tech breakthrough: The rocking of the ship gave me automatic carriage returns on almost every line!

Before the time of CGI, I had proposed a retro visual effect, combining cel-animated figures over elaborate 3D model backgrounds. I know that Max Fleisher had once tried something like it, but I intended to take the idea to greater heights and atmosphere. I even attached a special name to the technique: “ImagiMation!” I was thinking big!

By the time we arrived in New York, however, Snyder had already blown the deal by asking 20th for too much money. Tolkien’s name hadn’t yet reached them either. I had a fat script, but no other film companies were then interested. It was crushing. Even today, when I flip through my screenplay, and can almost see the fabulous scenes I had imagined, I feel a heavy regret.

But the worst was yet to come. Months later, when I was back in Prague working on some other filler projects, Snyder managed to get a phone call through to Zdenka’s office. (Phoning to Prague in those days was like trying to contact Uranus.) He had a preposterous order for me: Make a one-reel, 12-minute, (1 35mm reel), version of THE HOBBIT, and bring it to New York within 30 days! I thought he had been smoking something wilder than his contraband Cuban cigars. Not possible!

What had happened was that in the meantime, the Tolkien craze had exploded, and the value of the film rights reached outer space. Suddenly Bill had the possibility of getting a hefty profit without having to finance or produce anything!

Snyder thought, “Why invest money, plus a year-and-a-half of work, when you can make money without all that sweat?” Not only had the Tolkien estate lawyers given Snyder the rights for peanuts, but in their ignorance of film terminology, they had left a million-dollar-loop-hole in the contract: It merely stated that in order to hold his option for THE LORD OF THE RINGS, Snyder had to “produce a full-color motion picture version” of THE HOBBIT by June 30th 1966. Please note: It did not say it had to be an animated movie, and it did not say how long the film had to be!

The Tolkien estate had now been offered a fabulous sum for the rights, and Snyder’s rights would expire in one month. They were already rubbing their hands together. But Snyder played his ace: to fulfill just the letter of the contract – to deliver a “full-color film” of THE HOBBIT by June 30th. All he had to do was to order me to destroy my own screenplay – all my previous year’s work, and hoke up a super-condensed scenario on the order of a movie preview, (but still tell the entire basic story from beginning to end), and all within 12 minutes running time – one 35mm reel of film. Cheap. I had to get the artwork done, record voice and music, shoot it, edit it, and get it to a New York projection room on or before June 30th, 1966!  I suppose I should have told him to shove it, but I was basically his slave at the time. It suddenly became an insane challenge.

I knew my screen storyline by heart, so I just had to put it through a mind-shredder, and write a sort of synopsis, with a few key lines of dialog scattered throughout. I called on close friend, brilliant Czech illustrator, Adolf Born, well known even then, and now the premier book illustrator in the Czech Republic. We managed to work out a simple storyboard. Adolf came up with a paper cutout scheme, and I worked out some multiple-exposure visual effects and scene continuity. We worked directly under the camera to shoot it. I got an American friend here, Herb Lass, who worked as a broadcaster for the Czechoslovak Radio’s English language transmissions, to come up to our apartment and record the narration. I borrowed a tape of dramatic movie music from a composer friend, Václav Lidl, which I quickly extracted and cut together, also at home. It was no problem with music rights, as I could assure him that the film would never actually be distributed, but would be – sadly – a mere decoy.

I love to see my name as director on the screen credits of my films, but I I did not want my name to be on such a chopped down version of my script, even though, thanks to Born, the film looked amazingly good. Now, nearly 45 years later, I’ve finally put my name back onto it. With the new Peter Jackson mega-version coming out, I can at least make an immodest shout that I made the very first ever film version of THE HOBBIT!

Now here, for the first time, I will show you two rediscovered typewritten letters from the daily stream of updates to Bill Snyder in New York that show, better than I could recall today, just what we went through to get this pre-shrunk movie made and sent a New York screening room in 1966:

HOBBIT letter Jan 9 1967HOBBIT letter Mar 4 1967

We actually managed to get it shot and out of the lab in time, (without bribes, but with Zdenka’s usual brand of irresistable-object techniques), and I arranged for my New York air ticket. I arrived with the rough answer print on June 29th. Snyder had already booked a small projection room in midtown Manhattan. After a quick test screening – and Snyder was duly impressed – I ran downstairs and stopped people on the sidewalk, asking them if they would like to see a preview of a new animated film, for only 10¢ admission. I handed each willing customer a dime, which they handed back. After the screening, the few, puzzled audience members were asked to sign a paper stating that on this day of June 31, 1966, they had paid admission to see the full-color animated film, THE HOBBIT!”

Thus Snyder’s film rights to the entire J.R.R. Tolkien library were legally extended, and he was immediately able to sell them back for nearly $100,000. (Remember, this was 1966). My share of this weazled boodle was – you guessed it – zip.

The final blow came some years later, when an animated feature version of THE HOBBIT appeared, starring the timid voice of Orson Bean. That film to my mind in no way approached the magnificence I had originally envisioned . I had obtained the greatest Czech artist, illustrator, painter, sculptor, and director of the most famous Czech puppet films of all time, Jiří Trnka, to be the designer of my projected full-length version. Sadly, we never got beyond his model sketches. I will present them to you in the upcoming Credit 43.

My meager 12-minute film itself has just magically resurfaced thanks to Adam Snyder, who rediscovered the long forgotten single existing 35mm print, deep in the Rembrandt Films basement archives!  It’s a genuine miracle, because I had assumed that this little film had totally vanished. So now you can see it right here, and judge it for yourself, in the light of what I have written about the time, place, and reasons of its origin. I repeat: it’s the very first film adaptation of THE HOBBIT, made 45 years ago in 1966!

There is much to remember about Bill Snyder. He did change my life for the better, and I do not forget that.  And I also cannot forget the great fun we had together, and the marvelous creative burn as we both raced through the early days of our productions.  He exuded confidence and optimism; he projected the image of a winner, and yet he lost; he never made his millions.  He was a person no one could forget, and no one could cope with.  We neither can cope with his inexplicable end.

Only Fate was able to defeat Bill Snyder, and I get no joy in making my points now.  For Zdenka and me, there is much to think about, and much to remember. Zdenka still loves him.

And there is the wonder of Bill’s family, with whom I’ve nothing but wonderfully friendly and fruitful relations: His widow, Peggy, son Adam, daughters Trinka and Dana, Adam’s wife Patti, and their bright progeny, Lilli and Kasey. They are all among my favourite people.  None of them are temperamental echoes of Bombastic Bill.  Why this is, could only be explained in a very long story…

In retrospect, I can imagine how it all happened:

In his effort to lure me to his service, Snyder never referred to his animation facilitities as being in “Czechoslovakia.”  Czech-o-slo-va-ki-a was a distant country with an extremely foreign, 6-syllable name, difficult for Americans to pronounce.  But its capital city, “Prague,” had a 1-syllable name, spelled and pronounced exactly as the French and British spell and pronounce it, thus having a vaguely romantic and less sinister ring to it.

Snyder caught me at a vulnerable moment, after the loss of my greatest job, creative director of CBS-Terrytoons, and under the heavy economic burden of my own studio, and the tension and insecurity it was having on my home life.

Yet it all played out in a way that changed my life for the better!

In 1963 – The classic Bill Snyder

The great charmer in his prime – 1970s

The Snyder house in Larchmont, NY

The famous Rolls Royce street decoration, with Zdenka & Bill cuddling on the bumper!

When Snyder first brought me to Prague, in October, 1959 My GDA,Inc. staff in New York sent me this set of “When The Cat’s Away, The Mice Will Play,” photos.

This is the wind-up 16mm Bolex movie camera I brought with me on my first trip to Prague, October ’69, on which I documented the personal history. In my reel I captured not only Prague, but the animation studio, and my first shots of Zdenka. You can see this hour-long documentary movie here soon!

68 thoughts on “40. William L. Snyder

  1. I seldom create responses, however i did some searching and wound up here 40.

    William L. Snyder | genedeitchcredits. And I do
    have a few questions for you if you usually do not mind.
    Is it simply me or does it look like some of these
    comments appear as if they are written by brain dead visitors?
    😛 And, if you are posting at other online social sites, I would
    like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post.
    Could you list of every one of all your public pages like
    your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?

  2. Mr. Deitch: You sound willing to donate your Hobbit script material to an institution where it could be studied by historians of animation and film. I curate a world-renowned Tolkien Collection at a research university (http://www.marquette.edu/library/archives/tolkien.shtml ). Our collection contains other unproduced Tolkien scripts; for example, we have the original screenplay of Morton Grady Zimmerman’s film treatment of The Lord of the Rings from 1957. Please consider contacting me directly to discuss providing a home for your screenplay where it can be studied and enjoyed by film/animation scholars.
    Bill Fliss, Archivist

    • The embarrassing and totally mysterious fact is that though I have searched my files repeatedly, I have as yet been unable to locate my HOBBIT
      screenplay! The worst thing is that it was simply typewritten – long before I had a computer – and was never copied or printed. I believe that only I and the producer, William L. Snyder, had copies. His son is now searching his archives. I never lent my original script to anyone, so
      it MUST be here somewhere!!! If I do locate it, the next problem will be to copy it… Keep hoping!!! Gene

  3. Like all the replies before me I’m mainly here because of The Hobbit. Years ago I’d already discovered its IMDB entry, which strongly suggested the short film was lost forever. Last year I found out there was a Finnish television adaptation of part of Lord of the Rings in 1993; recently a soviet Russian TV film of The Hobbit from 1985 resurfaced; then I discovered the book was read on the BBC in 1979, and now this film turns up after all! (And after I discovered it, I learned of a 1964 British TV version.) All the others were live, which must have looked clumsy sometimes. Back to the film at hand. I will watch this at home with interest. It somewhat reminds me of the illustrations made by Dutch artist Cor Blok.
    There is no reason to pay any attention to uninformed critics. I read the books before peter jackson got his hands on the stories, and I for one wasn’t too pleased with his version. It’s safe to say Tolkien wouldn’t like it any more than he would yours, possibly even less (his objections to early film proposals are known).
    Nevertheless, although I’m curious, I can understand why you don’t want to share an unfilmed, even unfinished, script. It’s the difference between what you think and what you say and you don’t want to be judged on the former. (But it can’t be any stranger than the plans by the Beatles (John Lennon as Gollum) or by John Boorman (Frodo and Galadriel have sex).)

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  5. I loved this treatment of the Hobbitt, it was imaginative and artistic and of its’ time, if not always true to the book….I like it as a separate story…it does remind me of some cartoons from my childhood , but I am not sure which ones…

  6. A perceptive review of my anonymous and just-kidding HOBBIT film/sketch from Stephen Persing’s artnote.blog.com

    A small flurry of attention followed the rediscovery of Gene Deitch’s 1963 version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, said flurry consisting of equal parts amusement, admiration and horror. The film, as Gene Deitch recounts in his blog, was a stopgap measure to ensure that his producer, William L. Snyder, could retain the movie rights. What had been a treatment for a feature film became condensed down to 12 minutes – but what 12 minutes!
    The film, had it reached a wider audience or even its original feature-length, would have provoked howls of outrage. The story had been Hollywooded to include a Princess for Bilbo to romance, and discarded many basic elements of the story, such as the dwarves. Gandalf ceased to play a part after they depart for the Lonely Mountain. Characters were renamed (Trolls became Groans, Goblins = Grablins, Gollum = Guloom) and the dragon Slag (not Smaug) is despatched by Bilbo, the Princess and her retainers. It’s not a bad story, but it’s not Tolkein.
    The film was made on no budget, dissolving and panning through the artwork (by Czech illustrator Adolf Born) with narration (read by Herbert Lass) filling in the story. It did what was intended; Snyder (whose name appears twice on the opening credits, while Deitch’s is missing completely) retained the rights and sold them for a generous profit soon after. The little film was buried and left to be forgotten, until now.
    But it has some good points. Born’s sketches, though hurried, have a charm and Eastern European style to them that is absent from fantasy film in our generation. Deitch has subsequently posted sketches by another great Czech illustrator, Jiri Trnka, which were designs for the aborted feature. The most finished of these, showing Slag (though the writing on the drawing seems to say “Sludge”) shows us a faint glimpse into what could have bee. The jewel tones of Slag’s scales and the pile of treasure he sits upon is like nothing else in Tolkein film history. Live action fantasy film-making has settled into a stylized realism (let’s call it fantastic realism, just to muddle things) wherein Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, the George R.R. Martin Game of Thrones TV series and their myriad imitators opt for the same general style. In animation it is possible to shape reality more directly. The greatest asset to the Rankin-Bass animated TV movie version of The Hobbit from 1977 is its Arthur Rackham-influenced background art, which is at times quite lovely. Although Ralph Bakshi’s stunted film version of Lord of the Rings is hobbled by a dozen problems (though fewer than Deitch had to deal with) there are moments of visual creativity – such as when Frodo is chased by the Nazgul on his way to Rivendell.
    Why is film an art form? Because, like every art form, it presents us with a distinctive state of reality – yes, even photographic realism does this! Deitch trained at UPA, the cartoon studio that spearheaded the emotive uses of color and line in animation, broadening the artistic possibilities of the animated film. The elements were there, but UPA, like Kandinsky in painting, set out to chart new territory, and sometimes succeeded. For all it’s faults, Gene Deitch’s Hobbit is unique, and shows roads never travelled in fantasy film-making. If you are a Tolkein purist, you will probably hate it, but watch it anyway.

  7. I must say, when I saw “Produced by WILLIAM L. SNYDER” on your cartoons as a youngster, I had no way of knowing the emotional angst behind that credit. You did the best you could with The Hobbit under those strictures, and that was that. (Ten minute version of WAR AND PEACE, anyone?) In your book chapter, “Spinach and Bricks”, I was impressed with the further strictures you dealt with – editing music and soud effects in your living room. I have seen Krazy Kat cartoons credited to Gerry Ray (Producer) and Geoff Pike (Director) with identical music to yours, and wondered how that could be. Your book shed a little light on that. Snyder didn’t exactly make you rich for all your dilligent work, and I’m sorry to hear you lost on your pension as a result.

  8. Thank you for this amazing blog! I’m a film and Tolkien fan from the Czech Republic, so you can imagine how amazed I am to find out that in fact the very first film adaptation of The Hobbit was made in Prague with Adolf Born, who is very famous in my homeland to this day. At the same time however, I am appaled by some of the previous comments concenring your “burning at stake” for changing the story of The Hobbit. I find this lack of tolerance and understanding very disrespectful, especially while using such explicit language. As far as I am concerned, I would love to read the script.

    • And I thank you for your tolerant appraisal of our “instant Hobbit.” I’m sure you understand that our little film was never intended to be publically shown. I just tried to use the assignment to make some simple experiments, and have what fun that was left of my sacrificed full-length script. I might put that entire discarded Hobbit script into my upcoming “Deitch Dungeon,” but it would require a huge scanning effort, which I don’t now have time for. Anyway, in light of the serious and great Jackson productions, I don’t think my script is now appropriate. Best wishes, Gene

  9. It’s a shame you don’t have the extended screenplay, I’m sure that there are some fans out there who would love to read it – even with the liberties.

    • I do have my complete feature-length screenplay – and as a piece of work at its time, I’m proud of it. But of course it’s now a dead issue, and far too long to post on this blog. It could only be of interest as a historic curiosity. It has the form of a musical, with songs and other gross deviations that would prompt Tolkien lovers to call for me to be burned at the stake!

      • You’re right about the burned at the stake part. Your whole story reeks of hubris and dishonesty, both on your part an on the part of the execrable Snyder. Thank fucking god your script never saw production, and it’s a shame that you helped Snyder scam Tolkien.

      • You don’t seem to understand that i was Snyder’s employee and had to do as he ordered. Also, look at the time: When I was handed the project Tolkien was still completely unknown in America and to me. I had no way of knowing at the time, that The Lord of The Ring saga was coming. It was not yet published. I was encouraged by Snyder to make The Hobbit, “more commercial.”
        How would you have handled the problem in the early 1960s?

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  12. This was an interesting, fascinating piece of cinema history. Thank you for sharing it with the world! I just wish my fellow Tolkien fans might be a bit more open-minded about adaptations.

  13. Pingback: Ilustrador divulga versão animada de O Hobbit : Danger! Comics, Movies and More

  14. I left a reply to your comment on my review, and thought I would post it here, just to make sure that you see it:

    I appreciate that you took the time to come over here and comment on my review, Mr. Deitch, though I suspect you didn’t actually read all of it. I state more than once that you and your friends accomplished something very impressive, and that what you did took great talent. I take lighthearted jabs at the liberties you took with Tolkien’s story, but that is my writing style. I give The Hobbit my respect, both in my review and to the people I’ve told about the short..

    I read and re-read your story and your responses to the comments people made on it, and I took great care to make sure that I got the details of your story correct, so that anyone reading this would keep those things in mind before judging your Hobbit short. I don’t know why you would want to refer to your work as a joke, because quite frankly it’s very impressive. You did what you had to do, and the fact that you put something together like this, which looks and sounds the way it does is incredible.

    • Thank you, Heather. I reacted as I did, because so many up-tight Tolkien desciples seemed to have missed the point that this film was intended for a deep dark dungeon, never to be shown publicly. So I could at least have some fun with it. Now, nearly 50 years later, it can be exhumed as an ironic parallel to the coming 4-hour, 2-part “faithful” tale. I renew my challenge to anyone to make sense of this mammoth work in 12 minutes and one-month!

    • Thanks, Heather. All’s well between us. I made up with you on my blog. This is certainly a lot of fun, just like bizarre creatures reviving from the dead!

      XXX Gene Read it all, no-holds-barred, on “Roll The Credits!” atgenedeitchcredits.com



      • That’s good to hear, Mr. Deitch. I use a lot of sarcasm and jokes in my writing, so I understand how my review did not look as favorable as I intended it to be.

        I’ve read some of the mean-spirited comments toward your short, and I imagine that’s very upsetting since this was never intended for anyone to see. I’m glad you decided to brave the negative responses and share this with everyone.

        The Hobbit is how I found your blog, and as a huge fan of film I’m excited to read all the knowledge you have to share about the projects and people you work with.

        Take care and stay positive.

  15. Pingback: Heather does The Hobbit (The Long-Lost Adaptation) « Mutant Reviewers From Hell

  16. hey gene, i wanted to wish you a happy new year. we met a couple times when i was living in Prague. you became such an inspiration to me. i loved your stories and was always on the edge of my seat listening. it was in 2007 i was a student at famu. i interviewed you at your studio in prague. well thank you you are an inspiration to all and a fantastic director.
    best ,
    George morrow

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  22. What is the princess’s name? I’ve watched this three times and I never can catch it. Both the story and the short are so bizarre and interesting. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • The Princess’s name was “Mika Milovana.” “Mika” is the name of Pete Seeger’s eldest daughter. I always loved her name, so I borrowed it for this new character. Her last name, “Milovana” means a beloved woman in the Czech language.

      • Thanks for the reply. That’s a pretty name. I was catching “Mika”, but I never could quite get her last name. I’d like to write a piece about this short, so I’m glad to have the correct spelling.

        Thank you again.

  23. Pingback: A primeira adaptação de O Hobbit é uma animação de 1966!

  24. Pingback: Watch: Gene Deitch’s Long Lost Animated Version of THE HOBBIT | Very Aware | Movie and TV news, reviews and other goodness

  25. Pingback: El Hobbit: la primera adaptación de 1966

  26. Well, judging from JRRT’s comments on a provisional adaption of his magnum opus “The Lord of the Rings”, the name of whose writer I have mercifully forgotten but who used the Eagles mercilessly, throwing a Princess in Bilbo’s general direction was a tolerable aberration.

    I would love to see your original screenplay – as indeed I would love to see even the screenplays and radioplays and so on of the rest of the Tolkien oevre adaptions.

    I’ve been working through – merely thought-experiments of course at this stage – some of his Silmarillion stories, in particular the Children of Hurin cycle. And knowing just how others have fallen on their faces before me would be of great assistance.

  27. What happens to scripts like your full Hobbit one which never got produced? Are they legally obligated to never see the light of day? I know that I at least would be interested in reading your full treatment of the book.

    • My original feature-length script exists in my files, and as embarrassing as it might be to publish it now, in light of how this saga has developed, there might be found a way to bring it to animation historians, just for interest.
      I would feel a need to “cover my tracks” with rewrites in respect to the importance of Tolkien’s works. For those who are criticizing the liberties I took with it in this “Ashcan” version, need to put it into a time perspective.
      I came out of Hollywood at a time when it was normal to rewrite any book that was made into a movie. It was only four years later, when I began to do Weston Woods films for Mort Schindel, that i learned to respect the integrity of books I adapted. Even UPA’s Gerald McBoing Boing dismissed Dr. Seuss’ drawing style. Only their adaptation of Bemelmans’ Madeline held true to a book’s style. If I were to do THE HOBBIT today, I would obviously have a totally different mind-set!

  28. Pingback: Long Lost Hobbit Cartoon By Tom & Jerry Animator Unearthed [Video]

  29. Pingback: A Delightful Animated Hobbit Short

  30. Pingback: The Hobbit (1966), An Unreleased Animated Short by Gene Deitch

  31. Pingback: Hobbit-Kurzfilm von 1966 aufgetaucht | Deutsche Tolkien Gesellschaft e.V.

  32. Pingback: ‘Tom & Jerry’ Animator Gene Deitch’s Long-Lost Adaptation Of Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’. « The 1955 Hudson

  33. That “Hobbit” short is spreading all over the internet, especially with the live-action movie coming out later this year.

    I just realized that this is the only adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s work that was made when he was still alive (he died in 1973). If he saw the film, how do you think he would’ve reacted?

    • I can only imagine the dreadful demons JRR Tolkien would have conjured up to slay me! I am thankful that he never saw it! – As I wrote, only about only 6 random pedestrians, lured off the sidewalk ever saw the film until yesterday, when Adam Snyder retrieved it from the gloom of his private dungeon to fill out my chapter on his Dad. I am so grateful to him that it is now possible, after 46 years, to see that whatever it is creatively, it was indeed the very first Hobbit film!

      • I can only imagine the stories those six people told years later to their friends and family about how they were willed into watching the film.

        There’s actually a term for this type of movie: “Ashcan Copy”. It’s when something is produced for the sake of fulfilling a contract, with no intention of wide distribution. When they serve the purpose, they would often throw it in the (tr)ashcan.

      • You’ve nailed it, Charles! My 35mm HOBBIT movie print was in fact, an “Ashcan Copy.” That exactly describes the motive of its making. The miracle is that this moment it awakens the historical fact that what ever it was it is now a piece of history as the first ever attempt to film The Hobbit: a tribute to the perspicacity of William Snyder to have discovered the potential of the story, and thanks to Adam Snyder for preserving it, that it’s possible to see it just as the “real” megamovie of the Hobbit is about to burst forth!

      • There is no need to be so defensive about all the changes. They used to bother me when I was a kid, but I’ve realized later that a film that’s totally identical to a book is pretty useless too (e.g. Watchmen).
        Besides, it can’t be worse than the Return of the King animated version. Moreover, peter jackson’s films are empty eye candy (nu pun intended), and the scenes that he dares to add to the story are invariably cliché (“bad guy’s only wounded and crawling after girl”, “drop your weapons or your friend gets it”…).

  34. Pingback: Long-Lost 1966 Animated Version of ‘The Hobbit’ Rediscovered - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog

  35. Pingback: Resdescubierta versión animada de “The Hobbit” de Gene Deitch | Regiosfera

  36. Pingback: Original HOBBIT Animated Movie. A Tale Of Quick Editing And Being Sly | BAD HAVEN

  37. Pingback: Verschollener The Hobbit Kurzfilm von Tom & Jerry Macher aufgetaucht (Kompletter Film in News) » Modulopfer.de

  38. Pingback: The Hobbit in 12 Minutes of the Day - TDW Geeks

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  40. I’m dying to see your 12-minute Hobbit, even though it is but the ashes of bigger dreams. I think it’s a good thing that your initial treatment – songs, Princess and all – did not come to fruition. Aside from being lynched by Tolkein geeks throughout eternity (a circle of Hell that Dante failed to mention) I doubt that altering the story would have improved it. For every story that benefits from changes when translated into film there are hundreds that do not. The only animated film I can think of that improved upon its source story is Hayao Miyazaki’s “Howl’s Moving Castle.” Or it might be that I am a Tolkein geek myself.

    • You’ll be surprised when you see this little hastily made 12-minute joke.
      It is in fact beautifully designed by the brilliant young (in 1964!) Adolf Born,
      and with some dazzle tricks by me to cover the fact that it contains no actual animation… and in the drastically condensed format, no songs either!

      • Well, I’ve seen it. I like the design work, especially in Mirkwood. As with Howdy Doody and the Magic Hat, you clearly worked hard to make as much of the limited time and budget as possible.

  41. Will you eventually post the Trnka drawings? He was one of animation’s greatest artists.

    I had a strange meeting with William Snyder in the earliest days of my career. I had directed a short film or three, so was just getting my sea legs. I was invited to meet Mr. Snyder at the Rembrandt office in NYC. When invited into his office, I was amused to see him at his desk. I was on a slightly lower plane than he, and I had to stare past at the MUNRO Oscar on his desk to see him. He smoked a cigar. He was looking for someone to direct the “Rock Hobbit” in Hungary, and asked if I was interested. I really wasn’t but was amused by the meeting just the same. I’m not sure if it was Eli Bauer or Al Kouzel who did go to watch the project fizzle in Hungary. I wondered why you weren’t involved in that project, but this story tells me a lot.

    • You can be sure I was in no mood to make a “Rock Hobbit!” What I did plan was to employ magnificent design by Jiri Trnka, and samples of his ideas will indeed be posted soon on Credit 43 !

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