/artifacts

I collect records – because I am morbidly attracted to any hobby that requires apparatus. I also find the ritual and intent required to spin and maintain records engrossing. On top of my LP and other collecting habits and because I am an insane person, I collect (very) specific artifacts relating to the Tolkien universe.

As a kid The Hobbit was one of the first VHS tapes I recall renting repeatedly from Studio Video in the Laguna Shopping Center. It is probably obvious I am not referring to the much more recent Peter Jackson effort. The version I am referring to was produced by Rankin/Bass in 1977 and while it has a few flaws (Beorn being left out due to time constraints *enraged bear face*) I love it for its musical interpretations and animation. A Ralph Bakshi animated production of most of the first two Lord of the Rings novels followed the Rankin/Bass Hobbit. This also entered my childhood rotation and while time has not been kind to these films, at the time and even now I delight in them as the first visual representations of the novels I was quickly becoming obsessed with.

Bakshi cancelled his production of The Return of the King due to funding difficulties and development hell. In response Rankin/Bass picked the Tolkien cartoon interpretation torch back up and produced the final installment themselves. I have never watched the animated Return of the King, but I recently picked it up in two round flat versions.

The first is a Disneyland Record complete with 12 page storybook and art from the film. I remember having the cassette tape equivalent of this from many Disney Classics as a kid.

The second is a CED Video Disc. This tech came from RCA when they were dominant in television and video but was slow to develop due to the difficulty of engineering a disc and stylus that could handle a large information load and the wear and tear of repetitive play. By the time Capacitance discs made their debut for launch LaserDisc was beginning its (brief) moment and VHS was becoming widespread. Although the player and PVC based discs were easier to manufacture and less expensive than LaserDisc or tape, they never managed to gain traction.

I find these technological dead ends and all their surrounding media fascinating. It is fun to imagine what current reality would be like if alternate tech had caught on. While vinyl has remained popular throughout its history to varying degrees, CED is well and truly dead. There are moments when I am tempted to seek out an RCA player and play at being a media necromancer – yes yes insane person – I am deterred by a sensitivity to all the collectibles already gripping me.

For a similar timbre to the Rankin/Bass productions check out The Flight of Dragons, the Last Unicorn, and the Wind in the Willows all from around that same decade.

For more Bakshi check out Wizards or Fire and Ice. He was also a mentor to one of my favorite current comic book artists. She is named Becky Cloonan and you can find her work here.

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