Friends, the other evening just before I was about to turn in for bed, a friend of mine who heads up a vintage children’s record page shared a recent acquisition – a sealed 1980 storyteller album for the animated adaptation of The Return of the King. I immediately leapt to the internet in the hopes that someone might have uploaded the Disneyland Records release, but I am sad to say that was an absolute bust. However I was able to find this Disney Read-Along book and record – which was also released in 1980 – although it presents an abbreviated version of the animated film.
Now the big difference between the storyteller album and the book and record version – the former contains actual dialogue and the soundtrack from the animated film. Whereas the latter while including one of the Glenn Yarbrough songs from the made-for-TV movie and some of the soundtrack – featured a cast that did there best to sound like John Huston, Orson Bean, and Roddy McDowall from the film itself.
In all honesty I have a soft spot for Rankin and Bass’ adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King – having said that though I do feel their 1977 version of The Hobbit is the superior animated film. I know that in an interview in 2003 at the Museum of Television and Radio, Arthur Rankin admitted that while they were able to pull off The Hobbit – they didn’t stick the landing with the second animated film:
“We tried to do Return of the King… but it is an awful lot to put into it. I think [Peter] Jackson is having the same problem in his films. You can’t deviate from these books, or somebody’ll wait on the street for you! …The Return of the King, we had to summarize what had happened before, and then put it all together in 2 hours. It’s not a very good film.”