Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft

Being a Chronicle of the Inner Secrets of, and Spells of Magick as Wielded by, the Philosopher of the Internet and Unofficial Sorcerer-in-Residence of the City of New York

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Location: New York, New York, United States

As New York's Unofficial Wizard, my mission is to encourage the Mortals of Manhattan to imagine responsibly!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interviewing Bilbo, Gandalf & Thorin

BLACKWOLF: They are Middle-earth's answer to the Three Musketeers, and today, your humble Dragonmaster is gonna spend some time with Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, and of course our main Mage, Mithrandir, a/k/a Gandalf the Grey! As you can see, the boys have brought their trusty swords with them. Bilbo's, as you know, is the mighty, spider-bustin' Sting; Thorin's is the powerful Orcrist, the Goblin-cleaver; whilst Gandalf has his weapon of choice in Glamdring, one-time Foe-hammer borne by the King of Gondolin.

BILBO: A pleasure making your acquaintance, Master Blackwolf.

THORIN: Indeed.

GANDALF: I speak for them as well, Brother Mage.

BLACKWOLF: Now, the boys are here today to remind you Mortals of a very important milestone. Gandalf, would you tell our visitors about it?

GANDALF: Of course, First of all, though, I wish to thank our dear friend Rick Goldschmidt at for his continued efforts in preserving that fine company's treasured legacy. Indeed, this November, we're marking the 30th Anniversary of one of the most daring projects that Rankin/Bass ever attempted --- a little thing called The Hobbit. When, in 1977, NBC announced they were going to broadcast our film on the Sunday night after Thanksgiving, the good people at Macy*s made note of the good news by giving us our very own float in Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

BLACKWOLF: Quite an interesting story!

THORIN: Oh yes. And I trust, Burglar, you recall what you told the lady in charge about it?

BLACKWOLF: That would be Jean McFaddin, for those of you who don't know. She has, of course, since retired from the Parade.

BILBO: Oh yes. I told Ms. McFaddin, and I told Arthur Rankin, Jr. as well, the very thing I told Gandalf ---

BILBO, GANDALF, THORIN: (Together) "Adventures make one late for dinner!" (All three chuckle.)

BLACKWOLF: But then, not only did you do the Parade, you were granted access to NBC's venerable 30 Rock Headquarters --- and even shared a few moments with Macy*s own Santa Claus!

GANDALF: Ah yes, that was quite the --- heh-heh! --- adventure, so to speak. If I remember correctly, this was mostly due to the fact that our film, when it aired, was to have one sponsor: Xerox.

BLACKWOLF: Indeed. Xerox must have had a lot to offer you three, but not many folks are aware of what it is that the Xerox people saw in The Hobbit.

THORIN: Well, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that Xerox wanted to show just how remarkable the future of imagination could be if the Humans used that future responsibly; and I think that they saw those values in all of us who dwell in Middle-earth, especially the three of us.

GANDALF: Actually, Thorin, I think they really wanted to show off some of their newer products and services, did the folks at Xerox. And indeed, as you yourself have written over the years, Master Blackwolf, our show was not to be your typical Rankin/Bass Production, despite having at its disposal all the usual Rankin/Bass hallmarks --- Romeo Muller writing the script; Maury Laws doing the music; Paul Frees in the voice cast, etc. --- no, our show would be different from anything that Rankin/Bass had ever accomplished ..... because, for the very first time, an actual drama with mostly adult themes would be placed into the context of traditional, two-dimensional, hand-drawn animation.

BILBO: And not only that, it would not just be Arthur Rankin, Jr. producing and directing the whole kaboodle (along with Jules Bass, of course) --- Arthur would also assume the duties of Production Designer, too. He had, after all, begun his career as an art director.

THORIN: They were all anxious about getting the project right, you know, because they'd been given a 90-minute time slot on NBC; and they worked for two years to determine what to keep in the film, and what to leave out.

GANDALF: Oh yes. Peter Jackson's version may still be THE definitive Lord of the Rings; and yes, there remain those who refuse to forgive Ralph Bakshi for screwing up his chance to do us right --- a notion that, if you'll remember, Master Blackwolf, I guest-blogged about that right here in your very Diary of Magecraft --- but not many people are aware of the fact that Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass brought the world to Middle-earth first!

BILBO: In fact, I seem to recall the Rankin/Bass folks doing a few deals afterwards with the Disney people.

THORIN: Correct, Burglar! The deal was to put a few soundtracks of some of the Rankin/Bass specials on the Disneyland and Buena Vista Records labels. There's this unusual book that tells the story about how that deal came about. The book is called MouseTracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records, and it's by Tim Hollis and Greg Ehrbar, and it's published by the University Press of Mississippi @ Jackson. And I think, Master Blackwolf, that the deal we did with Disney was a pretty great bit of time well spent!

BILBO: Speak for yourself, Thorin! At Arthur Rankin, Jr.'s request, I had to pose with the Great Goblin of the Misty Mountains for the kid-sized version of our The Hobbit recording, wherein I, forced to undergo the old ball-and-chain routine, literally had to plead for Thorin and Company's lives! It was a truly humiliating experience, and I wouldn't go through it again if you so much as paid me! (Thorin and Gandalf laugh.)

BLACKWOLF: Well, why don't we briefly discuss what happened when the three of you actually visited NBC's New York Headquarters, the glorious 30 Rock?

GANDALF: Ah! What a memorable moment that was! If I remember correctly, Saturday Night Live was then in its third season. Belushi, Aykroyd, Curtin, Morris, Radner --- Bill Murray hadn't yet joined them, and Lorne Michaels was quite a youngster in those days. Settting foot in Studio 8-H was a real adventure!

THORIN: It certainly was!

BLACKWOLF: Yes, I'm sure there are those out there who would certainly agree. Well now, let's talk about what actually happened at the Parade. What was like meeting the kids for that very first time?

GANDALF: Well, Master Blackwolf, I don't think the children had any real idea as to what a Hobbit was, but the very fact that there was a film out about us must have been reason enough for them. And when the three of us actually met Macy*s Santa, we were certainly amazed! How elegant he was!

THORIN: Not as elegant as me!

BLACKWOLF: Well, no, dear Thorin, but I expect that Santa was able to secure Christmas presents for the three of you.

GANDALF: Of course! (All laugh.)

BLACKWOLF: When you chatted with Macy*s Santa, what was one of the things you asked him for? For the holidays, I mean.

THORIN: Well, I recall telling Santa this: "Well, Santa," I said, "seeing as we'll be working with the same company together --- Rankin/Bass --- I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time enjoying our adventures!" And Santa replied: "Oh, Arthur and Jules have been old friends of mine for many years now. I first met up with them in 1964, when I needed someone to tell Rudolph's story; they've done so many delightful things since then!"

BLACKWOLF: Those must have been very happy memories indeed. Did you boys get to watch the show after the first NBC run?

BILBO: Yes, I think we did. But I know that next time, maybe if Peter Jackson finally gets off his butt and gets the three of us back on track, maybe there'll finally be a REAL Hobbit movie on the big screen after all!

THORIN, GANDALF: Hear, hear! (Laughter and giggling from all.)

BLACKWOLF: Well, gentlemen, It's been quite a lot of fun speaking to the three of you. Any closing thoughts before we wrap up here?

BILBO: Oh, most definitely. Thank you, loyal Rankin/Bass supporters, for all your efforts to keep our memory alive for 30 years. I personally want to thank those who have put their --- fan trailers, is that what they call them? --- on this YouTube thing. I like the few they've done that reveal the rude remarks spoken by our dear friends, the Thundercats!

GANDALF: What? Bilbo Baggins, Thundercat enthusiast?!

BILBO: And why not? Rankin/Bass did their show, too, didn't they? And not only that, Spring Creek Productions and Warner Bros. want Lion-O and friends on the big screen now, too!


BILBO: Well, some guy named Paul Sopocy has written a script expanding on the Thundercats' backstory, just as you saw it on the Thundercats animated series!

BLACKWOLF: My word! What in Merlin's name will they make a movie of next, I wonder? Anyway, it was a pleasure talking with you three, Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin; and I look forward to seeing you lot kick some more butt and take some more names in the future!

GANDALF: As log as our fans will let us! Right, lads?

THORIN, BILBO: (Together) Aye! (Laughter from all.)

BLACKWOLF: Well, gang, I hope you enjoyed my interview with Bilbo, Gandalf and Thorin. If so, thou knowst ye drill: gimme an e-mail at either or Later, dearies!

Master Blackwolf