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RB: The Hobbit Douga

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The Hobbit was adapted into an animated television movie by Rankin/Bass Productions in 1977.
Many of Rankin/Bass' traditionally cel-animated works were animated by the Japanese studio Top Craft, which was formed in 1972 as an offshoot of the legendary studio Toei Animation. Many Top Craft staff, including the studio's founder Toru Hara (who was credited in some of Rankin/Bass' specials), would join Studio Ghibli and work for Hayao Miyazaki.

The story's hero, Bilbo Baggins, was voiced by Orson Bean, backed up by John Huston as the voice of Gandalf. Otto Preminger was the voice of the Elvenking, Richard Boone grumbled and bellowed as the dragon Smaug, Cyril Ritchard spoke for Elrond, Hans Conried voiced Thorin Oakenshield, and the comedian and performance artist Brother Theodore was chosen for the voice of Gollum. Topcraft, a noted Japanese animation studio, produced the animated artwork for Rankin-Bass, introducing many in the United States to Japanese-style animation for the first time. Principal artists included Hidetoshi Kaneko, Kazuko Ito, and Minoru Nishida. The same studio was also used for The Return of the King.

Tsuguyuki Kubo was the main figure behind the character design side of Topcraft's work. He had started out at Tatsunoko in 1965, where he famously animated the opening of Speed Racer, before leaving to form his own studio, Studio Bees, where he did subcontracting for Toei and Tatsunoko, working notably on the likes of Rainbow Sentai Robin, finally arriving at Topcraft in 1972. Topcraft had been founded that year by Toru Hara, a Toei Doga expatriate who after Nausicaa would become Ghibli's early executive producer. Before the company was founded officially they had done a promotional video for Rankin/Bass, which presumably is how Topcraft came to focus almost exclusively on foreign subcontracting for them.

Kubo was animation director/co-storyboarder of The Hobbit in 1977; co-animation director/co-layout man/supervisor of Return of the King in 1980; co-character designer/co-storyboarder/supervisor of The Last Unicorn in 1981; and co-character designer/co-animation director of Flight of the Dragon in 1982. After leaving the studio, Kubo went on to work at a studio first called Masaki and then PAC (Pacific Animation Corporation), where he worked as animation supervisor, finally settling down at Studio Pierrot, where he remains quite active still today.

After Topcraft break-up, Tsuguyuki Kubo, Tadakatsu Yoshida and Minoru Nishida moved at Pacific Animation Corporation (also known as PAC), once again working for their American friends Rankin/Bass, this time on the longest TV series: THUNDERCATS.


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