Ralph Bakshi, the mad genius of animation, has outdone himself. To meet the heady challenge of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy world to the screen, he took the revolutionary, expensive step of first shooting [The Lord of the Rings] with actors. Then his vast staff of animators used the footage as models for the drawings. The result is amazing, particularly in the battlefield clashes.
And yet … I suppose much depends on how you react to Tolkien's Middle Earth world of hobbits, elves, orcs, men, or on how much entertainment and/or significance you find in this turbulent saga of good versus evil. Although some 20 million copies of Tolkien's trilogy have been sold, on screen the material seems too limited to sustain such a complex animation effort, however innovative.
But visually it's a helluva trip…. The spectacular epic scenes have the quality of paintings come to life. Little of this is kid's stuff; there is an abundance of violence, and even a blood-spurting killing à la [Sam] Peckinpah. Leonard Rosenman's thumping score makes an imposing accompaniment.
I much prefer Bakshi's use of animation for controversial social comment, as in Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, but The Lord of the Rings is the work of a master who has taken animation a long way from Mickey Mouse. (pp. 11-12)
William Wolf, in his review of "The Lord of the Rings," in Cue (copyright © Cue Publications, Inc., 1978; reprinted by permission of News Group Publications, Inc.), Vol. 47, No. 24, December 8, 1978, pp. 11-12.