The debate it sparked continues even now on the Internet, with some Tolkien fans criticizing everything from the characters' word pronunciations to their hairstyles, while others line up to buy production cels. (Charles Champlin, The Times' former arts editor, "found the film a very long, very loud disappointment, singularly lacking the magical charm Tolkien's readers obviously find in the books.")
Now 63 and working as a painter and animation teacher in New York while completing an independent film, Bakshi still gets winded just thinking about the ordeal. "I should have stopped and said, 'Look, guys, I need another year.' It was really too much to ask one man to do it in a year and a half."
How much influence did Bakshi's version have on Jackson's much longer, costlier, more meticulous adaptation? Officially, none. Bakshi, who confesses he hasn't seen Jackson's film, says friends in Hollywood have told him that the new production team repeatedly screened and studied his version.
Whether intentional or not, one sequence in Jackson's film, in which Frodo and his companions hide in the woods from a Ringwraith, is strikingly similar to Bakshi's version.
Bakshi is content with the thousands of e-mails he says he has received that "pretty much break out in my favor" regarding fidelity to the book.
"I'm afraid to look at the new picture because it may bust that bubble," he adds with a chuckle, "but right now I'm very happy with the kind of responses I'm getting from fans."