J.R.R. Tolkien is one of the foundational figures of the fantasy genre whose works are still read and loved by millions. Known for his unforgettable creations in The Lord of the Rings series and The Hobbit, Tolkien inspired multiple generations of future writers to follow in his footsteps and shape their literary fantasies.
Over the years, many filmmakers and producers have expressed their desire to conduct adaptations of Tolkien’s adventures. While Peter Jackson’s interpretations of Tolkien’s work continue to serve as the definitive adaptation of his universe, a new television series has divided the fan base.
Although the latest Amazon adaptation managed to acquire the rights, other notable figures failed to do so. Tolkien himself had planned a BBC radio adaptation of the books, while the Beatles wanted to star in their own Lord of the Rings adaptation, for which they planned to recruit Stanley Kubrick as the director.
Throughout his lifetime, Tolkien had always been deeply concerned about the adaptations of his work which is why he said no to the Beatles. However, he was more afraid of another iconic American studio that had floated the idea of adapting Tolkien’s creations on multiple occasions, and that studio was none other than Disney.
When there were talks about the movie rights to the books, Tolkien forbade Disney’s involvement in any such project. He wrote: “It might be advisable […] to let the Americans do what seems good to them — as long as it was possible […] to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing).”
Tolkien was not impressed by Disney’s tendency to reduce European mythology and folklore to infantilised caricatures. He feared the studio would do the same to The Lord of the Rings. The most notable difference between their respective visions is evident in their vastly different characterisations of dwarves.
In a letter to one of his fans, Tolkien explained: “I recognise [Walt Disney’s] talent, but it has always seemed to me hopelessly corrupted. Though in most of the ‘pictures’ proceeding from his studios, there are admirable or charming passages, the effect of all of them to me is disgusting. Some have given me nausea.”