ANIMATED INSIGHTS BY SHANNON MUIR takes you inside Shannon’s latest reflections on her passion for animation as a medium, and other animated insights about life. To catch up on all posts, check out the Animated Insights portion of the website! This week, in a special edition, Shannon commemorates the influence of the animated work of the late Orson Bean in her life. Join ANIMATED INSIGHTS BY SHANNON MUIR again for the first Tuesday in March. I’ve talked in this column several times before about the 1980s cartoons VOLTRON and JEM as major influences in my professional career. However, the most influential animated film in my life remains Rankin-Bass’ THE HOBBIT from 1977. Originally for television, I did not get to see it until the 1980s in Hawaii when someone’s parents had access to a 3/4″ inch tape copy we saw in my 5th grade class. You see, we’d been living in Japan in the late 1970s, and in fact I actually saw Ralph Bakshi’s THE LORD OF RINGS theatrical film while we were there, a tad bit scary for child not even 8 years old. When my father read THE HOBBIT to my sister and I as children, I identified most with Bilbo Baggins. In the Rankin-Bass movie, Bilbo Baggins was voiced by Orson Bean. They also released a full length dual vinyl of the movie soundtrack, which my parents bought us in Japan and I played it over and over. By the time I actually saw the film, I had every word memorized. So Orson Bean brought Bilbo to life for me long before I saw a single cel of animation. YouTube has the first few minutes of the movie up as a “trailer” to encourage people to rent the full movie from them. If you’re not familiar, take a look.   Watching this scene reminds me so much of myself and why this movie – and this story – have always resonated with me. Growing up where nothing could be as reliable and routine as Bilbo wishes, it became the dream I longed for. My father did retire, and I got many wonderful years with his family and my sister and my parents. However, even as I grew up and moved away to pursue my dreams, I still did my best to always come home a couple times a year, so in that sense I still had my routine I suppose. Like Gandalf showing up on Bilbo’s doorstep, though, change shows up on our doorstep and we either do our best to embrace it or we do not, even when it is not easy.  On February 7th, 2020, I woke up and walked out to find my husband watching news coverage of someone dying after being hit by cars in Venice. From the discussion, it sounded like someone known had been hit. I asked my husband who they were talking about, and he told me Orson Bean. There were no words. I ran and got my phone and brought up IMBD, and just pointed at stills from Bilbo from the film to show my husband. It’s been a tough last twelve months for me, and this just added to it. It still doesn’t seem quite real. To quote the Glenn Yarbrough song that is the theme for this film “The Greatest Adventure is what lies ahead, today and tomorrow are yet to be said, the chances the changes, are all yours to make… the mold of your life is in your hands to break”. Sometimes, it’s tough to see the way ahead, but I adventure on.

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