The first and only movie based on J.R.R. Tolkien's popular children's book, The Hobbit, appeared in 1977 when the Rankin/Bass studios produced a television special. The animation was so-so and the storyline was abbreviated. Many die-hard Tolkien fans did not like the Elves or the songs. Nonetheless many people have grown up with this "Hobbit" movie and it remains a favorite at Tolkien and science fiction and fantasy conventions.
When Peter Jackson produced a three-film adaption of The Lord of the Rings (released in 2001, 2002, and 2003) fans around the world hoped he would follow up with a prequel based on The Hobbit. After several years of dithering and haggling, the powers-that-be conferred the role of producing and directing two live-action movies based on "The Hobbit" upon director Guilermo del Toro.
Although del Toro may be best known for his work on "Hellboy II: The Golden Army", many fans hoped his adaption of Tolkien's beloved story would be both faithful to the book and to Jackson's franchise. Peter Jackson originally acted as a consultant for del Toro. What that was supposed to mean was that in the final production process Peter would have had some say; but due to legal problems the production of the movies was delayed long enough that Guillermo del Toro had to pull out so that he could finish his "Pacific Rim" movie on time. Peter Jackson therefore stepped in to fill the vacancy.
Although most of the actors cast for roles in "The Hobbit" were new to cinematic Middle-earth, several actors from the Jackson films indicated they wanted to reprise their roles or otherwise appear in the "Hobbit" movies. In the first film we saw Sir Ian McKellen as Gandal, Sir Christopher Lee as Saruman, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Sir Ian Holm as the elderly Bilbo Baggins, and Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.
Production on the first movie was completed in 2012 and it was released to rave reviews in December 2012. The second installment is scheduled for release in December 2013. And much to many people's surprise (and some people's dismay), Peter Jackson expanded the two-film project into three movies. The third movie is scheduled for a May 2014 release.
There have been several commercial stage productions based on The Hobbit and there may be more. This enchanting children's tale lives on in the minds and hearts of generations of Tolkien readers and afficianados.