Due to marketing by Warner Bros., the film is often credited by fans as the unofficial sequel to Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated film J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which is based on the first two volumes of the book. According to rumors, Rankin/Bass decided to do the project upon hearing that Bakshi's sequel finishing The Lord of the Rings was going to be left unmade. However, Rankin/Bass had always planned on making a sequel based on The Return of the King as their follow-up project to The Hobbit.
The special aired on ABC on Sunday, May 11, 1980. Critical and fan reaction to The Return of the King was lukewarm.
Starring (In Alphabetical Order)
- Orson Bean - Frodo Baggins, Bilbo Baggins
- Theodore Bikel - Aragorn
- William Conrad - Denethor
- John Huston - Gandalf
- Roddy McDowall - Samwise Gamgee
- Theodore - Gollum