Autumn had finally arrived in northern California when I boarded a plane to head into spring on the other side of the planet in New Zealand. To say I wasn’t frightened would be a lie. I felt very much like Frodo heading out into the wide world, for I was about to be away from my family and my continent for longer than I ever had. The weather in Wellington had been pleasant until I arrived, or so I’m told, and as more and more cold rainstorms blew into the bay off the Pacific, my co-workers at Weta Workshop teased that I had brought winter with me to their beautiful island nation.
The flight from Auckland to Wellington, NZ
Like most fans of the TheLord of the Rings films, I had long dreamed of visiting New Zealand and seeing as much of its Middle-earth landscape as I could. However, also like most fans, the cost of such an adventure always held me back. As such, if someone had told me that I would have gone to Aotearoa twice in 2015, I would’ve thought they were as full of tall tales as old mad Baggins! But step out my front door I did, each time with a little nudge.
Check out this wonderful Entertainment Weekly interview with Peter Jackson about his experiences with, and memories of, the actor who brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s wizard Saruman to life for millions of loving fans. You’ll chuckle at PJ recalling some comical moments, but have a box of tissues ready because you just might shed a tear too. Read more…
For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit the Hobbiton set (like me!), you know how magical it is to wander among the well-tended gardens and Hobbit-home facades, to rest in the shade of the magnificent party tree, and to enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. However, as most of us are aware, the Hobbiton set is surrounded by a 560 hectare (approximately 1,400 acre) working sheep and cattle farm owned and operated by the Alexander family.
Stuff.co.nz recently recounted a bit of the history of the Hobbiton and how Hobbit holes and sheep continue to coexist nicely in a quiet corner of the New Zealand countryside:
“Right alongside the tourism business is their sheep and beef operation, on probably the country’s most-visited farm. While not many of the tourists see the whole farm, the stock is still very much in the public eye, meaning Craig [Alexander] has to be strategic in where he farms stock because of the occasional gate left open by an unsuspecting tourist. Hobbiton is also ring-fenced with paddocks for stock on either side. “If we’re driving a mob of 1500-2000 ewes down the main track and there is a [tourist] bus going through that can be pretty frustrating.”
While the farm is family-owned and operated, Hobbiton is a 50/50 partnership between the family and Peter Jackson. “Today, the tourism venture has about 70 permanent staff and twice that number over the busy summer season. It’s given the Matamata district a huge boost in earnings and the region is now thriving.”
Not surprising to Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie fans, lifestyle and travel blog, BLT, has named Hobbiton as one of its top 16 movie locations to visit. From the blog: “The gardens and crops surrounding the homely Hobbiton featured in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series were actually planted a year before the filming of the first movie. Hobbiton was built and designed with the fictional landscape described by J.R.R. Tolken in the books and the set still stands today. In fact, people travel from all over the world to take a two-hour tour of the set. Hobbiton, although originally just a movie set, is now a permanent tourist attraction.”
Other locations mentioned in the blog include Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England (Harry Potter; Downton Abby), The Hawaiian island of Kauai (Jurassic Park; Raiders of the Lost Arc) and California’s Redwood National Park (Star War’s Forest Moon of Endor). While all of them would be fun to visit, we’re partial to Hobbiton not the least of which is because it’s not just a building or a landscape to look at. As the article mentions, it’s a permanent tourist attraction in beautiful New Zealand, offering excellent guided tours, a store and a pub! What’s not to love?
Check out Hobbiton and the other top 15 movie locations to visit here, and let us know which ones you’d most like to see (after Hobbiton, of course).
A group, that displays one man with 500+ Facebook friends, has started a GoFundMe page to build a 1 to 1 scale replica “of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films.”
For American readers, if my pounds to dollars calculator is working right, that is about $2.8 billion, an ambitious amount to raise on IndieGoGo, or really any crowd funding site, or really, by any method. Still, the project would be a dream to visit and would create an economy all its own and would provide years of good media material as the world watched its progress.
“We aim to create both residential and commercial properties, allowing for sustainable growth and a high quality of life,” Jonathan Wilson says on his intro page. He also breaks down the cost, a little bit, to say, “The vast majority of this expense will cover building costs – £15m for land, £188m for labour and £1.4bn for material.”
We’ve just heard the sad news that Andrew Lesnie has died of a heart attack at the age of 59.
The filmmaker from Sydney, Australia, won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Peter Jackson‘s “The Fellowship Of The Ring” in 2002. He is most associated for his work with Peter Jackson on the adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings,” trilogy and on “The Hobbit.” But his film catalog is much larger, including the just released Russell Crow-directed film, “The Water Diviner.”
He also served as director of photography for the Australian “Babe,” movies which led Jackson to him. In an interview with DigitalProducer.com, Jackson talked about the series of events, including Lesnie leaving “Mission Impossible 2,” to come to the Tolkien films. Said Jackson:
“I’d never worked with him or even met him before, but he’d shot the Babe films and I thought they looked amazing, the way he’d used backlight and the sun and natural light to create a very magical effect. And Babe had that larger-than-life feel about it that I wanted. So when we began looking for DPs in early 1999, I first decided to get either an Australian or New Zealand DP as they’d be used to the way we make films. Every country is slightly different in that way, and I immediately thought of Andrew. But he was shooting MI2 in Sydney, so I was a bit stuck then. But then after three weeks he left MI2 — apparently there was a lot of friction on the set, and we called him the next day and persuaded him to fly over to meet. Then we showed him all the designs and sets and he got very excited, and I liked him a lot.”
Jackson and Lesnie made the six Tolkien films together but they also collaborated on “King Kong,” and “The Lovely Bones.” Other notable films he worked on:
“Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” and “I Am Legend,” among others.
He can be seen as a painter acting in the Sean Astin-directed short film, “The Long and Short of It.” He made a cameo in “Return of the King,” as a Corsair of Umbar sailing to battle. By all accounts and from personal observations, Lesnie was excellent to work with. He is immortalized through his work.
All of us here at TheOneRing.net send our best wishes and condolences to his family and friends.
Below is the video of Lesnie winning his Academy Award for “Fellowship,” where he is graceful, humorous and thanks many people person-to-person before walking on stage to accept the award. It is a fine example of his professionalism and good nature.
On March 28, 2015 TheOneRing.net livestreamed an interview with animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi to discuss the first-ever “The Lord of the Rings” film (1978), and to parse the differences between homage and rip-off (and the not-so-nebulous chains of inspiration from one artist to another).
Bakshi revealed to us that his Studio’s “LOTR” character designs and artwork were sent down to Three Foot Six in New Zealand; elevating the conversation of his impact on the live-action epic.
The subversive director has lived through numerous controversies, yet remains undervalued by Ringer fans and feels personally slighted by Jackson. He carries on vigorously at 77 years old with a new crowdfunded animated work, “The Last Days of Coney Island” and his intent to direct a “Wizards 2” follow-up to his 1977 cult hit.(more…)
With “The Hobbit” movies before our eyes, either from home or at the movies, here is a fascinating look back at Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings,” films. This clever edit of the films might have been what King Theoden was yelling “Death! Death! Death!” about from his horse because this version features all the on-screening killing from the whole trilogy – extended edition.
It might bring differences between the two trilogies to mind, or it might not, but whatever it is, the folks at Digg have done themselves proud. ENJOY!
Sir Ian McKellen starts this video introduction to announce the World Premiere date for the final chapter of Peter Jackson’s cinematic Middle-earth films. We now know for sure that the cast and crew from all six films will be walking through Leicester Square on December 1, 2014 in London. Sir Ian was joined by Richard Armitage, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom and Bilbo Baggins himself, Martin Freeman. Check out the video below for more details and start making your plans accordingly. There is mention of a contest, so good luck to anyone who chooses to enter.
Catching up with some of our friends from New Zealand, we learned about a project that involves the efforts of a lot of Kiwis, including Sylvester McCoy of Hobbit fame and Lord of the Rings’ Alex Funke. For good measure New Zealand’s Grammy winner Kimbra (Somebody That I Used To Know) is supporting the project with her voice.
In the age of computer generated effects, the film “Birds” is a throwback. A friend to TORn, Horst Sarubin, who worked on visual effects for the three Hobbit films, is behind the project that uses puppets, shot one frame at a time with incremental movements between frames to create a motion picture. The film, about the struggles of George the bird in the primordial forests of Zealandia (pre-historic New Zealand) to carry on.
McCoy is well known for his bird whistles and humor, which Hobbit director Peter Jackson definitely brought through the former Dr. Who’s Radagast into cinematic Middle-earth. In the film’s kickstarter campaign McCoy presents those whistles and gets a little bird treat in return. In the same video Funke, who is best know for helping make the LOTR bigatures look amazing on screen, explains his role is to make the cinematography great.
The stop-motion technique is being employed to give the filmmakers a hands-on experience and a final project they claim will be alive and organic. Tying closely with the passions of Peter Jackson, these are the same techniques used by Ray Harryhausen and Willis H. O’Brien. The original King Kong movie was made in this fashion, inspiring a generation of filmmakers.
With a team of grass-roots talent with a Middle-earth cinematic legacy efforting the film and a universal appealing story, but set in the ancient human-free land that would eventually become New Zealand, TORn readers may want to know further information is available at georgethebird.com. The grass-roots effort is seeking fan support via the kickstarter campaign above.
One of the big visual secrets of the final Middle-earth movie from Peter Jackson, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” is Dain Ironfoot. Played by Billy Connoly, Dain is a character that is essential to the story but isn’t incredibly fleshed out in J.R.R. Tolkien source material that was originally intended for children.
Our own Demosthenes has this excellent analysis of Connolly as Dain complete with quotes and descriptions of the character. It has long been reported that Dain will arrive on the scene riding a war boar but clearly Jackson’s team has been careful not to reveal this in any teaser trailers so far, and, lets hope it stays that way.
But, visuals of the character have started to seep into the public eye. With giant franchise films like The Hobbit, it’s impossible to put a lid on too much because merchandise and toys need to start selling before the film hits theaters (and before it is finished!) and that means that at the very least, clues are out in the wild.
The image at the top of this story, for example, clearly displays Lego Dain and it jives with the descriptions that are out there including this one from Connolly via Yahoo Australia:
“They’re basically broadening me, making me wider. But let me say, this guy will terrify the life out of you. I have a Mohawk and tattoos on my head. You’ve got to see it.”
The Lego character appears to be a ginger and is wearing a red chest piece as part of his armor, giving him a distinct look that will visually set him apart in cinemas so viewers will know instantly that he isn’t like the dwarves we have spent so much time with so far. He is a new element with a distinct mount, armor and will be immediately recognizable and unique.
The Lego Dain even evokes a little bit of Connolly to me visually, although it could be a previous bias.
The concept art here seems to really compliment the Lego image as something close to Dain’s final design. The helms certainly seem similar in shape and color and the beards seem the same in shape and color. There are differences however in the color of the breastplate, although details on a Lego toy are only meant to be a representation and not a literal translation. In fact the looking and speculation from still images of a toy and a concept art is fun because of how different the motion picture experience is from a still image. In the day of CGI, what is filmed may or may not even resemble what ends up on screen.
UPDATE EDIT: Readers have correctly pointed out the below image is of Dwalin. The writer has been sacked.
We finally know Billy Boyd (Pippin from The Lord of the Rings trilogy) will be performing the end credits song for the final film set in Peter Jackson’s cinematic Middle-earth. Warner Bros. have posted their ‘For Your Consideration’ list for “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies” listing all the people and categories they want Hollywood to pay attention to come Awards Season. On that list for ‘Best Original Song’ is “The Last Goodbye” written by Billy Boyd, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh, and performed by Billy Boyd. It now seems that the use of Pippin’s song “The Edge of Night” in the recently released teaser for the film was a bit of foreshadowing. That song, with the lyrics coming from the last stanza of Tolkien’s ‘A Walking Song’ and the melody written by Billy Boyd himself, demonstrates a great level of empathy on the part of Billy for the melancholic feeling at that point of “The Return of the King”. It seems almost too perfect that Billy should be called upon again to deliver what promises to be a very emotional and fitting ending to all things Middle-earth. And because it’s fun to speculate, you will notice 15 other categories listed ‘For Your Consideration’ on that list, many names familiar to us all. Who do you think might get a nomination this Awards Season?
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