October 10th, 2001, The Official New Line Shop will begin to sell the JVC DVD Player. Yes, a DVD player specific to The Lord of the Rings. It is a big deal in its own right, but with its impending release, there is something else we should be looking forward to.

The official shop page description talks of an “exclusive 17-minute DVD — featuring behind the scenes footage about the making of The Lord of the Rings — is sure to thrill anyone who’s waiting for the film’s release on December 19th.”

Well guess what folks…We got our little spy hungry hands on one! Woo!

One thing you should know before you read this report. In the time I wanted to report this to you, I was unable to get any high quality screen captures of the DVD. While I’m sure there is a way to do it, I simply just took images of the TV. The images you do see should be more than enough to satisfy your appetite. (ps – Please do not send me email about how to capture images off the DVD!)

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The packaging is the size of the DVD, not the regular bulky DVD case we are used to getting. (This is a good thing) Featured on the front are Eljiah as Frodo, Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn, Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Liv Tyler as Arwen.

On the back there is a listing of the chapters and a mention of, what I believe, one of the cooler features of the DVD: ‘The Theatrical Trailer and Featurette in 5.1 Surround Sound.’

I have seen the first Fellowship of the Ring Trailer many times, but the versions on our computer hardly match up to the one on this DVD. If you are lucky enough to have a home theater, watching this DVD version of the trailer really does make you feel like you are smack dab in the middle of a high quality cinema. From the beginning echo of the fog on the New Line logo, to the Fireworks version of Smaug swooping to your right, the creators have taken full advantage of the surround sound. NOTE: The DVD is default set up for standard sound, NOT the 5.1 Dolby Digital. So you will need to go to the audio setup portion of the DVD to switch it.

[ Click for Larger Version ] The interactivity, while simple, is well done. The design is perfect in my opinion and I had no problem surfing around the various sections of the disc. The main screen, seen to the left, lists the main areas of the disc. Take note of the image of Sam behind the textual menu. This area fades in and out with various images of cast and characters. Elvish writing scrolls up and down the screen on the extreme right. The Lord of the Rings logo occasionally has a ‘metallic’ reflection roll slowly across it.

[ Click for Larger Version ]You can start the entire DVD by selecting ‘Play All,’ or you can go to the 17-minute behind the scenes footage under ‘Glimpse of Middle-earth.’ Here we find of the listing of the 5 chapters with an image from each section. The logo again has the ‘lighting’ effect on it and the elvish script scrolls on the far right.

[ Click for Larger Version ]Each chapter is seperated by the Fellowship theme graphic with the title of the chapter below it. The fellowship moves slowly across to the right as the background of a middle-earth map shines through.

Chapter 1 – Middle-earth Down Under
This section has some wonderful shots of the landscape of New Zealand and the sets from the films. Mainly Hobbiton. We also get a great look at the Fellowship climbing Caradhras. The cast testifies how great Peter Jackson was as a director and a visionary. Christopher Lee claims Peter “has The One Ring.”

Chapter 2- Imagining Middle-earth
Peter explains that at the time of the films conception, 1995, the world of Alan Lee dominated the literature available. We get some shots of Alan Lee sketching as well as overseeing the production. John Howe is also shown talking about how believablity is the key to the films.
Weathertop statues in production

Chapter 3 – Creating Middle-earth
Richard Taylor, head of WETA, talks about the care and effort taken for the make-up, prosthetics, models, amrmour, weapons, etc. Peter Jackson then emphasizes how successful Richard and his team were in making these fantasical items look and feel real and believable.
A clay model of Shelob!
An elaborate model of Minas Tirith (I think)
Orc masks and prosthetics
John Rhys-Davies having his make-up applied
Wonderful looks at the hundreds of weapons and armour created for the films

Chapter 4 – Characters of Middle-earth
This chapter reviews the cast, subdivided into races. The hobbits, Wizards, Men, and finally Elves and Dwarves.
Shots of the hobbits at Weathertop and in Hobbiton.
Legolas standing on top of a box, while the hobbits run under by, to create the illusion of height. (This looks to be the same scene from the trailer when Legolas is firing back at a group of Orcs after Moria)
Elijah holds up an image ‘That will never ever be in the movie.” (The picture looks to be the hobbits with Bill the Pony and snow flakes flying around)
Saruman on his throne in Orthanc.
Gandalf both in Bag End and travelling.
Viggo at Weathertop fighting the Ringwraiths.
Boromir at the departure from Lorien.
Cate Blanchett as Galadriel filming the the mirror scene. ( Funny thing is she is wearing rain boots!)
Legolas petting Billy the Pony.
Orlando Bloom talks about Legolas’s skill with all weapons.
Liv in Rivendell talking with the hobbits. She is standing on a box, to represent the height difference

Chapter 5 – The One Ring
Great shot of the entire fellowship running over a ridge. We see the filming of the Ring in Frodo’s hand scene, from the first Trailer.

After the last chapter of the presentation has ended, the DVD jumps directly to the first Fellowship of the Ring Trailer. (In all its 5.1 Dolby Digital Glory!)

The next section of interest on the DVD is the Photo Gallery. By choosing one of the 16 listed character(s) you can learn more about that character and the person who plays them. I have captured the menu page, Gandalf page and Sir Ian McKellen page below.

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The other sections don’t hold much information.

The ‘Web Portal’ links to the Official Site (http://www.lordoftherings.net) and the JVC website.

The ‘Audio Setup’ allows you to toggle between standard audio and 5.1 Dolby Digital.

The ‘Help’ section describes how to use the DVD and the ‘Credits’ tells you all about who made it.

All in all, this DVD is wonderful. Its a blessing to have a few months ahead of the production and it really helps to fill the much needed fix of Lord of the Rings. For you international fans, if the film doesn’t show in December, this should help take the tinge off of waiting another month or so. I would have easily paid a $50 for this thing if it was for sale, so the $200 price tag for the entire DVD player AND this DVD isn’t bad at all. Actually, its quite good. As far as I can tell, I’m not an expert, the DVD player has all the same stuff mine does, and is cheaper! If you haven’t entered the DVD age, and you are a Tolkien fan, now is the time to get with it.

Purchase the DVD Player with the Behind the Scenes DVD at the Official New Line Shop. They are currently taking pre-orders and will start shipping on Oct 10th.