JPB writes: The One Ring Celebration is known by many to have brought the celebrities to the fans in a series of fun and informative conversations, Q&A sessions, and autograph/photo opportunities. All of these were hosted in the large. main auditorium of the Pasadena Convention Center.
But those who ventured down a long, narrow hallway found a second experience no less rewarding than that in the auditorium. The hallway opened to a well-lit two-story indoor courtyard. If the auditorium was the place where celebrities spoke to the fans, the courtyard was where the fans spoke to each other. Offered for sale in this courtyard in a series of booths were clothing, artwork, jewelry, collectibles and books, sometimes signed and sold by the artists themselves. You could even sign up for tours of the New Zealand film locations! Just to the left of the entrance was the art room, where artists both professional and amateur showed their love of Tolkien’s works, and their ability to portray them. At the far end of the courtyard, a group of people could always be found huddled around computers, playing the latest LotR-themed game. Just before that, the always-crowded Sideshow Toys booth presented a museum quality exhibition of many of their works. Finally, at the end of the courtyard were the two rooms hosting the alternate tracks of programming.
The room on the left offered a series of lectures from Scholars and Artists, who delved into not only Tolkien’s writings, but the works of Lewis and others. Covered on Friday were topics of on-line communities, sudden salvation from disaster in LotR, C.S. Lewis and Tolkien’s friendship, teaching J.R.R. Tolkien to students of many ages, and the challenges of making Tolkien-themed jewelry and illustrating The Silmarillion. On Saturday, subjects covered included a comparison of the book to the movie, a writers’ workshop, women in Middle-Earth, medieval ideals in the books, lust and love in the First Age, and a comparison of the human and elvish soul. Also presented was an interesting history of The One Ring.net. On the final day, the topics began with spirituality, and continued into a study of the music of the films, Tolkien’s literary legacy, and a review of Tolkien’s impact in the 60’s and 70’s. The final session was a wonderful discussion where the panel and the fans sat as one and discussed how Lord of the Rings had changed each of their lives. During these days, people had the pleasure of meeting two true legends in the world of Tolkien fandom: Peter Beagle and Ted Nasmith. The rest of the sessions provided us with other notables from the world of comic art, Tolkien scholarship, jewelry creation, religious and medieval studies, all too numerous to list.
The room on the right offered two sub-tracks. Covered here were both costume creation and a series of children’s activities. For the costume track, Friday afternoon started with a study of fabrics and materials, leading into a discussion of making armor templates, costuming children, a wonderful lecture of designing LotR themed items with Daniel Falconer, and finished with a discussion of prosthetics and hair pieces. On Saturday, the day appropriately started with a discussion of the very first steps in making a costume: the research before the cutting and sewing. This continued into a discussion of costuming elves, humans and hobbits in the films, evil characters, and finished with a comparison of human, hobbit and elf costumes in the films. On Sunday, discussion began with the pragmatics of making a costume fit, and proceeded to talk about how to make armor without spending a fortune, a review of the costume competition of the day before, with thoughts about the costumes, leading into a discussion of advanced armor creation techniques, and hobbit costume creation, from the simplest to the most complex.
Put all together, the support of this area of the show rose ORC above the level of the traditional celebrity meet and greet, into the higher plane of a full fledged Tolkien convention. Most important to me was the fact that while many people came to ORC for the stars in the auditorium, the fans in the indoor courtyard showed them the heart of Tolkien, which was new to many of them. The courtyard was a place for learning, joy, meeting new friends, and reuniting with old ones. The friendly spirit and sense of community shared by the friends of Middle-Earth was lost on no-one who ventured here.
Before the films were announced years ago, this fan community existed. Indeed, over the decades, this community incubated and nurtured the desire which created the intense appetite for the film. And fandom, not films, created The One Ring.net. Long after the intense heat of the interest in the movies cools, this fan community, and the tools it created during the filming, will remain.
By supporting fandom so well, from the start, ORC showed that while it loves the films, it was created for the fans, and therefore transcends the films and will last beyond their current popularity. It comes from the fans, so it deeply understands them. It is rooted in responding to them and supporting them, in all past, current and future incarnations of that fandom. Because of that, it is here to stay.