ELF Orlando: 2005
Click for more photos

Mrcere writes: ORLANDO – Once again TheOneRing.net and Creation Entertainment joined forces to bring Lord of the Rings fans a fantastic Lord of the Rings convention.

Calling the event the “ELF Weekend of Wonder”, it featured actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin and John Rhys-Davies. (A little-known fact ELF stands for Eastern LOTR Fan gathering). Creation and TORn hosted the event on the East Coast to help fans who found travel to California for many past TORn events difficult. The weekend was a festival of stars, experts and fellow-fans.

The setting was the Hyatt hotel in Orlando, spread over many acres, giving it the feel of a resort. Besides several pools, restaurants and many buildings hosting guests, it included a separate convention center containing several ballrooms which hosted the main stage, the dealer’s room, the secondary programming, the art show and the various on-site dinners or parties. Fans flocked from all over, many new to TheOneRing and many long veterans of the site.

TORn’s own Quickbeam opened the event with director Carlene Cordova who recently sold their collaborative film “Ringers: Lord of the Fans” to the DVD arm of movie studio Sony. They promoted the film by exuding the same enthusiasm for their work that helped take them from the dream stage of making a film about fans to the final stage of promoting it to a world-wide audience. They are hoping for a November release. The audience was presented a new trailer for the work and some behind-the-scenes footage.

Gary Hunnewell arrived a good hour before he was to speak, leaving TORn’s guest coordinator Balin (of TORn chat fame) and me (MrCere) a bit worried. Luckily for the audience, he arrived in time. Hunnewell is the premier historian of Tolkienien publishing, which means he has collected well over 90 percent of all fan magazines (or fanzines) published about Tolkien in the world.

He talked to the gathered audience about his experiences in Birmingham England, having just returned. He talked about how fandom has changed with the coming of the Peter Jackson films but also with decades of growth and the publication of new translations of LOTR around the world. He was able to offer differences in fans and fan publications from Greece, Sweeden, Brazil, Finland, Japan the USA and many other parts of the world. He also drew chuckles with his account of sneaking off to the bathroom at night and bringing Tolkien along since there was no reading light in his room.

Laura Cooper, an expert on writing Tengwar used an overhead projector to begin her three-part series on how to write in Tolkien’s Elvish language. She assured everybody assembled that if they simply work at it, anybody can write the language. Her flock was both enthusiastic and numerous.

Friday night featured long-time friends “Emerald Rose” playing a full two-hour set much to the delight of the assembled fans. Many danced and frolicked as the Atlanta natives led listeners on a fantastic musical journey. The band will premier its newest CD at the “Night of Bree” event at DragonCon next weekend. They also tossed out rubber emerald rose rings that light up in a fantastic triad of colors. A TORn event just wouldn’t seem right and would be much less fun without our musically inspiring friends!

Saturday featured the always magnificent gentleman John Rhys-Davies who slipped into voices of Gimli and Treebeard from time-to-time. He talked about a variety of subjects from either prompts from the audience in the form of questions or just speaking from his own soul.

He teased the audience with broad outlines of films that he knows of being made. He laughed at the Hollywood machine that rushed out to make epics after Lord of the Rings only to see them fail at the box-office.

“If your big scene features battles with big elephants and war machines in it (Alexander), well, you are in real trouble after Lord of the Rings,” he said.

He talked about some days on the set of many of his movies, the meaning of art, what started him acting and how to be successful at it. Here are a few quotes from his overwhelmingly rich discussion:

On art: “All great art is moral.”

On J.R.R. Tolkien:“Tolkien’s life goes well and his is remarkable. He is a good teacher, a good father, a respected professor, his colleagues like him. Even his children like him! The only ripple, was this great battle (of the Somme in World War I).”

Putting LOTR in proper perspective: “Lord of the Rings is probably the great imaginative fantasy of the 20th Century”

On acting for a living: “It always surprises me that I haven’t got a job!”

On acting: “What I found I was doing wrong, was most of the time I was making excuses for myself”

On getting acting jobs: “The only enemy I’ve ever had, well I wear his shoes everyday.”

On the TV series “Sliders”. “It’s no secret that I had creative problems with the show. Basically, I was creative!”

More on Sliders: “The average American child watches 14 hours of television a week. We must be a little responsible about what we put on.”

On Gimli’s humor in the film: “It (the LOTR story) is an arc of dissention into darkness so you need a character who can break up the tension (for the audience)”

On Sean Bean: He is big and bold and handsome – (laughing) and frightened of helicopters! We would be flying into a location and we would see a figure (below) who left base camp three hours earlier” He also called Bean ‘a golden man’ who was porting a lot of luggage for an older couple. When Rhys-Davies asked for an introduction Bean explained he couldn’t provide one, he didn’t know their names.

On secrets of acting: “Get the right part! Someone will say, ‘Oh he is a major star’ and you are doomed if you believe it.”

He also took the time, when asked, to promote two pet passions. One is joining and supporting the planetary society. The other is to support the further exploration of possible sub-layers in Pompeii. According to Rhys-Davies those two frontiers of science are as important as things get.

He is famous for the care and kindness he gives to his autograph sessions and I must attest that every bit of praise heaped upon him is completely deserved. He is careful to make each person receives his full attention and is sensitive to those who maybe need extra minutes from him. He was gracious and generous.

Alas my report regarding Sean Astin cannot be as full. He did exchange a warm greeting with Rhys-Davies backstage and kissed his feet on stage. I had other pressing duties during Astin’s time with the audience but he delivered wonderfully to the crowd and was happy to comment extensively and answer all kinds of questions. Fans attending ELF almost always asked good questions and there was very little silly or selfish questioners.

I was able to hear Astin stress the importance of literacy and his value of getting a formal education. He wasn’t afraid to mention politics and does seem to have both an interest and an aptitude for such things. He was pleased to have a “pompous” answer ready when somebody asked what he was reading. During his years at UCLA he managed to graduate without reading any Russian literature but was pleased to report he is doing so on his own. He was happy to talk about his new daughter and how tiny she was being born a month early. She is apparently eating well and is now healthy and a “real porker”. He even said he wasn’t as beautiful as Vanna White and then insisted it was so but still expressed contentment with his own form of beauty.

Astin also signed and because of smaller crowds had more time to do so leisurely.

Further presentations that I can report on was a wonderful hour with writer (Film Score magazine) Doug Adams. He was in Howard Shore’s pocket much of the time and has written a book that will likely be released with a boxed-set edition of the full (or nearly) soundtrack of the Lord of the Rings movies. I was lucky enough to spend three minutes with a prototype of the book and I can say that I am absolutely sold!

Despite not having everything technically perfect for Adams, he was easy going and presented a panel on “Themes of the Lord of the Rings Score”. Astin and Rhy-Davies were both signing autographs at that point in the same hall that the musical presentation was in. Naturally this was a little disruptive but Adams won over the crowd who really seemed to appreciate vivid and specific details about various musical themes in the music. Even those who seem to have memorized the score found new insights that also appealed to those who didn’t know music as well.

Matt Appleton from Weta delivered a slideshow of personal moments both on the screen and behind the scenes of Lord of the Rings. It is still wonderful to hear from people who were there working day after day with all the passion that the fans hoped for. Again, I can’t make a full report, but it was great fun to have somebody visit form New Zealand.

Author Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn), artist Colleen Doran and jewelry maker Paul Badalli were on hand to discuss their interest in Tolkien and how it translated to their own artistic lives. Sadly I was again occupied with behind-the-scenes work and cannot give a full report except to say that these individuals were treasures and added significantly to ELF.

A personal highlight for me was the Saturday night desert party. Ice cream and cake and a cash bar awaited party-goers who finally had a chance to socialize with each other without a star in sight. Our own Garfeimao presented a traditional TORn game where audience members are asked to recreate portions of the movie or book. In what amounted to Tolkien karaoke, those attending the party made the most of the moment with prize winners getting great satisfaction and also some TheOneRing.net shirts.

Few who were there will forget the accidental panty flash, the death of the Witch King, the Badalli sisters putting on their prize t-shirt together at the same time, the slaying of a mumuk, Quickbeam’s robotic “Where is Gandalf?”, the pre-teen Gollum impression, flubbed lines and various drunken and sober moments. Trivia and more music rounded out the evening and then hearty souls continued talking into the wee hours of the night. Appleton from Weta fueled my already hot-burning passion to see King Kong! I am convinced LOTR fans have yet to grasp how great this film will be for everybody and not just Kong fans.

I also had to leave the convention on Sunday before Elijah Wood made his appearance. I leave it to others to finish the tale but TheOneRing.net warmly thanks all those who made ELF happen including actors, scholars, artists, volunteers and most especially, FANS!

The next partnership between Creation and TORn is the ORC (One Ring Celebration) in Pasadena in January. See Creationent.com for details!