Daniel explained that the creating the actual film props turned out to be only part of his work. He went on to work with dozens of merchandising licensees, preparing a massive style guide for them to ensure uniformity in graphic presentation, and then also created the titles and graphics for the DVD releases in dozens of languages.
The scope of his work is pretty amazing: Every character and location in The Lord of the Rings has its own unique type treatment, a graphic style and look that helps communicate the essence of that character or place. Even individuals in the same culture were distinguished from one another – Daniel created different handwriting styles for Bilbo and Frodo even though they both wrote using the same hobbit alphabet. Daniel also trained the actors, like Elijah Wood and Ian Holm, who had to write on screen. Fan-favorite exhibits include Elijah’s calligraphy practice sheets.
After the Lord of the Rings, Daniel continued to work with WETA, creating maps and calligraphy for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and King Kong. If you saws these two films, you’d recognize his handiwork in Tumnus’ arrest warrant, signed and paw-printed by Maugrim, and in the map of Skull Island, which resembles a gorilla print, and the New York newspapers and posters.
In an informal Sunday morning breakfast, Daniel talked a bit about his recent projects. He was selected by the New Zealand government to work on a prestigious calligraphy project creating replicas of the Treaty of Waitangi (1840), the founding documents of the New Zealand nation, consisting of nine documents recording agreements between the British Crown and over five hundred Māori chiefs. The materials are a central part of an exhibition on the treaty, called Treaty 2 U, that’s touring New Zealand in a mobile exhibition trailer from January to May 2006.
He also worked on Dead Letters, a short independent film shot recently in Wellington by Quarter Acre Pictures and directed by Paolo Rotondo. The film, shot in just six days, is a wartime love story set in 1943 involving piles of letters sent to soldiers serving overseas. Grant Major is working on the film’s production design, and Park Road Post is one of many Wellington area businesses supporting the project. Dead Letters was one of only nine films funded by the New Zealand Film Commission’s Short Film Fund in 2005. It will be released this year.
For the film Daniel created letters in different handwriting. Daniel, or actually his hand, makes its film debut writing on camera, in an extreme close-up because the letter writer is supposed to be a woman. Like many others working on this independent film project, Daniel donated his time and talent.
He’s also created a set of illustrations for game cards for Hasbro’s upcoming game based on Pirates of the Caribbean (Reminder: Orlando Bloom fans can see their man in action as Will Turner starting July 7 in the US).
For ORC, Daniel had brought just under a hundred handwritten copies of Bilbo’s birthday party invitation to personalize for attendees and sell. They all sold out Friday, with lines forming at his table immediately after the presentation.
Daniel is a wonderfully talented, gentle, and unassuming artist. I found him standing in the back of the auditorium Saturday while Elijah and Sean were speaking and had to tell him more than once to go up and take an empty seat in the front so they could see he was there.