were invited to tour the Gentle Giant Studios just before Comic-Con to get an exclusive sneak peak of their HOBBIT line of mini-busts. This report will show you a few images of completed busts, and a few images of ‘works in progress’ so that you can learn what goes into making these delightful collectibles.

It was an invitation met with a resounding “yes!” by TORn staffers Garfeimao and Quickbeam, when both realized they could glimpse very early into the process of the digital magic at Gentle Giant.  The digi-wizards at GG provide incredibly high-res digital imaging of characters and pieces to filmmakers, visual FX companies like WETA, toy manufacturers, and animation studios.  The resulting 3D digitization can lend itself to effects work, masks, and remarkable sculptures…. More after the break with a gallery of exclusive images of yet-to-be-released HOBBIT characters!

Gentle Giant will be hitting San Diego Comic-Con big this year, with numerous exclusives from a wide variety of licenses (including STAR WARS and Guillermo del Toro’s PANS LABYRINTH). They have even begun work on one of their own, unique line of products called Honey Trap. Check out their website and some amazing galleries here.

But we are most concerned with the soon to be released HOBBIT mini-busts. Dwalin was announced a few months back as part of the Premiere Guild gift items, and Thorin Oakenshield will be one of their Comic-Con exclusives. When TORn toured the studio, they had just completed making the Gollum figure, but had not yet painted him, so you get to see Gollum in a natural grey sculpt straight off the production line. They were still in the process of finalizing the Gandalf design, so we can see techno-TRON-ic scanned images of Gandalf on their computer monitor. At the time of our visit, the first sculpt had yet to be made.

Gentle Giant has the ability to take a full body scan, or in some cases, a full scan of vehicles and the like, and digitize the images so they can make artistic changes or enhancements. They then build a 3D version of the digitized image in plastic, and then paint it to make a precise copy of the real person or thing scanned. So in the scanned images of Gandalf he’s monotone, there is little to see in the details of our photo.  Had the artist zoomed in we could have seen sections of the scanned character like a satellite gilding over and mapping a planetary surface. They can rotate the image and see it from all angles and re-size if necessary, or manipulate small details that need to be changed for production purposes. Once the image is finalized, the building begins, and it was described as “printing.” The Gollum was a freshly made mini-bust, and still had seams in the arms where they connect at the shoulder. That is cleaned up by artists before the item goes to be painted for the full detail.

This particular Gollum was HOBBIT specific, before the character had been captured and tortured in Barad-dur (as seen in FELLOWSHIP). Therefore he has no scars from whips or marks from being strung on the rack, etc.  Poor fellow has yet to encounter such misery… he has even yet to discover that Bilbo has found his misplaced Ring…

To get the proper coloring and the feel of costumes and the like, they do have a vast library of reference pictures of the person or thing they scanned. So, while some images of Thorin look black, the actual color of the coat he is wearing is a deep blue, reflected in our images. Obviously the grey figurine loses some of that detail, so it is necessary to have pictures from all sides in order to properly paint and fill out the look of any given figure. In some of the images below you will be able to see some of the detail of Dwalin’s scars and the Dwarven Runes tattooed on his head. None of that would have scanned. Clearly Gentle Giant has learned how to walk the fine line between just copying the real thing with the scanner, and creating cool collectibles that are mini works of art.

The whole team at Gentle Giant Studios is hard at work getting ready to launch their newest Con-exclusive items and introduce the world to an entire line of cool sculptures, although they are beginning with just four characters — Thorin, Dwalin, Gollum, and Gandalf.

Future characters we can expect will include Bilbo and all the remaining Dwarves, and perhaps even the myriad supporting characters in the HOBBIT. Any word on a *dragon* sculpture of some kind…?  Shhhhhh.  Nope, not a single peep.

The best kept secrets always come at the end.

Much too hasty,

Quickbeam & Garfeimao


Come see TORn at the Gentle Giant booth sharing with WETA Cave (Booth #3513/B) at Comic-Con this weekend and enjoy great fan events, trivia, and giveaways!