137_Cover We’re delighted to bring you this excerpt from Cinefex’s forthcoming behind-the-scenes account of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Written by Joe Fordham, the 25-page feature draws on in-depth interviews with key effects artists who worked on the film, and is accompanied by behind-the-scenes photos and frame clips — many of them exclusive.

Here’s a little teaser for you!

A prime focus for development was the title creature, Smaug, seen only fleetingly in the prologue to Film 1. “Smaug was pretty well developed for Film 1,” noted [senior visual effects supervisor] Joe Letteri. “We worked out the size and shape of his head and body, and created a four - legged dragon. But he was only designed for flashbacks and a closeup of his eye.”

Discussions of Smaug’s anatomy dated back to Guillermo Del Toro’s development of the film, prior to [Peter] Jackson’s directorial commitment, and referenced Tolkien drawings published in “The Hobbit” in 1937, as well as decades of subsequent illustrations by artists including the production’s two primary conceptual designers, Alan Lee and John Howe.

“We started with some fairly radical and unique dragon ideas for Guillermo,” related Weta Workshop co-founder Richard Taylor, who oversaw creature maquettes, prosthetics, armor and weaponry. “One of our designers, David Meng, did a maquette for Guillermo that stood six feet tall, with a nine-foot wing­span. We prepped that for molding, but it was never cast, sadly. When Pete took over, he felt that the dragon needed to be archetypal, as in many ways Tolkien’s writing of Smaug had instigated a lot of dragon archetypes that exist in modern cinema mythology.”

“We complemented that thought in our next round of designs. Jamie Beswarick, Daniel Cockersill and others did clay sculpts ranging in size from six inches long for a head sculpt, to two feet long for a maquette, and Andrew Baker, Greg Tozer and team did digital sculpts in ZBrush to complement the large numbers of 2D designs done by the rest of the Workshop design team. We worked those up until we got something that Peter was enjoying, and then shared that with Weta Digital. They then had the wonderful opportunity to work with John Howe, who undertook to see the final
design through.”

The feature will appear in the Issue 137 of Cinefex, which hits the streets (and the internet) in mid-March.

You can pre-order until March 3 either just issue 137 alone (go here), or as part of a subscription (go here).

Cinefex is also available through iPad. This contains all of the articles and ads appearing in the print edition, but includes nearly twice as many photographs, plus video clips. The Cinefex app itself is free — and readers can also download Issue 127 at no cost as a sample.

Cinefex Smaug