The annual tradition of determining who won or lost at San Diego Comic-Con is in full swing across the blogosphere. The all-volunteer staff of TheOneRing.net (who always attend on their own accord and dime) experienced all the booths, panels and exclusive lines at SDCC 2014.
After taking it all in, here are just a few reasons we think 2014 SDCC belonged to The Hobbit.
1. A Freakin’ Blinking Dragon
WETA Workshop set a new standard for in-booth experiences. Many other booths had virtual reality Oculus rift experiences, but there is something very communal about a big dragon that friends can photo-bomb together. There was nothing bigger and badder than SMAUG on the show floor.
2. Dragon Merch In All Sizes
LEGO Smaug. LEGO sets. 16″ scale WETA mini-Smaug. 1/10th scale WETA micro-Smaug. Dragon red t-shirts that only a book geek would understand (at this point). Eyebrow-accurate Thranduil collectible. Jeweled Elessar pendants. The Hobbit merchandise seen across the show floor is high quality must-have show pieces, not just a hot vinyl-of-the-moment.
3. Fans were sent to NEW ZEALAND
Warner Bros and Air New Zealand awarded two lucky fans an all-expense-paid trip to New Zealand for The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies opening. While many other sites think it was cool to bring Gotham City to SDCC, no other “cinematic universe” is sending fans to the ACTUAL world seen in the cinema. Middle-earth FTW.
The only fan+celebrity interaction everyone has been talking about is Benedict Cumberbatch saying “Button Lady” in his Smaug voice. Long-time TORN staffer Susanne a.k.a. the ghost of Hall H a.k.a. Button Lady waited in line for more than 30 hours to get into Hall H, then waited in line *inside* Hall H to ask a question of the Hobbit panelists. THIS IS WHAT COMIC CON IS ALL ABOUT.
5. “If you awaken that [fan], you’ll destroy us all!”
Lee Pace (Thranduil) and Andy Serkis (Gollum) did a 3:00am patrol of the Hall H line up, which at that point with 10,000 fans long nearly 2.6 miles and 95% asleep. Those who stayed awake were treated to the most awesome photo op of all the con, and the only celebrity+fan interaction that truly went viral all over the net. This is fan service! Of all the iconic characters these actors play in Halt and Catch Fire, Guardians of the Galaxy and Planet of the Apes, they are first & foremost identified by their Hobbit rules. Stars interacting with fans without publicists is another reason why HOBBIT WINS COMIC CON.
6. Peter Jackson trolls SDCC in costume.
Proving once again that the Middle-earth films are made “by fans, for fans of JRR Tolkien” director Peter Jackson walked the floors of comic con under disguise. He got to geek out with the rest of us because he’s still a fan.
7. All Star Panel with Stephen Colbert
Probably the greatest use of a contextually appropriate emcee for a panel, WB brought out the self-described “world’s biggest Tolkien fan” Stephen Colbert to chat with the all-star Hobbit panel. His jokes ran deep and were a treat to the hardcore fans in the audience, even slipping in a Grond joke.
This wasn’t a “known geek personality” who had to brush up on Hobbit knowledge before the panel — Colbert could have winged the whole thing and still be on point. Noticeably absent was Manu Bennett, a star in his own right through Spartacus and Arrow and the primary bad guy in the whole Hobbit trilogy. But the stories shared by Lee Pace, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Philippa Boyens, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Graham Mctavish, Benedict Cumberbatch, Luke Evans and Peter Jackson were hilariously off-the-cuff and so very appropriate for Comic-Con. Less PR, more personality. Hobbit won Hall H on merit.
8. The Fans
On every “best cosplay of 2014” list is at least one Middle-earth fan, many who attended our Lake-town Luau and ran to WETA Workshop booth to get our fan-drawn “Uncle Gan Wants You” shirt. Thanks to our friends at WETA, Badali Jewelry and Jens Hansen the fans celebrated and were celebrated by all. Middle-earth fandom, more than any other at SDCC, feels like it’s still owned and in control by the fans themselves.
The Hobbit at San Diego Comic Con 2014 hit all the high marks that fans young and old expect at this extravaganza. The actors were accessible, the videos were exclusive, the signings were not cut off short, and the fan experiences were all community-building.
The Hobbit demonstrated to all how to be a fan-oriented brand by engaging at all levels. From Hall H, to the Weta booth, to the Lake-town Luau, to the #TORNLive stream, to the late night photo-bombs… there is truly a sense of community between the fans, filmmakers and actors. The Hobbit won the hearts and minds of everyone at SDCC.
What was your favorite moment of SDCC? Comment below!
Editor’s bootnote: First, this piece is a wee bit late basically because I (Demosthenes) went AWOL for a few days post-trailer.
On the topic, I’m not a big fan of win-lose analogies — I just don’t see the arena of movies or comics or computer games as a zero-sum affair. There’s room for everyone to succeed. However, even as someone who was only seeing coverage from the outside, a couple of things about did stand out about The Hobbit at SDCC in 2014.
Perhaps the first was that The Hobbit… wasn’t just about The Hobbit. The theme of the Hall H presentation was really Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth, and there was a concerted effort to tie the effort of the last 15 years and more all together — through the ME highlights showreel, the presence of Elijah Wood, some of the questions (Blanchett’s comment about never expecting to return to ME comes to mind) and even in the callbacks to the Lord of the Rings within the teaser trailer itself.
Whether you view that as a natural conclusion to a long journey, or as a calculated ploy to leverage The Lord of the Rings to win folks and build buzz for the final Hobbit film, is your call. Keep in mind it could be both.
However, into these reckonings must also come the one box set to rule them all.
Jackson obviously would like for this ultimate box set to happen — and to include the deleted scenes he mentioned, the blooper reels, possibly the original pitch video for The Lord of the Rings and perhaps even the 2001 Cannes footage that proved such a huge launching pad for Fellowship. Now, I wouldn’t say all his thought is bent on it (he has this pesky hobbit film to finish at the moment), but with the work he’s supposedly been doing preparing some of his old films for blu-ray release, it must be in the back of his mind.
So I suspect there is some testing the waters going on here with the blessing of Warner Bros. marketing gurus. Both parties get to quietly gauge the demand/interest/excitement for a collector’s box set containing all six films while promoting something else. If it doesn’t really grab fans, they lose nothing.
If you’re thinking The One Box Set To Rule Them All (it’s a proper noun now) is a sure thing — that’s not necessarily the case. All that extra material is super-expensive for Warner Bros. to produce and package, and they’ll be closely examining whether the potential return justifies the significant resources they would have to sink into such an effort.
Which is why, I guess, if you do want The One Box Set To Rule Them All you better make start making some noise.