This has been a year of challenges and loss. Our collective experience of a global pandemic was peppered with losses in our intimate Tolkien community as well.

Today, on this last day of the year, we wish to take a moment to remember just a few of those in our community who left this earthly realm, and have found a far green country under a swift sunrise. Whether it was the patriarch of the entirety of Tolkien’s legacy, or the artist who created infamous cover art, they will all be missed – along with so many others who sailed into the West this year. We honour them all. Fare thee well!

  • Orson Bean - July 22, 1928 - February 7, 2020

The incredible 'Fantasy Film' section in WETA's 'Unleashed'
This is the Fantasy film section. Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

On December 15, 2020, WETA Workshop opened up Unleashed, a hybrid entertainment experience in Auckland that is part film set and part creative workshop. This project started as an idea about 3 years ago, but it was 18 months ago when they landed on the concept that would become Unleashed – A Fantastical Film FX Experience. WETA took over an entire floor at the SkyCity entertainment precinct in Auckland, at the foot of the Sky Tower. This finally gives WETA the space to grow and flesh out what they began with the WETA Cave and the Window on the Workshop experience they have in Wellington. 

The Health and Safety officer named Jeff, who greets visitors to the attraction - an otherworldly looking character.
Jeff, Health and Safety officer Photo by Sylvie Whinray

Upon entering, guests are greeted by Jeff, head of security and health and safety; who happens to be an animatronic character, voiced by Mark Hadlow, with 40 points of articulation. Guests will go on a 90-minute immersive journey, through several rooms that aren’t always what they appear to be. Jeff will get you started on your adventure to learn about the creation of three original films in the Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction genres. Each room will offer hands-on, interactive activities, such as sculpting, making armor, or tracing creatures. The concept is to show the creative process involved in filmmaking from the beginning through the final stages before release, and leave the guests inspired to take that creativity home with them.

Some sculpture work on display
Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

In addition to being a fun day tour experience for movie fans and tourists, this facility is big enough to be an event venue, a themed event venue at that: from small groups of 15 or more for things like Birthday or Anniversary parties, all the way up to large corporate or professional groups. There is room for receptions up to 700 people, or banquets of 300. And to add atmosphere, you can include an SFX make-up demo, hands-on workshops, guest speakers, and Middle-earth themed feasts. Makes one wonder if they will have space for some 20th anniversary partying next December…?

For details on where to find WETA Workshop Unleashed and all of their various tours and venue options, simply head over to WETA Workshop Unleashed

An incredible display at WETA Workshop Unleashed
Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

Here we are, at the final day of TORn’s Advent Calendar. We hope you’ve enjoyed our 24 days of posts: exploring Amazon’s new cast announcements, day dreaming about visiting New Zealand, taking a closer look at a seasonally appropriate work of the Professor’s, and even releasing some merchandise, to bring hope for the coming year!

It just remains for us to wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. We know that lots of people are alone this year, and that the holiday season will be very different for many. You may feel that you are ‘the furthest away from home you’ve ever been’; but we hope that you always find yourself at home in Middle-earth, in the pages of Tolkien’s books, in Peter Jackson’s movies, and here at TheOneRing.net. We are a Fellowship of Fans; one big, happy, geeky family.

For something extra special to end our Advent Calendar, a few actor members of our family wanted to send greetings to you all. These three charming dwarven fellows are sending love to everyone.

Continue reading “Christmas greetings! – from some familiar faces.”

Welcome to part two of our tips for touring New Zealand as Middle-earth. In our first segment, we covered getting around NZ and the Top Ten Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit locations.

Today we’ll offer a few options for itineraries as well some helpful additional resources.

Continue reading “Can We Please Go There and Back Again? Touring New Zealand As Middle-earth (Part Two)”

Twenty years. On December 19, 2000, a young TheOneRing.net was abuzz with news of LotR Christmas parties, a new spy photo of four battle-ready hobbits, and the big one: New Line Cinema was starting the countdown clock. Only 365 sleeps until The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring would make its long-awaited debut.

At the time, we hoped that the movie could live up to crushingly high expectations; that we would be transported, live-action style, into Tolkien’s Middle-earth. What many of us did not appreciate, though, was the thorough gob-smacking we would experience through Aotearoa – how completely transporting, impossibly immersive, and mind-bendingly beautiful this remote archipelago of New Zealand could be.

Now here we are, on the cusp of 2021 and a series of 20th anniversaries for movies that have never faded in their grandeur and emotional impact (not to mention meme generation power).  And like Bilbo, pandemic or no, the heart stirs and we long to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains! And lakes, rivers, forests, fields, and fens. New Zealand is calling.

For the LotR-lover, this is mandatory bucket list territory. But did I mention remote? New Zealand is a long flight from literally everywhere. Even flying from Sydney to Auckland covers more than three hours and two time zones. One does not simply pop by.  That means you need a plan, aspiring Kiwi-connoisseur. And TORn is at your service, with some thoughts on must-see filming destinations, an example itinerary or two, and some resources that might prove useful, should 2021 prove kinder than this last year to those itching to get out into the World again.

Note: This is the first part of a two part series. In this portion, we will review getting around NZ and the Top Ten Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit locations.

Continue reading “Can We Please Go There and Back Again? Touring New Zealand As Middle-earth (Part One)”

Wrapping up our our series on Amazon’s new cast members is the lovely Sara Zwangobani. Sara is an Australian actress who is best-known for her roles in a number of Australian TV series and soap operas. From recurring roles to guest appearances, Sara has appeared in Monarch Cove, Love My Way, and Don’t Stop me Now, among others.

Sara Zwangobani in The Lord of the Rings TV Series on Amazon Prime
Sara Zwangobani

Sara also has a number of stage roles under her belt, one of the most interesting of which included playing a female Marc Antony in Bell Shakespeare’s production of Julius Caesar in 2018, which toured around Australia. She also has a Lord of the Rings connection, having played the part of Rosetta in Sydney Theatre Company’s A Streetcar Named Desire in 2009, which featured Cate Blanchett as Blanche DuBois.  

Actor Sara Zwangobani, surrounded by masked cast members, as Marc Antony in Julius Caesar.
Sara Zwangobani as Marc Antony

Given her striking good looks, Sara could be cast in any number of roles in the new Amazon series. A Numenorean queen, or perhaps an Elf of Eregion during the time of the making of the Rings of Power? No matter the region and people of Middle-earth she becomes a part of, Sara is a perfect addition to the Amazon TV series cast.

Editor Note: Join TheOneRing.net as we focus on the recent cast member announcements for Amazon TV’s The Lord of the Rings inspired TV series. Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we will be taking a deep-dive into their previous work, relating that to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Today’s calendar is below!

Day 18 of TheOneRing.net's Advent Calendar 2020
Day 18 of TheOneRing.net’s Advent Calendar 2020