On April 7, 2020 the senior members of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings production team came together with fans to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first teaser trailer of LOTR, an online-only digital video that broke all online download records.
This digital trailer, released on Apple Trailers, was responsible for 30% of all internet traffic upon release according to Akamai. It surpassed the Star Wars Episode 1 trailer, arguable the most hyped film in history, in downloads the first day and first week.
Prior to this trailer, fandom was seen as “Star Wars.” This validated fandom and a different way of marketing and appreciating what fandom can bring. It created a different perception of the power of fans.
Gordon Paddison, VP Marketing LOTR
Michael Pellerin describes watching the LOTR trailer with Chairman Roy Disney at Walt Disney Studios, the parent company of Miramax that actually let LOTR walk away to New Line Cinema. “He just went huh, wow, good on them. Disney would have made it a company film. This is more of a visionary thing.”
Richard Taylor tells a heartfelt story of offering a job to a professional make-up artist early on, which was respectfully declined. “We were turned down by almost everyone… but when the trailer came out, a number of people we had pursued actually wrote back to me!”
“What Michael did under Peter’s leadership was to unpack everything about everything, the whole process. In that trailer the world got to see the first thing that Weta Digital was doing. There was unbelievable groundbreaking stuff being done. It was all so beautifully unfolded for the world.”
Gordon Paddison was New Line Cinema’s VP of Digital Marketing who took a risk engaging with fan sites early on. “Nobody is doing anything bad, its just that they care! That’s how you develop a relationship that lasts 20 years. It comes down to passion. Fans are passionate and I was a champion of the fans, as was everyone on this chat and Peter. A strategy of love is the best you can have.”
“Star Trek had been taking legal action and shutting down fan sites for years. This was the beginning of embracing fandom and we developed a great relationship working with you guys [at TheOneRing.net]. This video changed the velocity & tone of the fan response.”
“Peter was so good at saying very early to the fans that this is not the definitive version of Lord of the Rings, this is my personal impression of what the films should be. It did a lot to right-set the filmmaker vision and set us on a journey that was really humble. “
“I have a very in-depth trust in Peter. When he came to us that he wanted to do this trailer, there was no question that it was the right thing to do. I hadn’t seen a trailer like this, so I was surprised that there would be this level of reveal.”
Co-Producer Rick Porras describes the unique vision of this first teaser trailer, “What made it special was intercutting the old footage and seeing the filmmaker talk about it. Including Peter [in the video] really started something special.”
A big reveal is that the this teaser trailer actually includes footage of the original pitch package for studios to even make LOTR. Everything with Peter Jackson in a white shirt was part of the pitch package delivered to Miramax, New Line, and all other potential studios. New Line Cinema of course saw the vision and financed the films.
“The fans were so engaged. Normally you can hide under a rock for a while. The fans were getting materials and putting them out. From my experience you don’t want to get into a fight with your core market. We had to feed them!” Gordon Paddison acknowledging the fourth estate of filmmaking – the fan community.
Jed Brophy, in addition to playing many orc characters, was a horse rangler on the film and is actually in the teaser trailer as one of the nazgul nine. “It is a pretty incredible thing to see something you’ve done, which is just another day at work.”
Executive Producer Mark Ordesky was fully supportive of Peter & Gordon’s efforts releasing this teaser. “The best way is tell your own story before someone else tells it. What was genius about the trailer is Peter basically showed how he’s going to do things that you can’t possible imagine.”
“Think with hope, not with fear. I have come with answers.”
One of the fun tidbits revealed was that the ringer verse voice over was performed by Nick Tate, who has done everything from Jurassic Park to Spongebob. The Tolkienist was the first to reshare the discovery with fans!
Michael Pellerin expands on the Roy Disney story, confirming that LORD OF THE RINGS was indeed a Disney film at its inception because of the Miramax deal. Miramax was a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, and to this day Harvey Weinstein is credited as Executive Producer on LOTR.
“In April of 2000, I was in NYC in an audio recording session with Roy Disney, for a project I was finishing up with him. I had been counting down the days until the first LOTR online preview was to be released and it just happened to occur while we were in the studio. I tried to be as surreptitious as I could, waiting for the preview to drop on my laptop. But Roy could see I was obviously up to something — probably not having to do with our show. So he asked me what I was doing, and I fessed up to him that the first LOTR preview was about to appear online, and I couldn’t miss it. Instead of reprimanding me, Roy said we should all take a break from the session and watch it together — which we did.
When it was over, Roy turned to me and was duly impressed. He said he thought Peter and New Line were really going to pull off what many felt was impossible — a motion picture of The Lord of the Rings – and that the project had found the right home, after all, with a director who was clearly a visionary. This was an amazing comment by a man whose progenitors founded the Walt Disney Company, and who himself was one of its chairmen. Especially in light of the fact that Disney that was the parent company of Miramax, the studio that was originally producing Peter Jackson’s film version of LOTR, before it went into turnaround and ended up as a trilogy of films for New Line Cinema. Technically speaking, Peter Jackson’s LOTR was originally a Disney film, in its inception. So hearing Roy Disney express the same hope and feeling of excitement we all had watching that preview, felt like a sense of closure to a long journey that began in 1997, and was soon to make cinematic history.”
TheOneRing.net wants to thank all the participants for engaging with the fans from those early days to now, 20 years later, in such a respectful and candid nature. THANK YOU Gordon Paddison, Richard Taylor, Jed Brophy, Mark Ordesky, Michael Pellerin, & Rick Porras for making the time to celebrate this record setting trailer release.
Watch the entire conversation as it streamed live here:
The American Cinematheque will be screening their annual LOTR Extended Edition Trilogy marathon on Saturday, September 12 at the Aero Theater, 1328 Montana ave. in Santa Monica. In addition to the films, this will also be a tribute to Christopher Lee and Andrew Lesnie with discussions between the films with executive producer Mark Ordesky, and more guests to be announced. For details on how to get tickets and directions, please go to American Cinematheque website.
As usual, TheOneRing.net will be at the theater all day long, but in lieu of trivia contests on stage between films, we will host a few ‘pop trivia questions’ in the concession lines. After all, what else are you going to do while standing in line when you could be having fun winning stuff. All this because there will be special guest appearances on stage during the intermissions. The Cinematheque is bringing in a Food truck for the intermissions, so there should be a little bit of variety for food options, yum.
For those of you who reside in LA and have attended some of these Cinematheque trilogy screenings before, you know there is nothing more entertaining than getting to see these films on the big screen again, and with a bunch of fellow fans. Hopefully a few of you are on their mailing list or are members of the American Cinematheque. After all, with the LOTR trilogy being an annual event, chances are you will want to attend every year, and in between Trilogy screenings, they offer some other pretty cool programming all year long. Between foreign language films, indie films, classics and some really avant garde films, many of which they also bring in cast or crew members, it feels like a year round film festival. And membership will get your discounted tickets, most of which will be $7 per show (and $10 for this trilogy), free ‘members only’ sneak preview screenings, and priority ticket purchase and entry for certain screenings. For more details, just head to their membership page.
WETA Digital has released a brand new two and a half minute video exclusively to the The Hollywood Reporter detailing the creation of the dragon Smaug. Thanks to Ringers Makaw, Brandon, Will P., and Jesse for notifying us about the video!
The Hollywood Reporter also spoke to Smaug VFX artist David Clayton (who is nominated for an Academy Award for his work on the film) about the process of translating actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s motion capture performance into the fire-breathing creature you see on the screen in The Desolation of Smaug. (more…)
Welcome to the latest “Getting to know” – questions that need answering. It’s based on the old Getting to know you threads that I occasionally post on the message boards here on TORn, so those familiar with them will know that the questions can be a little crazy and the answers even crazier.
This month we’re asking questions of self-described Online guy at Weta Workshop and all round top bloke, Magnus Hjert.
Greetings all — as the Golden Globes have upset the table of this year’s Awards season (away from LINCOLN and in favor of ARGO), we have much shared excitement for upcoming HOBBIT: AUJ nominees Peter King (pictured here with WETA’s Richard Taylor), Dan Hennah, Joe Letteri, among others! TheOneRing.net is planning a big to-do here in Hollywood on the night of February 24th, THE ONE EXPECTED PARTY, in the tradition of our grand Oscar Parties of years past. Today on our *live* webcast TORn TUESDAY, your genial host Cliff “Quickbeam” Broadway will discuss the rarified air of Hollywood’s awards season and how THE HOBBIT is performing worldwide as fans eat it up. Our webcast begins in a few minutes at 5:00PM Pacific Time, watch and join our innovative chat here on our Live Event page or here at Stickam (where you can turn on your camera or login with your smartphone)! Everyone join the mischief — we have a party to plan!
On a day usually marked by celebrations, we are very sad to report the untimely death of our Kiwi friend, Mike Hopkins, who worked alongside American compatriot Ethan Van der Ryn as Sound Editors on the LOTR Trilogy. Mr. Hopkins (pictured on the left with Van der Ryn) would go on to win Academy Awards for Sound Editing on two of Peter Jackson’s films: The Two Towers and King Kong. He and his friends were rafting in the Tararua Range when their watercraft capsized. The complete story can be found here at Stuff.co.nz.
Ringer fans have in the past met Mr. Hopkins at public events and our own Oscar Parties held for LOTR cast & crew, where he showed extraordinary humility and appreciation for the love showed by our unique fandom. The staff of TheOneRing.net are deeply saddened at this tragic news and extend their sympathy and prayers to Mr. Hopkins’ surviving family and friends. We wish him godspeed on his new journey, certain that he can make the thunder of Heaven sound that much sweeter to the ears of the Divine.
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” features at least 13 dwarves, a hobbit lead and a Shire-full of supporting hobbits, three wizards, an elven queen and many more characters, and that’s just the first film in the Peter Jackson trilogy; Britain-based designer Ann Maskrey was tasked with creating costumes for them all. Maskrey is new to Middle-earth, but her previous work includes designing costumes for the “Star Wars” prequels, “Clash of the Titans” and Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland.” Hero Complex recently spoke with Maskrey about the challenges of dressing the dwarves and designing the look for a new wizard. Read the full article on the Los Angeles Times here.
Warner Brothers has kicked off their Awards Season website for many of their films, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey among them. The page links to the Official Website and trailer, gives a brief synopsis of the story, and then lists all the names of the people who worked in eligible categories, from the Writers to the Sound Effects people, and a few of the actors. And just as a tease, there is a list of screenings, but those screenings are for Academy voters and members of the various Guilds (Screen Actors, Writers, Directors, etc) only. A full list of eligible names and categories below. Hopefully this means we will have a lot to celebrate at our own Oscar Party! [Website]
Welcome to our latest “Getting to know” questions that need answering. This month we’re talking to the one and only Balrog Showgirl, Nicole Roberts.
Hi Nicole and a very big thank you for taking part and for being so patient with me.
This first question is from Rosie-with-the-ribbons who’s latest costume for RingCon has been inspired by your Balrog Showgirl costume.
R-w-t-r: Do you make your costumes yourself?
Nicole: Rosie – that is awesome! Yes, for the most part the costumes I’ve been running around in for the past several years have all been of my own making. I only started sewing back in 2004, after I moved to Los Angeles and started hanging out with even more LOTR people. The first costume I made was to wear to Comic Con that year – I was the Mumak Mahud (the guy with the black and white painted face who steers the oliphaunt in ROTK), so you could definitely say I’ve always leaned towards costumes that were a little off the beaten path! I’ve done some costumes that were direct recreations (“Barf” from “Spaceballs”is the most well-known one), but as I’ve gotten more into the sewing, I really like doing things that are more of an original design, like the Balrog Showgirl. As someone who is not of supermodel proportions (and seriously, those chicks look like scary walking lollipops anyway), I like to have the opportunity to design something that I think is more flattering to me, and I always like to learn how to do something new, like dyeing feathers for the showgirl headdress.
The sword-fighting trainer and choreographer passed away today, at the age of 89.
Bob Anderson was a behind-the-scenes name little known to many fans but who had a tremendous impact not only on the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but on cinema itself. Anderson’s many credits include: Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Princess Bride, Highlander and much more. [Read obit from AP]
From thelordoftherings.net: “Bob Anderson, the world’s top sword master who has consulted on such films as Star Wars and trained the legendary Errol Flynn, was also brought in to train the actors in different fencing techniques. An expert in medieval arms, Anderson read the novel and then developed sparring methods based on Tolkien’s descriptions of each culture.”
Fans will recall that prior to Peter Jackson’s coming down with that nasty stomach ulcer earlier this month (the man’s doing fine now, bless him!), filming of The Hobbit was supposed to begin on 14th February 2011, with Ian McKellen’s first day of filming due yesterday, 21st February 2011.
So it only makes sense that with the films’ official start date now pushed to 21st March 2011, the Grey Wizard is EARLY! He consequently took the time today to make his first blog post ‘From the middle of Middle Earth‘ in a neat little section titled Notes from Imladris on his official website. Excerpts follow:
I hadn’t intended last Thursday to arrive in Wellington for The Hobbit filming, five weeks early. Yet, what’s new? Just a year ago I had expected to start shooting in July 2010, with Guillermo del Toro in charge… A year on, filming was to start at the end of February 2011. Then, Peter Jackson had his stomach operation. The insurance company has insisted on five weeks recuperation. Which is why, yet again, I’m here early. Waiting for Bilbo.
In related news, our friend Jack who lives down in New Zealand has updated his ‘Noldor Blog‘ with an interesting post. Between running into Sir Richard Taylor and Peter Lyon, he also ran into none other than Andy Serkis this last Saturday night at a diner in Wellington.
Looks like the place is abuzz with activity with The Hobbit shoot now less than a month away!
Below is the statement just released by Sir Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger over at wetanz.com:
On behalf of all our friends and colleagues at Weta Workshop, we send our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all of the people from around New Zealand and the world who have sent us their messages of support.
Everyone here has tried to stay optimistic for a positive outcome but in the darkest days of the past week it has been the amazing support from the fans of LOTR and our family and friends which has given us the resolve to stay cheerful and positive about the outcome for these films.
It is a fantastic result reported tonight by our Prime Minister, the Honourable John Key, and we are grateful for the support of our Government in recognising the challenges our film industry was facing.
We are also very pleased that Warner Bros are happy to continue to see these films made in New Zealand – and thank them for their efforts.
Most importantly our thanks go out to Peter, Fran and Philippa, for their unrelenting efforts to see these films made in our country. We are very lucky to work with such passionate film makers.
All our best and cheers to you all.
Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger
I might add we’re lucky to have such passionate people as our friends at WETA working on these beloved stories too. Our very best wishes are with you as you embark on your journey into Middle-earth once again!
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