As September 2nd draws ever closer, we’re seeing more and more glimpses of what is in store in Prime Video’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Most fans will already have seen the amazing images, and read the interviews, from the latest edition of EMPIRE magazine – including artist John Howe’s incredible snow troll sketch, which features on the cover of the special subscriber’s edition.
Back in early May, when staffers Justin and greendragon were invited by Amazon to join a group in London, to see footage from The Rings of Power and to talk with showrunners JD Payne and Patrick McKay, John Howe was also part of the gathering. There were gasps of delight from many in the audience when he was introduced; all were thrilled to have a chance to talk with such a legend. It was also reassuring to hear, from his own mouth, that Howe is actively involved in the design and creation of this new Middle-earth adaptation.
That same day, Prime Video also treated us to a closer look at three costumes from the show. Stay tuned for more from greendragon on what we saw and heard that day; we’ll also share posts from other sites, YouTubers, tiktokers and fans who were there. To start us off, here are Justin’s reflections:
[Continuing the high levels of secrecy around this show, there were no phones or recording devices allowed; therefore all quotations are paraphrased from notes & recollections.]
As the lights came up from the very first sneak peek at The Rings of Power footage (some of which we expect in the first proper trailer releasing at SDCC) the nervousness in the air was thick; not only from the thirty or so fans assembled, but also from showrunners Payne and McKay. Will we like them? Are they two of us?
“We were with you all refreshing TheOneRing.net every day for the latest news on Peter Jackson’s films!” McKay told us. These lifelong fans, Ivy League Yale educated, committed to their church, might be closer in disposition to JRR Tolkien than any filmmaker that has come before. They study every book, revision, note, letter, and interview Tolkien ever shared, to understand his motivations and inspirations. It is this thorough knowledge of the context of Tolkien that has inspired confidence from so many Tolkien influencers.
As the showrunners wrapped up the open-ended Q&A, the biggest surprise of the London trip occurred – artist John Howe walked out with a sketchbook in hand. He explained how he got involved, how much work has been put toward The Rings of Power, and took questions from an awestruck group of scholars, fans and podcasters.
“They just kept asking me to sketch things they were considering. There are 40 sketchbooks full of drawings for this show.” Howe then opened up his sketchbook to the original drawing of the ice troll. I find it very curious that our very first leak from the ROP set were photos of an icy mountain set, then leaks of a snow troll (instead of a cave troll), which carried through to the Super Bowl teaser featuring the troll, and now John Howe’s sketch. Did Amazon leak the icy set pics in the first place, as part of a long marketing game? Or is Prime Video responding to uncontrollable leaks and only revealing what’s already been hinted at? Howe did not turn the page to show any more drawings.
When asked how he keeps this new work separate from the award winning (and trademark protected) work with Peter Jackson, John Howe responded with incredible awareness and insight. “We are all professionals here in the room. You all understand running your business. Whether I’m designing for movies, or book covers, or a streaming show, there are creative briefs to respond to. But the people in charge also know what they are getting from all my previous work.” Howe went on to explain that the true creative separation from Jackson’s films is actually INSPIRATION in the new locations this show visits. “We’ve never seen the oceanic areas of Middle-earth, and it is incredibly exciting for me to discover the great seas and areas that haven’t been explored. That is the true departure from what has come before.”
While John Howe had a plane to catch, showrunners Payne and McKay hung around with fans for some social conversations in the lobby, where three actual costumes were on display. The two guys held their own in deep lore conversations with several Ph.D.s, such as ‘The Tolkien Professor’ Corey Olsen and Dr. Una McCormack. At any fan event full of world-leading-expert-podcasters, there is a tendency to weed out inauthentic creators with deep lore questions. Again, Payne and McKay held their own. There is a reason the reaction a few weeks ago was unanimously supportive of the showrunners: they know their Tolkien, and they know the lore.
The Rings of Power showrunner Patrick McKay suddenly confronted me in the lobby, as his conversation circle moved to catch up. Matt (Nerd of the Rings) was shocked at some of the things we talked about – secret things I’m still hesitant to reveal. McKay wanted to know how I felt about the footage. He was extremely interested in my honest opinion. He cares what we think, what our response is to the hard-earned work over the last three years, if we feel he’s doing right by Tolkien and by fans. My direct response was the footage “looked like it should”, as I wrote a few weeks ago. It wasn’t the overwhelming enthusiasm I think he wanted, but that’s the legacy this entire show is up against: the most awarded films in entertainment history make for a high bar set by New Line Cinema.
To close, here’s one exclusive comment I will share today: McKay was adamant that this sword (below) is NOT Narsil, despite our early spy reports from people who have laid eyes on scenes featuring this sword. We will find out what’s true September 2nd; but I can’t help but remember how adamant JJ Abrams was that Cumberbatch was NOT Kahn. The only job these showrunners had in Hollywood was working for JJ Abrams, before landing this dream gig in Middle-earth…
Newly-announced 2D animated feature to be produced by Warner Bros. Animation and Adult Swim team.
The rumors are true: Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema held onto the feature film rights to Middle-earth and are expanding Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth Cinematic Universe with a new 2D animated movie ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.’ Directed by Kenji Kamiyama, who is celebrated for his work on ‘Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex’ and ‘Ultraman,’ the studio has brought on the Emmy-winning writers who universally delighted fans with ‘The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance’ (creators Jeffrey Addiss and Will Matthews) to collaborate with Philippa Boyens.
Adult Swim’s Toonami executive Jason Demarco is on board as Producer. Besides being one of the leading creatives to bring anime to America, he is a huge Lord of the Rings fan and recently produced a Blade Runner anime series.
Wait, I thought Amazon had all the Tolkien rights now?
What we’ve heard from those who know, and reading the carefully worded press releases from both Amazon and WB over the last few years, here’s what is going on with the rights to Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings… The big thing is the fans win.
Allegedly the Tolkien Estate has brokered the rights to Middle-earth in such a way that Warner Bros. keeps feature film & motion picture rights, while Amazon can make all the TV series they want. In the first press announcement of the Amazon deal it was explicitly noted that Amazon intended “5 seasons minimum plus spinoff shows” — a clear sign that the monumental price would be recouped through many TV shows. Both companies own rights to The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and *anything* mentioned in the Appendices. Amazon cannot make movies, and WB cannot make TV series. The most interesting part of this new ‘War of the Rohirrim’ anime is that WB is known for direct Blu-ray releases (their excellet D.C. Comics animated films) and TV series like the popular Harley Quinn. It seems neither WB, New Line nor Adult Swim have ever released a major anime film theatrically worldwide so this will be a first as legally they probably have to release it theatrically.
Will it be set in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth Cinematic Universe (the MeCU)?
YES. Warner Bros Animation head says “We’re honored to partner with much of the incredible talent behind both film trilogies” a direct acknowledgement of the intention to stay in PJ’s MeCU. Oscar-winning writer of LOTR & Hobbit Philippa Boyens is credited as a consultant on this production.
The anime story is centered on an earlier King, Helm Hammerhand, who left his legendary mark on the history of Rohan such that his kin still talk about him centuries later. “The horn of Helm Hammerhand shall sound in the deep…” for the first time in this movie!
Our Staffer and Livestream Host Clifford “Quickbeam” Broadway has the most direct recommendation for those wanting details from Tolkien himself. Clifford states: “The most salient details of the Ninth King of Rohan are readily found in your copy of The Return of the King in APPENDIX A: ANNALS OF THE KINGS AND RULERS — just jump to Section II “THE HOUSE OF EORL” and find the paragraph opening with: ‘Of the Kings of the Mark between Eorl and Theoden most is said of Helm Hammerhand’ (page 346 HMCo Hardcover edition). And no, absolutely no, Helm Hammerhand did *not* become a Nazgul as depicted in the video game Shadow of War. Also there is a very brief note of reference Christopher Tolkien made: look at Unfinished Tales, Part Three: The Third Age, Section V “The Battles of the Fords of Isen” and see his endnote #4 if you’re as nerdy as I am about this.”
Kenji Kamiyama directed Ghost in the Shell and Eden of the East, and wrote for Blood the Last Vampire. Three of the best animes ever made. Now I’m incredibly excited about this, it’s like I had an early Christmas
“All of us at New Line feel a deep affinity for the extraordinary world J.R.R. Tolkien created, so the opportunity to dive back into Middle-earth with the team at Warner Bros. Animation is a dream come true. Fans know Helm’s Deep as the stage for one of the greatest battles ever put to film and, with many of the same creative visionaries involved and the brilliant Kenji Kamiyama at the helm, we couldn’t be more excited to deliver a fresh vision of its history that will invite global audiences to experience the rich, complex saga of Middle-earth in a thrilling new way.”
Warner Bros. Pictures Group COO Carolyn Blackwood and New Line president and CCO, Richard Brener
Harken back in time and you will recall that “The Hobbit” Rankin/Bass 1977 telefilm is billed as an American production but indeed was animated in Japan by TopCraft (much of this animation team would later go on to form Studio Ghibli, the standard-bearers of the greatest anime films ever). The team now working on ‘War of the Rohirrim’ is some of the top talent in the industry today. Casting is currently underway for voice actors, so we expect this new film to be released in theaters worldwide in 2023 or later.
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:
It looks like audiences will get to see a film about the origins of Middle-earth in a new film called “Middle Earth.” More on the name in a moment.
The Hollywood Reporter announced this morning the film will chart “the tumultuous events” that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write “The Hobbit,” and “The Lord of the Rings,” trilogy. (Actually the article said “trilogies,” but there is only one trilogy, as you know.) It is to be directed by James Strong who might be most easily recognizable as the director of two episodes of “Downton Abbey,” with the films “United,” with episodes of “Dr. Who,” as well.
The film also pairs two of the men who played a big role in Peter Jackson’s LOTR trilogy with New Line Cinema Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. They were the gentlemen who helped get those movies made when most of Hollywood wouldn’t touch them. Later they had a falling out with Jackson and eventually New Line collapsed and was swallowed by Warner Bros.
Shaye and Lynee will produce the new film through their Unique Features with Rachael Horovitz. Strong is currently directing the AMC/ITV miniseries “Liar,” according to the article.
Now, about that name. J.R.R. Tolkien distinctly named his created world “Middle-earth” not “Middle Earth.” If you think that isn’t a big deal, remember he was a professor of languages and literature who worked on the dictionary and created the whole thing in the first place because he was a linguist who was inventing languages.
So while it is easy to forgive a fan using Middle-earth as two words with capital letters, not so much in movie titles. Warner Bros., for example, while taking creative license with “The Hobbit,” got it right virtually every, single, time. To Tolkien, the subject of the biography, language matters.
And, to reverse things, nobody would excuse a title about the place “San-francisco” and not find it odd.
Making a biography about Tolkien, supposedly telling the story of his life, and getting that detail wrong in the title could be a bad sign.
On the other hand, this could be just a simple oversight by The Hollywood Reporter writer, but hey, the story also included a picture of Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins instead a picture of, you know, The Professor, so a mistake sounds pretty reasonable. That and stating that Tolkien had two trilogies makes it seem as least possible as a writer’s error. However, most of the info sounds like it was taken from a press release, which would prominently feature a title.
In any case, fans have more Tolkien and more about the creation of Middle-earth to look forward to.
If you haven’t read “J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography,” by Humpfrey Carpenter, it is essential. And, “Tolkien and the Great War,” by John Garth, is also excellent and covers the ground the film will attempt to cover.
The day has finally come and gone when many of you were lucky enough to view The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies in theaters. TORn’s facebook page, the discussion boards and Barli’s chat are all buzzing with excited observations! Many of our staffers saw it too and, as it TORn tradition, we’ll be featuring their comments and insights here, as well as a spoilery picture or two. Speaking of spoilers, they abound in the rest of this article, so read no further if you haven’t seen the EE yet and don’t want to be spoiled until you do!
Variety had a sit-down with New Line chief Toby Emmerich about the state of the modest, smaller and newly profitable New Line film studio and its new existence under the Warner Bros. umbrella. The conversation turned of course to “The Hobbit.” We learn, among other things that executive Michael Disco will oversee the two movies for the studio. Variety also spoke with Warner’s Alan Horn who, according to the article, “… won’t predict when the first of the two “Hobbit” films will be out, but says the most probable scenario would be a release in the fourth quarter of 2012.”
It concludes with, “It’s a big bet for us. But it’s one we think will pay off given the success of ‘Lord of the Rings,'” says Emmerich. “This is one of the few movies it feels like people are waiting for.”
We know a few people who are indeed waiting for these films. In fact that “2012” date that just got thrown around may start a riot. Remember fans, biting your nails and tearing out you hair will not make things happen faster, nor will turning over cars or looting – the latter two reactions only lead to jail time. Read the whole story here.