We now have our first released art for The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. Not concept art, but final stills of animation that gives us a concrete idea of the visual style and tone that Kenji Kamiyama and his team have settled on.

And I like it.

It seems to me that it hits an aesthetic that straddles the eastern and western animation.

There’s a naturalistic feel to the character designs that feels very grounded and without exaggeration. Eyes aren’t distractingly wide, chins aren’t overly pointed, limbs and heads all feel well-proportioned. The colours are solid and rich, but not distractingly glossy or saturated.

Perhaps it helps that the expressions say “serious business” (we’ll return to that, too).

Perhaps that says more about my own tastes in anime than anything else.

I’ve also seen a couple of people who were at Annecy reference Castlevania as an animation touchstone. I don’t really see it, but perhaps I need to watch more Castlevania.

So I love the character designs, but now I really want to see how they move.

Before I delve into each of the images in more detail, if you have yet to read Staffer Greendragon’s interview with Philippa Boyen’s, don’t forget!

The War of the Rohirrim animation still: Héra

HÉRA voiced by GAIA WISE in New Line Cinema’s and Warner Bros. Animation’s epic anime adventure “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Okay, so first because I can see the name complainers arriving en-masse already: go read my interview with Philippa Boyens – the name is “not so much based on the Greek [goddess] Hera, but a nod to the Anglo-Saxon [word].”

Héra is ourpoint-of-view character. Makes sense given everyone frigging dies. But what’s going on here? Where is it? Let’s attack that second point first.


It’s a dark scene. Perhaps sometime in the evening? It must be winter (or approaching it) because of the snow. Maybe the lighting is torchlight.

There’s a ramp and a wall which makes me wonder if it could be (what shall be known in the future as) Helm’s Deep. But the rope and the wooden structure on the ramp behind Héra don’t match. PJ’s Hornburg had a gate, but not a drawbridge. PJ’s ramp/causeway was also quite steep and curved.

Ultimately, I think we can dismiss it being before the gate to the Hornburg.

Maybe it’s further out – Helm’s Dike. I think Tolkien described Helm’s Dike as a ditch and a rampart, with a breach in it for the stream and the road to pass through. There’s a map on Tolkien Gateway that shows where it would be located.

If it were Helm’s Dike that might better explain the wooden structures. And the hutlike structure behind Hera might be a guard hut on the roadside. It would actually be quite a neat (read “nerdy”) detail if it were Helm’s Dike.

However, it might also be Edoras.

PJ doesn’t give Edoras a lot of quarried stone — notably the foundation of Meduseld itself, and the base of the outer defensive fence (topped with a wooden palisade).

That makes the stone wall we can see behind a puzzle to explain.

However, from a certain angle at the top of Edoras, but just below the Hall itself, you should be able to see the valley cliffs in the distance. That fits with the transition from the wall edge to the cliff that we in our animated still. Hopefully the images below help convey that. I wasn’t able to find the exact same angle though.

But Edoras has a dirt path with concluding stairs, not a stone ramp. And the hut isn’t there on that angle. Instead, it’s a wooden lookout tower.

Architectural details might change over time though. Especially after a siege/sacking — and, spoiler, Edoras is set to cop it in WOTR. So I don’t know if these are significant objections.

But if it is just below the Golden Hall, why is the horse in the background? The stables are not directly attached to the Hall and there’s no room for additional buildings on the Hall plinth. It’s a puzzle.

It could be lower down in the town somewhere, perhaps. The outermost fence seems difficult though because I think the wall would always obscure any wide panorama that would reveal the valley cliffs.

I can’t find any image that suggests that PJ chose to place an inner wall anywhere in Edoras.

I don’t think it could possibly be either Isengard, or Dunharrow. There are probably no other options within the context of WOTR.


Héra is challenging someone, but it doesn’t seem to be a life-or-death situation: the blonde fellow behind her is watching, but not alarmed. There’s a dog at the top of the ramp, but it doesn’t seem frightened either. The figures to the left do seem wary about whatever is happening, but aren’t moving to attack. The bonemasks that obscure their faces bear some resemblance of the helms of Isengard’s orc berserkers — as though they’re some primitive antecedent.

Orcs would probably be a scene of great violence, though. This seems more like a standoff/negotiation.

So perhaps they are actually Dunlendings. Yes, PJ’s Dunlending are universally bareheaded. But they’re also pretty rough and ready looking, and carry very primitive spears. I see one of our bonemask fellows bearing a similarly primitive spear.

So maybe they are accompanying Wulf/Freca to Meduseld at the beginning of the film. Perhaps the individual whom we cannot see is either Freca or Wulf, pressing an unwelcome suit before the all-important council meeting that kicks everything off?


Finally, there’s the sword that Héra wields.

I wonder if it might be Éowyn’s sword, mostly based on the way the blade narrows from hilt to tip. Also, it just seems kinda apt. My learned colleague ( 🙂 ), Staffer Greendragon, thinks it’s Theoden’s sword — Herugrim — because of the hilt shape and the double horse motif. And it’s an heirloom sword. Both options seem possible to me in the absence of a definitive comment from production, or alternate angles to examine.

The War of the Rohirrim animation still: The Gathering in Meduseld

(L-R) HÉRA Voiced by GAIA WISE, HELM HAMMERHAND voiced by BRIAN COX, HALETH Voiced by BENJAMIN WAINWRIGHT and HAMA voiced by YAZDAN QAFOURI in New Line Cinema’s and Warner Bros. Animation’s epic anime adventure “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Character design observations

I suspect this one is supposed to give us a feel for character art style, as well as Helm’s family. In some ways this is all a family affair.

  • Helm is a little less grim-looking than I expected. He looks quite noble, and is powerfully built. His hands, formed into fists, could probably break Orthanc itself.
  • Haleth looks about Eomer’s (Karl Urban) age. Looks very serious.
  • Héra actually seems older than Éowyn and maybe the eldest, even. She sits at the right hand of Helm, traditionally a more important position than the left? Right-hand man and all that.
  • Hama seems a late teen. Something about his manner suggests that He’s probably the reckless one/has something to prove which explains his death during a “sortie” while Helm’s Deep is besieged.
  • Helm’s children are all older than I expected as well – except Hama, perhaps.


It looks as though they are receiving an embassy. Initially I thought it might be that of Freca, but having read some reports on the content of the Annecy footage, I now wonder if it’s the emissary from Gondor that’s been mentioned in some places.

The War of the Rohirrim animation still: Wulf

WULF voiced by LUKE PASQUALINO New Line Cinema’s and Warner Bros. Animation’s epic anime adventure “THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE WAR OF THE ROHIRRIM,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

Character design observation

Knowing it’s Wulf takes the fun out of guessing, but the dark hair is typical of Dunlending ancestry. I do wonder how he gained the scar over the right eye. There must be an explanation for that at some point, for sure. Who, or what, was he fighting?


Stonework in the background could be Edoras, or it could be Helm’s Deep (besieging it). Really hard to say. The ropes around the wooden structure behind Wulf seem like some sort of temporary structure however. They could be siege-works. The concept art for the fall of Edoras (now well over two years old!) seems more indicative of a short, brutal siege led by the Mumakil not an extended one that requires siege-works.

Also it is winter though and it is snowing, and the siege of Helm’s Deep occurred during the Long Winter that was notably harsh.


I like the blurring on the snowflakes. It makes me wonder if they’ve filmed a snowfall and slipped that footage in – it doesn’t look like animation motions smears to me. But perhaps I’m wrong.