New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM today announced the official full titles and release dates for both films adapting J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. The Peter Jackson directed films are currently in production and it remains to be seen what additional material is being added in order to bridge these two films with Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. For now, though, we have The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey being released on December 14, 2012 and The Hobbit: There and Back Again debuting on December 13, 2013. The 1937 novel is actually called The Hobbit, or There and Back Again, so it stands to reason that one of the films would bear this name. The Unexpected Journey is actually very fitting and suitably Tolkien-esque, so that works as well. Now that those formalities are out of the way, expect the excitement to heighten!
Honestly, I was dreading both of these films back when Peter Jackson was not going to direct. The man knows the books inside and out and defined the look of Middle-earth for, well, for ever, as far as I am concerned. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about a different interpretation of the Shire and other locales. Peter Jackson released frequent video diaries during the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and he continues the tradition with The Hobbit duology. Here is the first:
[Updated 6/8- now with pictures!] For the first time ever, Weta Workshop is opening the doors to part of the visual effects facilities to visitors. The multiple Academy Award-winning company behind the magic of movies such as Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Narnia, is inviting fans to visit them in Miramar, Wellington at the Weta Cave.
Not a typical shop, it is designed it be both fun and artistic and offers three experiences- a mini museum, a theater and a gift shop.
“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to do this”, says Weta creative director and co-owner Richard Taylor. “Tania and I have had this dream for years and we are incredibly pleased that we’ve managed to realize it.”
“We know a lot of people have wanted to see what we’re all about!”, Richard continues. “It’s one thing to see it on the big screen, but this way we can give Wellingtonians and visitors a much closer view of Weta.”
The museum allows visitors to come face-to-face with some of the characters, props and displays which have been selected from the more than 20 years Weta has been serving the local and international movie industry. Accompanying these pieces are the stories of how they were brought to life, and about the artists who created them, giving visitors a greater understanding of the creative process.
The theater, also known as the Weta Cave screening room, will feature a behind-the-scenes look at Weta via a brand new and unique 20-minute film. It features interviews with Weta co-founders Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and Jamie Selkirk and gives you exclusive insight into the creativity and imagination that goes into crafting the art of Weta.
“Viva WETA and the many ‘toys’ they make! And may Cthulhu give me more shelves to put them on…”
Guillermo del Toro
The Unexpected Party
Finally, so that you don’t have to leave the Weta Cave without a keepsake, the shop features a wide range of movie related merchandise and memorabilia:
– Premium, limited edition sculptures, hand-crafted by the artists at Weta
– All new, unique Weta designed clothing, jewellery and mementoes
– Doctor Grordbort’s range of amazing Rayguns – a Weta original
– Books, DVDs, magazines, posters and art from the world of movies
On top of that is a selection of pop culture collectibles and graphic novels sourced from around the world, such offering include brands like Star Wars, Alien, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, Halo, etc
The Weta Cave is located at the Corner of Camperdown Rd and Weka St, Miramar, Wellington.
For those of you not fortunate enough to live near Wellington, it is only about a 16 hour flight from Los Angles. As you weigh the price of airfare, takes this pictures into consideration:
Earlier today Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro held a live online chat session to discuss the making of the Hobbit and the companion film. For over an hour the two fielded questions and answered the top twenty previously submitted questions. Weta has announced that over 4,000 questions were submitted before the event, which was attended by 6.000 fans who asked an additional one question per second throughout the session.
If you were lot lucky enough to have been there in real time, below you will find the top 20 questions or you may read the entire chat transcript here.
Peter Jackson We have them in a super exciting count down form and will start with Q20. We have chosen 1 question but in the case of these 20 they represent many 100s of similar questions.
Question 20 – Will you be doing less location shooting this time because your set builders, digital effects teams etc have become so proficient?
Peter Jackson Middle-earth is location, with very few structures really. It’s a natural countryside and that’s where a lot of shooting will take place.
Guillermo del Toro Location will be favored and real set construction.
Guillermo del Toro I love REAL set construction and think that sets are very important
part of the storytelling and scope of a film…
Question 19 – My question is to Guillermo, what can we expect from your vision and approach with this picture and I’m guessing there will be a lot of dark elements to this film, but how far will you go in terms of horror and violence?
Guillermo del Toro I hope that Mirkwood can be pretty scary but not graphic, I hope Riddles in the dark has an element of fear and suspense and to be deeply atmospheric but still allow the ingenious, engaging contest to take place. And Smaug should be all shock and awe when he unleashes his anger so, it will be pretty intense but not gorey.
Question 18 – What do you envision Gandalf’s role will be in this film? He seems to go off on his own and disappear in several sections of the book. Do you want to stay faithful to that or give him a more active role? How do you think you’ll ingratiate his character into an effective, cinematic storyline?
Guillermo del Toro I believe that Gandalf is meant to be used in that way- coming and going in and out of the narrative. If anything, this creates the perfect setting for those “gaps” to be bridged by the second film…
Peter Jackson Those gaps are great! There’s a lot of stuff going on, which is distracting him. I’m just pleased to be getting Gandalf the Grey back for two more movies. Ian and I loved him best. We were a little sad when the Gandy the White took over.
Question 17 – Dear Peter Jackson, I enjoyed your cameos in the LOTR movies, will you have a cameo in this Hobbit, and what character would you like to play?
Peter Jackson I actually haven’t thought about it. My convention is to do cameos in films I direct. I don’t know if that extends to films I produce. I guess we’ll find out. I love Hobbits! I am a Hobbit, in very many respects, as were my parents. Tolkien wrote about a type of people he knew, in pre-war England, and somewhere along the line, he must have bumped into my relatives!
Guillermo del Toro Unlike Peter, I’m a Dwarf ( a coarse creature I am)- but I studiously avoid cameos…
Question 16 – Peter: What was it about Guillermo that made you feel he was the right guy to continue on the saga of Middle-earth? Are the two of you on the same page for the vision, direction, and style that these movies will have? If the two of you disagree on a point, who wins out?
Peter Jackson I’ll talk more about this in a later question, but watching his films, he has respect for fantasy. He understands it, he’s not frightened by it. Guillermo also understands character, and how the power of any movie is almost always linked to how closely we empathize with characters within the story. His work shows great care and love for the main characters he creates. He also has supreme confidence with design, and visual effects. So many film makers are scared of visual effects – which is no crime, but tough if you’re doing one of these movies!
If we disagree, the director has to win, because you should never force a director to shoot something they don’t believe in. But we’re both reasonably practical and ego-free, and I believe that if we disagree, we both have the ability to express our differing theories – state our case, like lawyers – and between us, work out what’s best for the movie.
Question 15- Will you be using the same production team ie. Special effects, art directors, cinematographers, composer etc..
Guillermo del Toro Many of them will be back. I will supplement the FX departments, the design departments (with very interesting names), but the crew will utilize as many of the original elements as possible.
Question 14 – In the Hobbit book, we have talking trolls and the Eagles and Smaug talks as well, however in the LOTR Trilogy, trolls did no more than grunt, Fellbeasts screamed, and the Eagles, who were meant to talk, just stayed silent. How much will the portrayal of such animals change in the Hobbit?
Guillermo del Toro I think it should be done exactly as in the book- the “talking beast” motif has to exist already to allow for that great character that is Smaug. It is far more jarring to have a linear movie and then – out of the blue – a talking Dragon.
Question 13 – Do you intend to play this one by the Book (The Hobbit that is) and make it a very light children’s tale on film, or do you plan to stick with the much darker treatment- in keeping with the LotR films – particularly the latter ones?
Guillermo del Toro We’ll see about the “Tra-la-la-“ later- but the book, I believe, in echoing the “loss of innocence” England experienced after WWI, is a passage form innocence to a darker, more somber state- The visual/thematic progression should reflect that in the camera style, color palette, textural choices, etc.
Peter Jackson As I said earlier, I personally feel that The Hobbit can, and should have a different tone. The “tone” of these stories shouldn’t be defined by the pressure our characters were under in LOTR. The world is a different place at the time of the Hobbit. The shadow is not so dark. However, what should stay the same is the reality of Middle-earth, and the integrity we bring to it as film makers.
Question 12 – Peter: During production of the trilogy, there were days where there were several filming crews working simultaneously, with different people directing. Would you ever want to head up a crew and direct the shooting of a scene for a day?
Peter Jackson Most directors prefer to direct everything themselves. I thought I could on LOTR, but very quickly found out that the sheer scale prevented it. Instead of a 15 month shoot, we would have shot for 3 years! Guillermo always shoots his own material, so we’ll do our best to construct a schedule that allows him to do that. It will depend a lot on how the scripts break down. I’d happily shot some second unit stuff, anytime Guillermo asked me to. But let’s see what happens.
Question 11 – Guillermo del Toro is an accomplished director. I just wondered whether ok not, he will bring more prostetics, animatronics and physical effects to the film, as he does with such films as Hellboy and Pan’s Labyrinth (which are great films by the way)? Or will Weta Digital still have their work cut out for them with VFX?
Guillermo del Toro I plan to mix CGI and PHYSICAL in such a way that your eye wonders which is which- keep you mind busy but NEVER allowing for the weaknesses of either tool to take over. Yes, I have, by trial and error, learned that both tools need to be mixed and how much they must be mixed to succeed in creating environments and living creatures. WETA is the lead house, absolutely but we will expand the creature team and beef up the prosthetics team. Imagine a physical creature with a radio controlled muscle / facial system but with partial CGI replacement on the head or mouth, etc and you’ll start to get the idea…
Question 10 – Will Alan Lee and John Howe be on board again?
Guillermo del Toro As I said, I had a marvelous lunch with John and Alan in London a few days ago and we all got very excited as we discussed my ideas on Smaug, Mirkwood, etc They are most definitely back!
Peter Jackson Impossible to imagine it without them!
Question 9 – Peter Jackson Peter, perhaps you could clarify what your role will be in the production of these films: What exactly does an executive producer do? Will you follow that model or “forge your own path?” How will Guillermo’s role and your role be different? Do you plan on writing the script again with Fran and Phillippa?
Peter Jackson Truth is “Executive Producers” do a range of things on movies from a lot to virtually nothing! I see myself being one of a production team. My interest is helping Guillermo make the very best films he can. I love writing and I’m looking forward to that. Guillermo will be writing, along with Fran, Philippa and myself. As a director, I could never direct something I didn’t have a hand in writing, and we’re not expecting Guillermo to do that either. If the director is part of the writing, it means he was there when the discussions took place, story decisions were made … he knows why things are the way they are, and what they need to achieve. Everything is in a script for a reason, and only by being part of a writing team (or writing it yourself), do you really understand the intention of every beat. I see my role as being part of that writing team, which will create the blueprint, and then helping Guillermo construct the movie. I want Guillermo to make his movies, and I want to make sure we end up with a 5 movie series that’s as good as it can possibly be.
Question 8 – I always thought creating Gollum would pose a great artistic challenge to the artists whose job it would be to adapt the Lord of the Rings. With the Hobbit I believe Smaug will pose one of the great challenges. Now we have all seen dragons in movies. But for the Hobbit I personally am excepting nothing less than unbelievable . Were will you go for inspiration? What styles will the art direction look at?
Guillermo del Toro This is a big one– Allow me to quote form my random responses at Onering.net… I am a big Dragon fan. I’ve said it before- And I was fortunate enough to be born a Dragon in the Chinese Horocope…
And although its always impossible to agree on the “greatest” of anything, I bring forth these two as the main film contenders for that title: Eyvind Earle / Disney’s Maleficent dragon ( a triumph of elegance of color and design) and Vermitrax Pejorative from Dragonslayer.
In my opinion, every other design has borrowed heavily from these two. I plan to create something new and groundbreaking.
Smaug should not be “the Dragon in the Hobbit movie” as if it was just “another” creature in a Bestiary. Smaug should be “The DRAGON” for all movies past and present. The shadow he cast and the greed he comes to embody- the “need to own” casts its long shadow and creates a thematic / dramatic continuity of sorts that articulates the story throughout-
In that respect, Smaug the CHARACTER is as important, if not more important, than the design. The character will emerge form the writing- and in that the Magnificent arrogance, intelligence, sophistication and greed of Smaug shine through- In fact, Thorin’s greed is a thematic extension of this and Bilbo’s “Letting go” and his noble switching of sides when the dwarves prove to be in the wrong is its conceptual counterpart (that is a hard one to get through, Bilbo’s heroism is a quiet, moral one) and the thematic thread reaches its climax in the Bilbo / Thorin death bed scene.
Anyway, back to Smaug: One of the main mistakes with talking dragons is to shape the mouth like a snub Simian one in order to achieve a dubious lip-synch. .. A point which eluded me particularly in Eragon, since their link is a psychic one.
To me, Smaug is the perfect example of a great creature defined by its look and design, yes, but also, very importantly, by his movement and -One little hint- its environment – Think about it… the way he is scaled, moves and is lit, limited or enhanced by his location, weather conditions, light conditions, time of the year, etc. That’s all I can say without spoilers but, if you keep this curious little summary you’ll realize several years form now that those things I had in my mind ever since doodling the character as a kid had solidified waaay before starting the shoot of the film.
A big tool is also how and when he is fully revealed. I could give you specifics- beat-by-beat in fact (I’m geeking out to do it), but… I will say no more in order to save you from ruthless spoilerage (we have a few years to go, you now…?) and increased anxiety. Let me, however, say that this is actually one of the points I feel most enthusiastic about. As to his voice- well, each reader has a Smaug voice in his / her head, just like you always do when “hearing” a great character in a book. I have mine… and it will be revealed in time…
Question 7 – How important is it to you to create overall consistency between Peter’s LOTR films and Guillermo’s? in terms of the actors, look and feel, scenery, score, fx — is your aim to have them stand on their own or sync up with the trilogy?
Guillermo del Toro I believe that it’s a little bit of both- the world must feel like the same world. The aspect ratio, music, essential established costume and production design trademarks but I would love to bring a lot of new flavours to the table. THE HOBBIT is, in essence, an overture to a massive Symphonic work so main themes are reprised but new modulations and new colors are introduced, thematically and texturally.
Peter Jackson I love Guillermo’s symphonic allusion. The “overture” can have a different flavour, a different texture, yet be a carefully crafted introduction to what’s to follow. Film Two is perfect to dramatize the shift in Middle-earth that propels us into the dark days of LOTR. If LOTR is World War One, then the Hobbit is like an Edwardian adventure tale, set in the days before world notices the looming storm clouds.
Question 6 – Will Weta be releasing figures for this film like it did with Kong and Narnia?
Guillermo del Toro I would hope so!! I want them all!!
Question 5 – Having recently reread the Hobbit with my children, it strikes me that the Hobbit contains a fairly linear story that doesn’t necessarily follow the “three act” formula typical of movies. What do you see as the biggest challenge adapting the story to the big screen?
Guillermo del Toro There are so many- I am all for trying to preserve every idiosyncrasy the novel has- the very things that seem “unfilmable” and that – in my mind- will make it thrilling as a film. The novel is much, much more inventive and dislocated in its narrative (Bilbo being hit by a rock during the Battle) than you may think at first. I think that you can treat a classic like a museum piece –stuffed and mounted- or you can make it a living, breathing narrative that is unfolding right then and there.
Peter Jackson Structure is important in film, but as Guillermo says, there’s often structure to be found in the most unlikely of places! It’s quite possible to build a structured story and retain idiosyncrasy. It’s going to be part of the joy of writing this.
Question 4 – Will Gollum play a role in the second film? If not, any plans to find a different role for Andy Serkis? Because, and I think most will agree with me, everything is better with more Serkis.
Guillermo del Toro Yes! As all of you know, Gollum has a rather fascinating arch to go through and his alliance to Shelob or his period of imprisonment in Thranduil’s, etc but it is early still- so early in fact that to reveal more would tie our hands and be counterproductive.
Guillermo del Toro There can never be “too much Andy”
Question 3- What production challenges do you feel will be different for The Hobbit and the sequel compared to the experience of making The LOTR?
Peter Jackson Yikes! Every film is a challenge. I always say that making a movie is like film school – you’re always learning. But unlike most schools, you never get done with it. You never learn everything. Over time, you get to anticipate problems a little better – but new ones hit you. You get to figure out solutions, but there are always extreme problems you could never guess. One of the things I’m going to enjoy in this experience, is that I’ll bebetter placed to help anticipate the problems and fix them. When you’re directing, you’re right at the coal face, always exhausted, often emotional – and I’ll enjoy being a couple of steps back from that and simply helping where I can. Having done it 3 times as director, there’s a lot I know that can help smooth the way for Guillermo.
Question 2 – From what material will you pulling the second movie from?
Guillermo del Toro The idea is to find a compelling way to join THE HOBBIT and FELLOWSHIP and enhance the 5 films both visually an in their Cosmology. There’s omissions and material enough in the available, licensed material to attempt this. The agreement is, however, that the second film must be relevant and emotionally strong enough to be brought to life but that we must try and contain the HOBBIT in a single film.
Peter Jackson I’m really looking forward to developing Film Two. It gives us a freedom that we haven’t really had on our Tolkien journey. Some of you may well say that’s a good thing of course! The Hobbit is interesting in how Tolkien created a feeling of dangerous events unfolding, which preoccupy Gandalf. There’s an awful lot of incident that happens during that 60 year gap. At this stage, we’re not imagining a film that literally covers 60 years, like a bio-pic or documentary. We would figure out what happens during that 60 years, and choose one short section of time to drop in and dramatize for the screen. I’m really interested in how it effects The Hobbit – do we show what happens to Gandalg during his trips away? We’ll see. We may well have seeds for Film Two that we’ll subtly sow during The Hobbit.
Question 1 – Which of the actors from LOTR will be back to reprise their roles in The Hobbit and its companion film?
Guillermo del Toro Obviously, at this stage, the second film is still being figured out- so the actors that have been approached may or not have appeared in the HOBBIT as a literary work but still may appear in the second film as it “blends” into the Trilogy and expands. Therefore what can be said is: Unequivocally, every single actor that originated a role in theTrilogy will be asked to participate and reprise it. If Health, availability or willigness become obstacles – and only in that case recasting would be considered.
Peter Jackson Like Guillermo says, apart from extreme circumstances, we would never recast a character who appeared in the LOTR trilogy. You can read The Hobbit and pretty much see which characters play a part. The unknown factor is Film Two, which we are still developing. If we wished to write one of the LOTR characters into the narrative of Film Two, we would only do that with that actors blessing, and willingness to take part. Otherwise we’d take the writing in another direction.
Late Thursday, Weta Workshop announced that it would soon be hosting a live online chat session with both Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro, and the subject will be the making of “The Hobbit” as well as the yet to named companion film. Hearkening back to the to the days of preproduction for “Lord of the Rings”, PJ is looking for input from fans of both his movies and Tolkien’s work. To do so, he is asking that everybody to submit their questions via email and from those he, along with Del Toro, will be answering the 20 most popular questions. In the course of doing so they will also be taking live questions via chat.
To read the letter from PJ, or to register for the chat, click here.
PCZ will be on hand the day of the chat and will be asking the questions you want to get answers to. Head on over to the lounge and let us know what really matters to you about the making of the Hobbit.
If you are ready, head to the Lounge NOW
The one hour live on-line chat schedule is:
Los Angeles (Pacific) – Saturday, 24 May 1:00 p.m.
New York (Eastern) – Saturday, 24 May 4:00 p.m.
London – Saturday, 24 May 9:00 p.m.
Paris, Berlin, Rome – Saturday, 24 May 10:00 p.m.
Sydney – Sunday, 25 May 6:00 a.m.
Wellington, Auckland – Sunday, 25 May 8:00 am