Tag Archive | "The Hobbit"


See The First Animated Adaptation Of THE HOBBIT

Posted on 19 December 2012 by Rich Drees


Before Ranking and Bass’s animated version of The Hobbit premiered on television in 1977, there was another animated version that was produced but never screened publicly until very recently. This eleven-minute film is the product of animation legend Gene Deitch and came about as he was trying to secure financing to produce a feature-length adaptation of the classic children’s book. However, due to a fast-looming deadline that required a finished film or else the rights would reverse back to author J R R Tolkien, Deitch’s producer William L. Snyder ordered him to prepare the following short version as a way to fulfill the letter of the contract so they can hold on to the rights for a bit longer. A similar ploy would be used two decades later by Roger Corman in order to keep the rights to the Fantastic Four comic book characters. You can read Deitch’s fuller version of the story at his blog.

If you have any friends who are bemoaning any changes that Peter Jackson may have made in the his adaptation of J R R Tolkien’s book, you may want to point them towards this short animated version of the story to let them know that things could have been far worse. Honestly, the cartoon isn’t that great and I am presenting it more as a curiosity then as an essential film you should view multiple times to dissect whatever meaning there is to find. Still, despite its complete unfaithfulness to the source material and its hurried production, there is a certain charm to the art used.

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Why The MGM Bankruptcy Was The Best Thing That Could Have Happened

Posted on 12 October 2012 by William Gatevackes

Over its almost 90 year history, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, or MGM, has become a legendary name in the world of film. From film series ranging from The Thin Man  to Pink Panther  to James Bond series, from  movie musicals such as Singing in the Rain and The Wizard of Oz  to Best Picture Oscar winners such as Ben-Hur and Mrs. Miniver, MGM became known for classic cinematic fare.

Unfortunately, over the last several decades, MGM has become even more well known for its financial troubles. Year after year where box office bombs (Heaven’s Gate, anyone? How about Cutthroat Island?) outweighed box office successes and poor management decisions increased the studio’s debt. The once strong MGM entered a fight for its survival.

The years of financial struggle came to a head in 2009, as MGM CEO Stephen Cooper attempted to sell the studio to try and fend of bankruptcy. Even though MGM’s future looked bright–it still had rights to the newly rejuvenated Bond franchise, it had much talked about remakes of RoboCop and Carrie in the pipeline, and it owned a stake in the eagerly anticipated The Hobbit–and had a number of potential buyers, no deal could be reached for the sale. MGM’s  bankruptcy plan was approved on December 2, 2010.

As MGM entered bankruptcy, much of its operations came to a halt. Two films that were completed and set to be released–The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn–were put on hold, and development on the next Bond film and The Hobbit was delayed.

Typically, this kind of hiatus could be fatal for a film. Movies put on the shelf often stay on the shelf, and if projects are delayed, you typically lose cast and crew who can’t afford to wait for the project to restart. However, in this case, time spent in limbo did a whole lot more good than bad.

The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn were both scheduled to be released in 2010, but MGM’s financial troubles did away with that idea. By 2011, MGM was looking to sell distribution rights for the films. Cabin ended up at Lionsgate, a perfect fit for the horror homage/satire as the distributor is known for the horror films like Saw that Cabin was parodying. Red Dawn ended up at the relatively new FilmDistrict.

Both films had, at the time, young, unknown casts. This is where the delay helped because in between the time they were filmed and the time they were release, some of  the up and coming cast came up, so to speak.

Chris Hemsworth, who has a role in both The Cabin in the Woods and Red Dawn, was a relatively unknown Australian soap opera actor when he shot those films. His biggest American film role was a cameo in the Star Trek revamp as Captain Kirk’s father. But in 2011, he starred in Thor, one of Marvel’s “Phase One” superhero films. Thor tripled its production budget in grosses worldwide and established Hemsworth as a burgeoning superstar in the making and a hunky heartthrob for the ladies.

Red Dawn one ups The Cabin in the Woods when it comes to the little known actor to superstar quotient as it also has Josh Hutcherson in its cast. Unlike Hemsworth, Hutcherson got his start in Hollywood as a child actor and has an extensive resume to his name prior to shooting the Red Dawn, including the successful Journey to the Center of the Earth remake. But his casting as Peeta Mellark in the highly anticipated The Hunger Games adaptation shot him into super stardom as well. Unless something highly unlikely happens, when Red Dawn opens on November 21, it will feature stars from the highest grossing (Hemsworth and The Avengers) and third-highest grosssing (Hutcherson and The Hunger Games) films of 2012 in its cast. If even part of the audiences for those films carry over to Red Dawn, it should be a hit.

Another way the release delay should help Red Dawn‘s grosses is that it allowed the filmmakers to change the villain of the film from China to North Korea. In the time between when the movie was filmed and when it will be release, foreign markets, especially China, have become vital for a film’s financial success. Red Dawn should do much better in China now that their country isn’t the one viciously invading ours.

MGM made sure to keep hold of their interests in the Bond franchise and The Hobbit as they progressed through bankruptcy. Both projects were affected by the delay, but they too came out of the ordeal better than they went into it.

Development had started on Bond 23, which we now know is called Skyfall, before MGM entered bankruptcy. Sam Mendes was picked as director and Peter Morgan was chosen to write the script. However, when the project became delayed, Morgan had to leave the project before finalizing the final script. Rumor has it that Mendes worked on the script to the film during the time production was unable to go forward, calling on writers such as Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, and John Logan to build up the characterization in the script.

Another benefit of the delay is that the film will be released in November 9, 2012, 50 years, one month and four days after the Bond franchise began with Dr. No. The anniversary was covered in all forms of media, and Skyfall was mentioned prominently in every article and news feature about the golden jubilee.  If the film was released years earlier, it would not have received the boon of so much free publicity. (The Cabin in the Woods also benefited with a load of free publicity due to its being released the month before The Avengers. In the promotional blitzkrieg for that movie, of course starring Hemsworth and written and directed by Cabin‘s co-writer and producer Joss Whedon, interviews would often refer to the earlier film, raising awareness of the film among a possible target audience).

While Skyfall lost a screenwriter, The Hobbit lost a director in the delay. Guillermo del Toro was originally slated to direct the Lord of the Rings prequel, but had to drop out when MGM’s financial quandary prevented the film from being green lit before the window del Toro allowed in his schedule for the film elapsed. The director’s departure left MGM and co-producers Warner Brothers searching for a new director. Eventually, the powers that be picked the executive producer of the film to take over as director.

Normally, when a producer replaces a talented and experienced director such as del Toro, the film is doomed with no hope for improvement. However, this time around, with no offense meant towards the skill and ability of del Toro, the producer will be an obvious improvement. Why? Because that producer is Peter Jackson, the man who brought Tolkien to the screen with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, winning three Academy Awards for its final installment, Return of the King.

With Jackson at the helm, The Hobbit trilogy will have a sense of continuity with the world Jackson built with Lord of the Rings. Again, no slight meant to del Toro, a director I admire and respect, something would simply be missing without Jackson in the director’s chair.

We are witness to the impossible happening–four films whose quality and/or box office potential were magnified by a studio’s bankruptcy. Too bad what happened to MGM was a stroke of luck, or else many other studios would pursue bankruptcy as a sure-fire way to turn their fortunes around.

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First Look: Lee Pace As THE HOBBIT’s Thranduil

Posted on 30 August 2012 by Rich Drees

With less than four months to the release of the first installment of Peter Jackson’s three-part The Hobbit adaptation, we have gotten good looks at a majority of the characters we will be meeting in the film. However, there have been a few exceptions, most notably Thranduil, the elf king of Mirkwood being played by Pushing Daisies’ Lee Pace.

Today we have that look courtesy of NZNoldor (via Middle Earth Network), who managed to get ahold of some pictures of the elvish monarch from the upcoming The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Almanac 2013. As you can see, Pace certainly brings a family resemblance for Thranduil as compared to his son Legolas, as played by Orlando Bloom. I also really like how Jackson and company have realized Thranduil’s “crown of woodland flowers” as it is described in The Hobbit. Click on each picture for a larger version.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Almanac 2013 hits book stores on November 6 and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theaters on December 22.

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Cumberbatch Hints At When We Might See (Some Of) Smaug

Posted on 21 August 2012 by Rich Drees

One of the big characters (pun only slightly intended) from Peter Jackson’s now three-part adaptation of The Hobbit that we have not seen any of yet is the dragon Smaug. Since the character doesn’t properly appear in the story until late in the book, it was reasonably assumed that we probably wouldn’t start seeing him showing up in promotional material until it grew closer to the time of the second film’s release in December 2013.

Of course, this was all before Peter Jackson announced that the project was expanding from two-to-three films so who knows? And with the fact that the films are undergoing some structural juggling in mind, I would like to call your attention to a quote that the voice of Smaug, Benedict Cumberbatch, made about when we were to have originally seen the great hoarder of dwarvish treasure –

I think my eye might open at the end of the first film and then you’ll get the rest of me in the second.

The quote comes from a short post on a Cumberbatch tumbler (via Bleeding Cool) whose author claimed she received it from a journalist who had interviewed the actor. We’ll see what the future and Jackson hold in store.

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Updated!: Jackson Confirms HOBBIT Expanding To Three Films

Posted on 30 July 2012 by Rich Drees

Update: Jump to the bottom for possible third film subtitles.

Confirming rumors from last week, Peter Jackson has announced that his two film adaption of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit will be expanding to three films.

Here’s Jacckson’s announcement from his Facebook page-

It is only at the end of a shoot that you finally get the chance to sit down and have a look at the film you have made. Recently Fran, Phil and I did just this when we watched for the first time an early cut of the first movie – and a large chunk of the second. We were really pleased with the way the story was coming together, in particular, the strength of the characters and the cast who have brought them to life. All of which gave rise to a simple question: do we take this chance to tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as the filmmakers, and as fans, was an unreserved ‘yes.’

We know how much of the story of Bilbo Baggins, the Wizard Gandalf, the Dwarves of Erebor, the rise of the Necromancer, and the Battle of Dol Guldur will remain untold if we do not take this chance. The richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, allows us to tell the full story of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and the part he played in the sometimes dangerous, but at all times exciting, history of Middle-earth.

So, without further ado and on behalf of New Line Cinema, Warner Bros. Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Wingnut Films, and the entire cast and crew of “The Hobbit” films, I’d like to announce that two films will become three.

It has been an unexpected journey indeed, and in the words of Professor Tolkien himself, “a tale that grew in the telling.”


Peter J

The first two films are already scheduled for this December and December 2013. The third film will follow in the summer of 2014.

As I noted last week, this will be an enormous undertaking for Jackson and his crew and not just in terms of the additional shooting that will need to be done in order to expand the films. It is also going to involve a massive resturucturing of the story from essential a two act structure to a three act one. I have my reservations about this but given Jackson’s success at the herculean task of adapting Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings, I am inclined to trust him on this.

Update: Slash Film is reporting that recently domain names were registered by the same company that appears to be managing the website for the upcoming movie New Line Cinema that suggest that the third film’s could either be The Desolation of Smaug or Riddles in the Dark. Currently the first film is subtitled An Unexpected Journey and the second titled There And Back Again. however, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jackson drops the second title and names the second film Riddles In The Dark and the third The Desolation Of Smaug. This would also definitely give us a clue as to how he is restructuring the films.

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Might THE HOBBIT Expand To Three Films?

Posted on 24 July 2012 by Rich Drees

Honestly, I never really thought that this would remotely happen.

A few weeks back there were some reports out of San Diego Comic Con that Peter Jackson was considering expanding his two-part adaption of J R R Tolkien’s The Hobbit with an additional movie. Knowing that he already was pulling from Tolkien-penned supplemental material to pad out the adaption to a full two features and with principal photography wrapped, I didn’t see how the project could be expanded out by another 2 hours or so.

Well, it turns out that Jackson has apparently worked out a way to do so and is currently exploring the real world problems needed to be surmounted in order to make it happen. According to the Hollywood Reporter

Sources say that studio Warner Bros., Jackson, producer Fran Walsh and writer-producer Philippa Boyens began exploring the logistics of what it would take to make another movie. Those talks are said to have accelerated in recent days, with the studio on board if the right financial arrangements can be achieved. That includes securing new actor deals for the expansive cast as well as shoring up certain rights associated with the property (The Hobbit has a long a tortured rights history.)

If this goes forward, it will certainly launch a lot of questions. Primarily, how will the story material be broken up to accommodate a third film? Will all the new material form a movie that functions somewhat separate from The Hobbit and serves to bridge the Hobbit films with Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy? It was an idea that Jackson had mooted before in the development phase of the films, though he eventually discarded it.

More likely, he’ll use the new material to pad out the story as it currently exists. This of course would necessitate a restructuring of the current two films, which could cause problems. Currently, the common assumption is that the break between the two films will be at the dwarves escape via barrel from the elves. I am not sure where there are two good places to break the story that would make cinematic sense.

And compared to The Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit is a fairly thin story and it was the addition of supplemental material that really helped grow the project out to two feature films. How much more material is there left to expand things to a third film? We’ll see.

The first installment, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, is set for release on Dec. 14. The second film, There and Back Again, is set to hit theaters on Dec. 13, 2013. December 2014 would be the presumable date for this possible third film.

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New HOBBIT Production Blog Takes Us On Tour Of Studio

Posted on 06 June 2012 by Rich Drees

Peter Jackson has released a new production video blog from the set of his mammoth two-part adaption of The Hobbit. Where as previous video blogs took us along for the film’s location shooting, this one takes us on a tour of Jackson’s Stone Street studio in New Zealand. Jackson starts us off, but key personnel from each of the production’s departments take over to escort us through their respective backstage domains.

Although the Art Department has a lot of the work on the walls fuzzed out and one model is specifically obscured due to it not appearing until the second film, we still get some quick glimpses of a few things that are presumably going to be in the first film. And since one of them is the dwarves escape-by-barrel from the wood elves, I am inclined to believe that that sequence will be in the first film, probably being the concluding sequence.

And be on the lookout for a surprise guest or two.

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Required Listening: RIDDLES IN THE DARK Podcast

Posted on 05 March 2012 by Rich Drees

If you’re a fan J R R Tolkien you’ve probably already heard of Corey Olsen, aka The Tolkien Professor, and his podcasts that offer scholarly critique and discussion of the Tolkien’s work. If you’re a fan of director Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings and are looking forward to see what he will do adapting Tolkien’s The Hobbit, then you need to be listening to Olson’s new podcast “Riddles In The Dark.”

Every other week, along with his co-host Dave Kale of the Middle-earth Network, Olsen focuses on an aspect of Tolkien’s Hobbit plus germane material found in The Lord Of The Rings’ appendices and tries to extrapolate what filmmaking choices Jackson and crew will make in their adaption from the small amount of clues we already have from trailers and on-set video.

If you think that’s a thin premise to base a show on, please note that we are already three episodes in and they are still discussing how much of the backstory of the company of dwarves that Bilbo will accompany may be presented in the film. Granted, this discussion has ranged across such topics as Thorin Oakenshield’s father and grandfather Thrain and Thror, the history of conflict between the dwarves and the goblins which lead up to the Battle of Azanulbizar and the nature of the Necromancer’s dungeons at Dol Goldur. And obsessive as it may seem, it is all done with an eye towards seeing how the material could be incorporated in order to inform the dwarves characters and motivations.

As a tenured English professor at Washington College with a PhD in medieval literature, Olsen knows his stuff. His first series of podcasts were critical looks at The Hobbit and he followed that up with two series, one highlighting his classroom lectures from his spring 2010 college literature course on Tolkien and the other a weekly roundtable discussion with several of his former students of The Silmarillion. (Both series helped me finally get through that book after numerous failed tries over the years.)

As it goes forward the podcast has announced plans to extend their prediction game to other noted online Middle-Earth luminaries, so the conversation can only get more informed and diverse. I’m looking forward to it and you should be too.

You can subscribe to “Riddles In The Dark” at iTunes.

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New HOBBIT Production Video Explores Middle Earth In 3D

Posted on 04 November 2011 by Rich Drees

In his latest behind-the-scenes video blog of the production of The Hobbit, Peter Jackson shows us how the film is being shot in 3D and what adjustments the filmmaking crew need to make to adapt to the process from how they perform their jobs for a regular 2D film. Jackson and his crew explain to us how a 3D camera works, takes us on a tour of the camera shop and the makeup and wardrobe departments to illustrate how each group’s responsibilities have changed. Perhaps most impressive is how John Howe and Alan Lee have approached bring 3D to their duties as production designer.

Tech heads will probably enjoy the talk about the camera rigs and the fact that the film is being shot at 48 frames-per-second. Those who don’t have an interest in the process of making the movie can watch this for some glimpses of filming scenes in Mirkwood Forest and titular hobbit Bilbo Baggins’ home.

You can watch the video over at Peter Jackson’s Facebook page.

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And Finally – THE HOBBIT’s Thorin Oakenshield

Posted on 17 July 2011 by Rich Drees

All this past week, we’ve been treated to our first look at the group of dwarfs Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins joins on a quest across Middle Earth in Peter Jackson’s upcoming The Hobbit. And finally we end this run of pictures with Richard Ardarmitage as the group’s leader, Thorin Oakenshield. (Click for a much bigger version.)

As you can see, it is premiering exclusively on the Tolkien fan site TheOneRing.net. However, as of this writing, it looks like Jackson may have jumped the gun on them by linking to the picture on his Facebook page before The One Ring could get their actual post published.

I have to say that I really love how all of the dwarfs have their own unique looks to them. I expected nothing less from Jackson and his team, but after years of seeing the dwarfs depicted as fairly similar with only the color of their cloaks to differentiate them, this is absolutely refreshing.

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