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May 24, 2000 - June 22, 2000

6-22-00 Latest News

More on Tolkien music
Tehanu @ 7:30 pm EST

It turns out that Bo Hansson is not a forgotten name in music at all. Plenty of people wrote to say that they had his album on vinyl; however people found his music on CD at Amazon and at CDNow. Opinions on it were varied:

"It is a mixed bag, some tracks work and some tracks are grimly awful.
The cover was very strange, but this was the 70's and we were all wearing lurex socks at the time. The decade that style forgot."

Other people liked it a lot more:
"I think Bo Hansson wanted to explore LOTR in a very personal way, and in this aspect he certainly succeeds. The tracks range from themes from The Old Forest to The Grey Havens, yet Hansson seem to have focused on a somewhat nostalgic take on the books. Whenever I put on this record I get the 'You can never go home again-ish' feeling that Tolkien illustrates in the latter part of 'The Return of the King' with the 'Scouring of the Shire' and Frodo's leave. The burden of the ring is also heavily evident in the musical landscape, though without being dreary or too melancholic. All in all this record is an obscure gem not to be forgotten when Tolkien derrived music is discussed. It has achieved cult status in various circles, but aside from that it gets (maybe too,) little notice."
Thanks to Sam and Aelinwen for that.

DW sent me a clip on realaudio, thanks for that, and Sam gave the URL of the Bo Hansson website

More people put in a plug for Blind Guardian. Whether you envisage LOTR with a heavy metal backing is a matter of taste. Stranger had this to say:

"If to talk about Tolkien related music - yes, Blind Guardian is great (my favourite band), but yes, you're right, there are more good Tolkien music. For example, check out Classical Swords . There you can find "Lord Of The Rings" album of classical music in mp3's, rated as film music (actually, as written, some compositions are really using music from Bakshi's film). Or a Russian Blind Guardian-style band called "Shadow Host". In their last album "Downfall" they have the song called "Galadriel" (you even can hear elven speech there! :) ). Even Enya has a piano composition (I dont't actually remember its name, something like "Lothlorien"). And there are much more. So there is no lack of Tolkien music now. :)"

For those preferring something more classical, there's this suggestion from Elrond320:

"I read on the webpage about "Tolkien-inspired music" and thought you might also be interested in learning about a five movement wind symphony by Johann de Meij called The Lord of the Rings. Its five movements are:

I. Gandalf
II. Lothlorien
III. Smeagol
IV. The Mines of Moria (Journey in the Dark)
V. Hobbits

The music is very good and will appeal to classical listeners and probably all Tolkien fans in general. The themes are well done; bright brass fanfares for Gandalf, haunting drum beats for Moria and a playful march for the hobbits. I don't know of any recordings on the web, but I found the mp3's on Napster. Enjoy!"

Thanks again to Orjan, who sent us the URLs to Summoning:
The Official Summoning Homepage They have lots of the songs and poems on their site, along with cool pictures.
Then you have to scroll down till you find Summoning. When you're on the Summoning page, press 'Soundsamples'.. and vòila...

Don't all write to me with your suggestions for who'd do a great LOTR soundtrack please, I don't have Peter Jackson's ear on this. If I did I'd put forward Phillip Feeney's name. He wrote the score for the ballet 'Dracula' that's currently touring NZ. It's been a hit in the UK and here, and is about to get to Australia. Very wonderful, very dark. Don't miss it.

ANCANAR: Interview With Director Sam R. Balcomb
Xoanon @ 3:54 pm EST

TheOneRing.net brings you the first exclusive interview with Indie ANCANAR dircetor Sam R. Balcomb.
Sam and I recently spoke via Internet regarding his project and his plans to involve the fans!

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

One of the first memories of my life was my father reading from The Hobbit & LOTR to me once a night every night before bedtime. That had a tremendous effect on me in many ways. The most profound being that I fell in love with storytelling from the get go. Since then I've always looked for ways to take the stories that I love and share that experience with others.

So you've been a Tolkien fan since then?

Absolutely! I can't read his work now without being drawn back to those times. It's perfect, really, since Tolkien's work connects with the inner-five-year-old in us all -- that we're taken to distant lands, mighty kinds and terrible monsters. Some of us lose that perspective as we get older. Tolkien reminds us that we can still dream.

What other filmwork have you done?

We're having a major update at Ancanar.com later today -- I think there's some info on my previous work to be posted. But since you asked I wrote/directed an indie flick in Boston three years ago called Under Oath. I've done work for Kodak, and right now I'm also working on a commercial for KCRW, an LA radio station.

When did the Ancanar project start to take form?

Ancanar was a story that I wrote a few years back after reading the Silmarillion. I fell in love with the book -- a hundred movies could be made from that thing... But after Elessar was (abruptly) canned, I took it out and blew off the dust. I liked what I saw, so I took the next two months to write a shooting script. I showed to my producer Raiya Corsiglia and she flipped. It was a go from then. Ancanar is on a much larger scale than Elessar, but we are willing to make it the kind of movie Tolkien fans can be proud of.

Can you tell us a bit of the Storyline?

Here's what I can tell you: Ancanar is a young woodsman, the heir to the Rammoth household. He is obsessed with the Elves, and grudges the fact that they live in eternal bliss while his father ails on his deathbed. Through a series of events he learns of a hidden Elves city closeby in the mountains. To speak of it warrants death, but he chooses to find this city, somehow, and restore his family name. That's all I can say right now... and that it might involve one of Shelob's ancestors...

How many people to do you have working with you on the project?

We have a fantastic crew so far, and more are on the way. There are about twenty people on what we call the "primary crew," not counting pre-production staff. Once the crew list is finalized you can see all the bios and pics of each member on our site.

Why did you decide to get the fans so involved?

Because they really deserve it. Especially Tolkien fans. When something has impacted your life the way his stories have, you want to become a part of them. Film is a fantastic storytelling medium, a way to really be enveloped into a world. We wanted to have a forum for people to become a part of the process -- and for those who don't know the first thing about filmmaking, here they get a chance.

What stage are you at with the production?

We're location scouting right now -- that place in the trailer where I was sitting, that was one of the locations. And now that the site is set up we're going to begin the casting process soon, so everyone can watch. We'll post the sessions, along with Quicktime clips of the screen tests. We're also hiring our makeup FX team, who will be making the prosthetic masks and so forth. Today I'm going out with our sound guy to test microphone quality out in the forest.

Any other details about the project you can give us?

Well, we're very excited about the DragonCon convention, where I'll be doing a live tele-conference call, along with airing the 5-minute version of our trailer. Also, I warn people ahead of time -- there are lots of secret hidden pages on our site that will be added and deleted constantly. They're hard to find, but have cool stuff on them. We're very sneaky.

Besides being on a smaller scale than Peter Jackson's film, what are the other major differences between the two projects?

The major difference is that Jackson's LOTR is a story we all know and love. With Ancanar, Tolkien fans can enjoy watching a story that they won't know the ending to.

What do you hope to get from the fans?

All through this process we want the fans to speak out as much as possible and let us know how they want to interact with us. We've gotten a tremendous response so far, and I thank everyone who's participated. But we won't shy away from problems -- our motto is that if there's a glitch in production, people are going to hear about it; why not hear about it from us? Overall we want fans to enjoy the ride as much as we are, voice their opinion, and learn more about Hollywood. We hope that we can keep professor Tolkien's spirit alive in what we do.

How will you be using the internet to promote the film?

The Net gives us opportunity to reach people across the globe, and it's not something to underestimate. Blair Witch blew open the venue for web-based promotion. It showed the studios that you don't need their help to get people excited about a good film. Expect lots of chats with the cast and crew, contests, Quicktime, streaming, and the most interactivity possible with the production.

Any other forms of off-line promotion in the pipeline?

We're waiting until we're a bit more down the line in terms of production to start major off-line promotion (TV, magazines, etc). Since this is an internet event we want to establish our internet fanbase, which is, to us, the most important.

Do you have distributors yet?

Only in the LA area. As production moves on we have plans to broaden the distribution circle as widely as possible. We'd love for everyone to see this in a theater, but if they can't, we'll ship Ancanar to their door.

6-06-00 Latest News

PJ and the Olympic Flame
Calisuri @ 12:13 am EST

From Ringer Spy Altariel:

We arrived in Wellington's small Civic Square on a very grey and cold winter's afternoon.There were only about twenty or so people around and a suspiciously jazzy looking band was setting up to entertain us and keep us from scuttling away to our warm holes. After half an hour the band started playing and I suggested to my camera woman that she call loudly for a selection of Jimi Hendrix, a portly man walked passed and demanded first sausage from the barbeque. Now you'd think that this being the Olympic torch and all someone would have made an advertising effort, but no, there were few in the city who even knew it was going to happen let alone the details.

After an hour the handful of people grew to a crowd of around two hundred and as is customary for anything olympic related there were many school kids, red, green, yellow, blue being marched around by excitable olympic committee members who seemed to be the only ones enjoying the music.

We waited a while as the grey and black cloaked officials wandered in and up the stairs to the stage where the cauldron was to be lighted by ways of Garreth Farr climbing a human ladder - never mind that the thing was only about two feet off the ground.Photographers started arriving and we took our place at our chosen photo spot and discussed the various obstacles involved in taking pictures in poor light conditions with a camera that can't zoom.

Finally the jazz band stopped and a percussion band headed by torch bearer Garetth Farr began pounding out a distinctly pacific island beat. In the distance we could hear the Royal New Zealand Airforce band advancing towards the square.We watched and waited as the sound grew and small flags were thrust into our hands. Presently there came a lull in the drum beats and then the Airforce band exploded around the corner behind which could just be seen the olympic flame held aloft by a strange creature who appeared to be made up of fuzzy hair and glasses. I prodded my camera woman into action and clapped exitedly along with the rest of the crowd as PJ came into full view . I don't think I've ever seen such a look of pride on a man's face as was on PJ's when the crowd started cheering and waving at him. He grinned widely and waved back as the procession stopped right in front of us and PJ honoured us with a big smile and a wonderful photograph. While the officials ranted on about the importance of such occasions the music swelled and the band parted letting PJ walk proudly toward the bottom of the steps to pass on the flame. Once done our hero slipped off before anyone knew what had happened, he was gone and the spell had broken. Gareth made his way to the cauldren without the aid of the human ladder and set it alight to the cheers of a somewhat warmer Wellington crowd.

6-06-00 Latest News

TheOneRing.net at Cond'Or 2000
Tehanu @ 1:50 am EST

It was a three to one vote that I should go to Wellington to talk about TOR.net and Lord of the Rings at the SF/Fantasy convention Cond'Or 2000. I was the dissenting vote. After all, it was not the other three who were going to have to stand up and talk about LOTR in front of a crowd likely to contain LOTR film crews.

There had been a number of responses from the film-makers to our posting of Gollum the week before; none of those responses could be called 'delighted' or anything on that end of the emotional spectrum. As I got on the plane to Wellington (insisting on an airticket was my last-ditch attempt to avoid making the trip at all) I bought the Wellington Evening Post in time to find that Gollum was headline news and I was quoted all over the article. So I felt like I was flying into a freshly-stirred hornet's nest, just when I'd hoped Gollum's image might have gone underground, propagated by samizdat for the die-hard fans only.

Another reason to avoid Cons in general is their opposition to fresh air. They're always held in darkened hotel lobbies and rooms with no natural lighting. Arriving in Wellington during a really good storm made that seem like a very sane lifestyle choice after all. It's astounding how quickly and thoroughly one becomes soaked in a southerly gale, even just running from car to door. I did a lot of that, brief dashes between car and probable locations for the FedEx parcel containing the slides I needed for my talk. And I got wet, which I resented. Though afterwards with my Wellington friends we recalled REAL storms in the 80s, when you could regularly sit on the wind gusts and they'd hold you up, and cars were washed out to sea.

The next day, still searching for the slides, I drove around the airport freight terminals some more. It gave me a chance to look around Lyall Bay, where they've been filming lately. In tents and warehouses, apparently. There was nothing left that I could see, and in any case it would have been impossible to take photos of anything through the solid walls of seaspray and horizontal rain.

I got the slides a few hours before my scheduled appearance (i.e. 2 days later than promised). Did I lose sleep over that? Anyone at the speech might have thought I seemed underprepared; in fact I was in such a fog of sleep-deprived stupidity that I nearly blacked out after it was over.

Other than that, it was an interesting experience. There were about 80 people in the audience; some of them weren't up on the Net's reportage of LOTR because they didn't have computers; others of course knew more than me because they were involved in MAKING the movie. Well, you'd expect to see them at a Con anyway. Somebody later described the whole excercise as a rather interesting cat-and-mouse game between them and me at times. The folk from WETA sort of stiffened when some of our exclusive images came up on the screen.

It was a challenge pitching a talk at such a diverse audience of experts and novices. Since I was standing in the middle of everyone (operating the sort of crappy slide-projector that I thought I'd seen the last of when I left primary school) it was easy enough for people to ask me to explain stuff that wasn't clear. So that was pretty friendly. Just as well. Through tiredness, common names kept escaping me, rather like those awful moments when you blank out during introductions at an important dinner party. "This is Eomer," I'd say. And forget the name of the well-known actor playing him. Eeek. Somebody always shouted out though and saved the day.

In Q&A afterwards we could have gone in a number of directions, (like for instance discussing the changes PJ has made to the story) but the questions I got most were the ones that are most pressing for us at the moment: What are the ethics of Net journalism, how do we decide what to report, what motivates us, where do we get our information, and so on. This stuff is being considered by anyone with half a brain at the moment, because it is crucial to our understanding of how information is and will be spread around now and in the future. The way business, the commercial media, fans and the Internet interact is volatile and not well-predicted. The way a group of amateurs governs itself in something like TOR.net is experimental, as is the way it relates to the more well-understood heirarchies of business and power. Which in turn are balanced against the desires of fans worldwide. It's fascinating and not particularly easy, and there really wasn't time to do it justice as a topic.

After I'd finished speaking it was time for the Guest of Honour speech by Tad Williams, one of my favourite authors. (See my Note on Tad) He managed to avoid talking about his books for an entire hour by telling stories about his cats that had people almost crying with laughter. He is a superb storyteller and a natural comedian, and for me his speech was the high point of Cond'Or. I could go home happy after that.

5-28-00 Latest News

Cool Computer Jiggery Pokery
Xoanon @ 11:33 EST

Story Filed: Monday, May 22, 2000 4:35 PM EST

MINNEAPOLIS, MN, May 22, 2000 (INTERNET WIRE via COMTEX) -- LambSoft, Inc., introduces a Pipeline Productivity Pack for large game development projects requiring both motion capture and file translation between the top 3D animation packages; discreet 3d studio max, MAYA and SOFTIMAGE 3D.

Designed to streamline the production of large projects, the LambSoft Pipeline Productivity Pack is a bundle of ProMotion and all of the spokes of MoveTools at a specially priced bundle for 10 animation seats. Normally $58,000, the LambSoft Productivity Pack is priced at $19,995 for a limited time. A monthly rental option of $650 a seat is available for smaller or less time intensive projects. All rental fees can be applied to a purchase within 90 days.

ProMotion, a plug-in to discreet 3d studio max, is a full feature animators tool-kit for working with motion capture data. Designed in a real world production environment it provides the most artistic and effective tools available allowing the animator to clean, filter, and edit motion capture data, to apply the data to any character, blend the moves together and change the timing of sequences. The beauty of motion capture data is that it contains all the nuances of the performers motions. To maintain these subtleties the data must be dense making it difficult to edit with standard key frame editing tools, ProMotion also includes a special curve editor SWURVE specifically designed for filtering and drawing over dense motion capture data. Sometimes motion capture doesn't always capture your complete vision so ProMotion allows you to key frame on top of the motion capture data. You can also use 3d studio max expression mapping or MaxScript commands to expand the functionality of ProMotion.

Matthew Wynn of EA Sports; "Thanks to ProMotion I was able to... (deep breath) organize and direct a shoot in about a week;...All in all it was the fastest turn around we've had from idea to shoot, to in-game. I think the marketing dept. here is planning on stressing that we have the coolest looking pit-crew ever. YEAH!!!"

MoveTools, a plug-in to discreet 3d studio max, MAYA, and SOFTIMAGE 3D, allows the animator to transfer and convert cameras, lights, motion, hierarchies, skeletons, geometry (polygons & NURBS), material names and texture coordinates between animation packages. This enables animators in time-pressured production environments to split the production pipeline among multiple animators working simultaneously on character modeling, scene building and animation and create workflow transparency between different hardware and software platforms.

"LambSoft MoveTools has rapidly become an integral element in the pre-visualization of the 'Lord Of The Rings' " says Sean Mathieson of Weta Digital Ltd. "It gives us the opportunity to quickly experiment with many shot possibilities using cost effective software & hardware and then, once pinpointed, easily and efficiently transfer that animation into the Weta production pipelines. The process allows us to dramatically increase our overall shot quality while keeping production costs under control. MoveTools fits in like a jigsaw piece, connecting necessary extremes."

LambSoft Inc. is a leader in motion compositing and motion integration products. LambSoft software products also include ProMotion and SMIRK. LambSoft customers include game development, animation production and special visual effects companies around the world including Electronic Arts, Weta Digital, MicroProse Software, Saffire Corp., Pyros Pictures, Digital Anvil, Rainbow Studios and others.

Thanks to Aiglios for the news!

5-27-00 Latest News

John Howe Interview!!
Xoanon @ 11:53 EST

Ok, so it's not OUR interview, but from a cool french mag called 'Mad Movies', and a big thank you to Olivier for translating the article!
The French magazine *Mad Movies* (the *French* title is really in English), number 125 (May, I suppose) has its cover showing Boromir-Sean Bean gazing at the One Ring, with the title:

The Lord of the Rings: Chronicle of a foretold Masterpiece

There's a 3 pages interview of John Howe, one page with pics and descriptions of the main characters, namely: Frodo, Gandalf, Arwen, Theoden, Boromir, Bilbo, Aragorn, Legolas; why they chose those ones and only mentioned others like Sam, Gimli and Denethor is still a mystery. Things to notice: Kevin Conway credited as Theoden (which proves to be wrong, according to your casting list). I don't know where they found the info, but what they tell about Arwen would fit far more to Luthien: her actions are in opposite to the usually quiet picture of the elves. "The love she bears to the mortal Aragorn and the distrust that she'll show to her father, Lord Elrond, will lead her to discover all the evil that populates the world, and whose nature she was unaware of."

The 4 pages are illustrated with pictures taken of the internet preview. The army through Mordor, close shot of Orcs, pics of Arwen, Frodo, Aragorn, Gandalf and Legolas, the Nazgul menacing the 4 hobbits, pictures of John Howe, Gandalf walking; a troop of orcs in Mordor, with stronger orcs leading and whipping them. Gandalf and the Balrog on Bridge of Khazad Dum; Balrog and Glorfindel on mountain pass; Lord of Nazgul and Eowyn; Nazgul flying around Barad Dur).

The Lord of the Rings, Preview:

Peter Jackson's adaptation of Tolkien's work was an event a long time before the first scene was shot. Now that some shots of the Lord of the Rings are totally achieved (and are totally sublime), here is explained the long pre-production of the movie, time where all is decided … and drawn.

John Howe, the visual concept.

It's not surprising to see the names of John Howe and Alan Lee in the visual conception of Peter Jackson's movie. Those 2 illustrators share between them indeed the paternity of the most *official* pictures of the universe of the Lord of the Rings, and perhaps also the more living, the more concrete. John Howe recently was a member of the jury of the Festival of Fantastic Movies held by his adoptive-city of Neuchâtel [in Switzerland], for which he drew the poster, of course. We asked him to share with us some of his memories of working on a project that make us vibrate from impatience. He very kindly agreed to unveil part of it, in the limits of his discretion duty.

Interview by Rafik Djoumi.

What is your upbringing?

A more or less steady and straight one, Art schools, then work. I grown up in Canada, then I studied in France, in Strasbourg, and I now live in Switzerland. When I was young, I liked Heroic Fantasy. I was feeding on it. But art was not a premeditated choice. I've always drawn, I've never stopped it, and I've just searched a job in which I could do it. I began with children books, as it's where you find the biggest demand. I've chased after Tolkien's editor for a long time. I went as far as Frankfurt, in pictures exhibitions, to show my work, only to be told every time that I should come back the next year. At last, I published something in a calendar in 1987. Then, I got a first request for the cover of The Hobbit in paperback. That went on until the end of Middle Earth's history, some 20 covers later. Alan Lee and myself, we were very closely associated to these books. The Gandalf that everybody knows became a picture that cannot be dissociated from the novel. Which causes me to worry about its use.

How did Peter Jackson hire you?

We got a phone call from him at 3AM, due to time lag. My wife and myself were delighted. Of course, there's always a *Wait, I will think about this* on principle, but we were consenting. After that, we couldn't sleep during the whole night. Later, my wife our child and myself went to New Zealand. It was 2 years ago. We did 2 stays of 6 months there.

What was your timetable there?

We were constantly meeting with Peter Jackson and his wife. During the time where he re-wrote the script, we saw him less often, but otherwise we saw him every day. Whatever, there was little chance we could progress in the dark on a matter he wouldn't have studied before. He keeps an eye on everything and has a good memory. For every meeting, every set and scenery, we were sketching all the day. We were making daily 5 to 10 big drawings. The purpose was to submit ideas. So, the drawing itself wasn't important, even if it needed some finishing touches: the idea was of prime importance. Then Jackson came back and we showed him the sketches. We discussed them, reviewed all, and remained in this environment as long as we hadn't found something that suited him. Jackson is a rather amazing person. He always likes to be surprised, delighted. Despite his preconceived ideas, he doesn't come with a definite idea, which we have to conform to. He wants that people go really deep inside themselves; it's very stimulating. Sometimes, we didn't find at all what Jackson was looking for. For instance, the Uruk Hai took time; but we weren't alone on the job. There was also a team of 6/7 designers who took care of the creatures, the armours, and the weapons; and we took part at the collaboration with them. When Jackson already had in mind a picture that existed, it was rather short. But when he wanted something original, we had to really rack our brains. It went this way for a long time, before he began the realisation of scale models and this kind of things. Then, we worked on the models and the sets.

Had you read the script?

Yes. But I personally cannot judge what makes a good script. However, I realised that the less interesting things of the book had a whole new life when they were put into dialogue.

Did you work on the 3 movies?

Alan lee and myself divided this universe between us. As his children are adults, he remained in New Zealand. We roughed out the whole together. I designed the inside and outside of Bag End, and especially Barad Dur, Minas Morgul and all this kind of places. But there wasn't any exclusive right. If we had an idea to submit, nothing prevented us to do it. We were meddling with everything, nearly everything, as the costumes have been designed later. When the various scenarios were more defined, we had more often to go into other departments to give our opinion. Near the end, we passed perhaps some 2-3 hours drawing, and the rest of the day we went to see what was going on next door. Everybody was working in the same building, a kind of huge maze-warehouse rebuilt, filled with designers, sculptors, prosthetics-makers, model-makers… A real creative bath. There wasn't any closed department. Everything goes from one room to the other, and you're only some steps ahead of the computer room. Peter Jackson really made there an astounding installation. He invested in a lot of things to build his big studio. He went to work cycling 15 years ago; now, he's bought all. He always refused proposals to go in the US. He wants to do things at home, in Wellington. And it's there that's he's the toughest. He makes people come to him. What he managed to do is very impressive.

How did you manage the fans' expectation?

I think Jackson doesn't really care about it. He's a creator, a director. He says himself that one doesn't need to burn the books when one goes buy the ticket at the theatre. He is very modest about it. He doesn't claim to make a definitive version of the book. He makes his own movie. I know I do the same when I draw, otherwise, one would work upside down. On one hand, Jackson obeys to his producers, because they give the money, but on the other hand he has his own conviction about many subjects. But I think he should restrain himself a bit, because they want that a young audience could see the film too. And you know Pete's movies… Though, he's able to film people, human beings, in a very sensible way, and I believe that, if he gets what he wants, it will be very spectacular.

Part Two

Did you work closely with SFX department?

Yes, and they're wonderful people. In their workshop, Richard Taylor and his wife managed to create a huge concentrate of talents, in a wonderful atmosphere. Alan and myself have had globally such an experience that we naively believed that this truly exceptional atmosphere of working was to be found everywhere. At the beginning, I thought that it was due to the movie, that there was something that was intrinsically linked to this project that caused this attitude; but actually no, it really depends on the people. And besides, we work in a field in which we feel the things.

The most exciting was to get approval for a drawing, then to see it be realised. The drawing gives a definition, and afterwards everybody goes on working on it; we indirectly, Peter Jackson directly. All this evolves until the *end product*. I've seen someone who worked one or two weeks on a man-sized Balrog's replica. Then, they sculpted his huge head, the size of those things you can see on castles' walls. However, he'll never totally exist in a fully sculpted shape [under his true size]. His wings were only made with the digits, without leather between them, because it will be digitally added. The whole thing will take shape in the computer, and there'll be other changes, I think. As I'm talking to you, now, I don't exactly know which will be the final shape of the Balrog. I also managed to see parts of the orc-army, and some places like Barad Dur.

At the same time, it's brilliant and difficult, because other people inevitably interfere with it. Sometimes, they clearly improve the whole. But other times, we don't agree and interpose as much as we can. At the end, it's still teamwork. Our intervention shouldn't hinder the realisation. You have to know when you should let it be. I'm used to do my pictures from beginning to the end and it all stops there. This project goes farther, and it will go even farther when the movie will be done. But the atmosphere was so good that we could interfere until the end, until all is on screen, assuming that, once it is on screen, they could still modify it with computer. All is allowed, in the limits of the budget. Gollum, for instance, will be totally CGI, like Jar Jar Binks. So, there isn't any physical limitation. He was sculpted, scanned and will be animated by computer. He is an extremely thin creature; no actor could have slipped into him.

Actors came after our departure. So, characters and costumes were designed lately. From what I've understood, Gandalf should look very similar to my former drawing. That's what Peter Jackson wanted.

Did you use your past work?

Yes, of course. Jackson made choices in our boards, as guidelines for us. He has a huge collection of pictures and books. He should have nearly all that was written on Tolkien: he really knows his subject well. Then, he gave us the direction. Some parts didn't require much work, as the Nazgul who're very close to what I've drawn before. It's the same with the Balrog, who came quickly to the sculpture step. Even if our universes aren't the same, some parts tally. We took a lot of time to discuss the interpretation of the novel, to give our opinion. But, you see it's Jackson who's the director. We know that he heard us, and we have to let him do his job. He makes pictures that move, which speak. As an illustrator, my problem is very different. He will do a universe that won't be too colourful, one that'll fit in with Tolkien's universe, with dense colours, not necessarily contrasted. You have to know that New Zealand's landscapes are amazing. Personally, this has visually fed me for years. I took thousands of photos that I've already used for the calendar that will be released this autumn, and for the board game I've working on.

Were there still some parts to create when you left?

To create, no. But the post-production will be huge. You can go fast and save on the pre-production, but post-production means hundreds of people in front of screens for hours. However, we saw models and sets that were nearly over. Bag's End's construction, especially the inside, and Hobbiton too. A lot of sets were well defined.

Were they designed as a whole, or depending on the shots?

Both. The surroundings were fully designed at the beginning, graphically, but their elaboration and realisation depended on the shots' planning. At our level, we didn't design half a castle; we made the whole. Then, depending on the needs, we developed a part that would be built, either at full scale, either in the computer. It was a great pleasure to try to infuse some of the European experience that we had, Alan and myself. We truly sought to make things that had a life, a history of thousands of years; for instance, to give the feeling of a city that had known better times. We spent a lot at this level, and I hope this will show on the screen.

You spoke of European sensitivity?

Absolutely. Jackson read well the books, and he perfectly knows what's the matter. Of course, he's not their slave. His goal is not to re-create a piece of Europe. The idea is to take this feeling of real and abundance of signs that you find in Europe, and to transfer it in a more or less parallel universe. The question is not to make a reproduction, a copy, but to recreate a kind of mythical Europe. It's an ambitious work. We've all read a lot of books on the matter. What we could bring was our experience as illustrators. Alan Lee knows well the Celtic stuff. Together, we brought all the things that were linked to the European experience: tales, legends, and myths… We like this and we tried to infuse it as much as possible in all what we were doing.

Is there a Japanese contribution?

Ah! That was a major matter of discussion. Yes, it's possible that some of Sauron's armies have a more Asiatic influence, but I don't know to which extent. I've had huge unending discussions about fighting styles. Cinema's used to mix everything, and I was looking for something less eclectic, more precise. I have to admit I have rather decided ideas on the subject. At the time, the fight co-ordinator wasn't chosen, but I'd really like to be there for all the elaboration. However, we took an important part at the final idea by designing numerous weapons that require their own handling. You'll see, for the Elves, there will be a big surprise. For some nasties, they're even original weapons. All this should, I hope, give a fighting style that would be very identifiable, according to the time.

Do you feel in a situation close to Richard McQuarrie's one (designer on Star Wars a New Hope)

No, not really. In fact, I don't know. He's got an end product that was easier to use. But he left a true touch on George Lucas' universe. Alan and myself, we were drawing 10-11 hours a day. It's hard to be as creative and productive at such a pace, but we did as much as we could. I really discovered the atmosphere of teamwork, the trails that it blazes. I've learned a lot about the how this kind of teams works. We were very naïve when we went there. Alan lee had had worked on movies before, but not me. Today, I'd really like to do it again. By the way, if you have any contact.

Do you plan to release a collection of this huge work?

I cannot for the moment. We'll see what New Line will decide to do with it. One gets the copyrights back after a delay. So, it's strange. If friends ask me what I've done during this long period of time, I haven't anything to show them. It's a big year of work whose I've haven't got any piece left, for the moment. I just have to wait to see the movie once it'll be done, as everybody.

5-26-00 Latest News

Euro-AICN Sorta Gets it Right
Xoanon @ 14:25 EST

Ain't It Cool News has scored a bit of a scoop, unfortunately some of the report from an annonymous author seems to be a bit off.

Sounds more like the 6 minute ShoWest footage shown in Las Vegas versus the 25 minutes of footage purported to have been shown at Cannes.

Let me dissect this for you folks:

The promo-roll contains all of the material that has been published on the net a while ago, but the interviews are a little longer and the rendered skeleton that moves in the 3D-chamber in the teaser gets flesh added (and much of that!).

In addition, there are more scenes as well as production sketches and behind-the-screen material plus a few fx (as work in progress-samples). The behind-the-scenes-material shows us the constructing of a huge wooden castle/fortress (I suspect Helms Deep),

This fortress is Minas Tirith actually.

which is painted stone-gray by workers. It looks sort of unreal (I don't mean "unrealistic"!) in this color, maybe they invented the grey-screen (ha, ha.). A set designer explains to the camera that very much construction has to be done and that this is an experience completely new to all of them. (Or so, I couldn't take notes).

Another person, the head of production design, I suppose, explains, while sitting in a typical creative person's office, that it is a very hard job to bring all the detail onto the screen that Tolkien described so very detailed in the books. It is a very challenging task but he is very satisfied with its forthcoming.

The 'person' is in fact John Howe, well known LOTR artist, and all around cool guy.

The other scenes that have been shown consisted of Gandalf slowly walking up a snowy slope (I guess that's before they enter Moria), he looks *very* lost and lonely in these huge and rough mountains! We also see the party wandering across mild-green lands that reminded me of Ireland and Corsica. Small ponds (about 10 yards in average diameter), little trees (about 4 yards high), some brush along their path. It was only a short shot, maybe two seconds.

We believe this is not Moria, but probably Cathadras. It's a very beautiful shot of Gandalf among the snowy mountains.

Also very, very beautiful is their wandering along a ridge between a lake in the mountains and the edge of the cliff that holds it in its position. Crystal-blue water, looking clean and sweet and good, but also cold and very beautiful in a rough way. It's one of those places you'd stop to take photos for hours, but you would never want to build a house there. Also to be seen is the scene from the trailer where Aragorn (I suppose) holds up the ring on its chain to take a close look, he then says something like "A thing this small, causing so much pain and suffering. How can that be?" (or so...)

A little off, that's Boromir holding the ring, and saying those words, but in a much better phrase, which goes like this:

'It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much doubt and fear over so small a thing'

There are also many scenes from the trailer, and a few new ones, but I couldn't distinguish exactly in the flood of the pictures. Many horses, orcs, riders, masks, weapons, ringwraiths (I mean those TV-movie-like looking guys from the net-trailer, I hope there are some effects coming up on these clips...), the flooding of the creek (yet without the effect described in the books), a wonderful Arwen and as well Galadriel, Saruman and Gandalf, the 4 Hobbits, actually the fellowship of the ring as a little slideshow. Which brings me to FX.

There were 2 moving fx scenes, as well as some photos of Gimli and other small-rendered folks. The two moving scenes were two guys sitting at a blue table (both facing towards us, on the left side the big (or normal) guy, on the right the small one) in front of a bluescreen on blue chairs, cheerio-ing with two white cups. The small guy was supposedly rendered small, but he looked completely alright, the movement was the right (realistic) speed for their sizes, the coordination of the cups (they clank together) just perfect.

A very cool shot indeed, and this is what the non-CGI 'shrinking' that will be used.

Even better was the second scene: The four hobbits (Merry, Pippin, Sam and Frodo) standing in some quickly put-together-dungeon made of wood and plaster, staring upwards, as if they'd look in the sun, and then a human man walks through the little group, shoving them a little aside to make his way.

A quickly put-together-dungeon? I'ts Barliman's! That's where they are! Where are they ever in a dungeon? Sigh...trust me, they are in Barliman's...He doesn't tap anyone on the head, but this extreemly tall guy does walk past the hobbits, and it's flawless.

The size of the hobbits in comparison to the man: The top of their heads reach his belt. The man puts a hand on Frodos head (like onto a child's head) to move him a little to the right so that he can pass. The hobbits also move in a perfectly normal manner, and so does the man....

Some of this information from the report might have had a few people worried, but no worries folks, PJ is on the right track.

5-24-00 Latest News

'Tolkien Weekend' Report
Xoanon @ 16:20 EST

And checked in with this great little report about the 'Tolkien Weekend' that went down on the 13th and 14th of May.

Dear X

Hope you find this of interest...

On 13th May there was a Tolkien weekend at Sarehole Mill in Birmingham. This is the mill that Tolkien referred to in his forward to LOTR.

It was in this suburb of Birmingham that JRRT spent part of his childhood, and in this idyllic rural setting gained inspiration for the setting of the Shire in his novels. With the development of the railways and the expansion of Birmingham as an industrial centre much of the rural landscape was lost. It has been suggested that this was a theme reflected in the Scouring of the Shire in LOTR.

Tolkien says in the final paragraph of his foreward "I recently saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important."

Fortunately since Tolkien wrote those words, the mill in question has been restored and is now a working museum. See picture. At the Tolkien weekend, there were members of the Tolkien society, drawings from local schoolchildren, craft exhibitions, booksales and dramatic readings from the Hobbit. Also not far from the mill is a wood that was the inspirartion for the Old Forest. I think I found the right place and took a photo, even though it doesn't look very foreboding...


Andy Cooper

The Sarehole Mill Museum and Tolkien's 'Old Forest'

TheOneRing.net Sponsorships: May Update
Calisuri @ 12:07 EST

At the moment, TheOneRing.net is sponsoring two causes with the income from those little ad banners you see at the top of most of our pages. One of them is book-related, the Duffy 'Books in Homes' scheme, and the other is environmental, being a part of the Worldwide Fund for Nature's campaign to protect endangered marine species.

A few weeks ago the school we sponsor, Runanga, got the free books the children there had picked out. The school principal wrote:

"What a fantastic day...our children received their books. It was fantastic. We had Graeme Thorne, the ex-All Black, as our Role model. We also had the paper here so hopefully we will have some publicity."

The Duffy programme gets famous people, usually sports stars, to come and be Role Models and tell kids that reading is a cool thing to do. In New Zealand, the All Blacks are like, well, think of whatever the most famous sportsteam is in your country, that's what the All Blacks are here. They wear the famous black jersey, hence the name.

"Thanks again for the fantastic sponsorship. We are so grateful to you and your friends.

Our second charity, the Worldwide Fund for Nature, is using our donation to help with their Marine Environment Campaign, and they sent this recently:

"...I would just like to let you know that with regard to the marine environment we are continuing our important work with the North Island Hector's Dolphin, the world's smallest and rarest marine mammal (there are thought to be only approximately 100 left). We are planning to expand the work to include hands-on recovery programmes which will include community participation and leading edge science. Once the details are finalised I will fill you in on the proposal, we are planning to use the support from TheOneRing.net to assist with this project."

So, that's the latest news from our sponsorship programme.

- Tehanu

Shadowfax and other animals.
Calisuri @ 10:34 EST

Tehanu brings us this report:

\[ Click for larger view \]

One of the disadvantages of being an LOTR website that actually has a base in NZ is that we can't post anything from the local papers and magazines without their permission and expect to get away with it. Luckily the Dominion is the only print journal that dislikes seeing its articles reproduced on the Net, so I'll paraphrase their article of last Tuesday.

What interested me was the information that various allegations of cruelty to animals have been posted on the Net concerning horses on the LOTR set. "Every report is posted on the internet and is judged by the world," according to the Dominion. I'd love to know more about that; it's news to me. Is there some "LOTR Film Sucks and is Doomed to Fail (because it's Evil)" website out there?

The allegations are that a horse was so badly injured that it had to be put down; that the film company dyed horses white with toxic peroxide; that a block and tackle was used to knock horses to their knees. One horse supposedly broke its back in a trick, another was put down after falling from a wharf, and another shot for a hide to cover Liv's barrel-shaped 'riding contraption.'

This sort of talk had the Ministry of Agriculture and the International League for the Protection of Horses worried enough that they came and inspected the way the animals were being treated. They had no concerns regarding what they found.

The rumours also worried the film company enough that they invited The Dominion's reporter Alan Samson out to the Te Horo stables so he could see for himself. (Maybe this is a great idea - I'll spread rumours of terrible demeaning cruelty to short people on the LOTR set and see if that gets me an interview with the hobbit doubles!)

Samson got to watch animal trainer Dan Reynolds making Shadowfax rear on command. Moments afterwards, according to the report, the horse "nuzzled his boss affectionately."

The head wrangler, Dave Johnson, said the rumours seemed to be blown up from real but innocuous incidents. There was a lack of available white horses in NZ and the film crew had briefly worked with the idea of lightening a horse's colour using human hair-dye, not peroxide, but the substance was ineffective. One of the Ringwraith horses had slipped when it was being unloaded onto a wharf, but it was given antibiotics and recovered.

A horse had died of colic, another of a heart attack - both regarded as natural causes of death. Among 70 horses, they had merely the normal kinds of injuries such as strained tendons and puffy joints, according to LOTR vet Ray Lanagan, who testified that the horses were well-treated and subject to less strain than, say, race-horses.
"If horses could talk, they'd say they were pretty happy about what they've got here," said Lanagan.

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