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June 14, 2004 - October 11, 2004


ROTK: EE DVD Easter Egg Revealed!
Xoanon @ 3:25 pm EST
Peter "The Hutt" writes:

From Henneth-Annun, the Russian LotR resource, comes this article:

The EE of the "Return of the King" is not out yet - however, theeaster egg for this upcoming DVD release has already been revealed.

It has been made possible by British laws, which force all video andaudio materials to be submitted for rating by the British Board ofFilm Classification (BBFC).

Here be spoilers!

The Easter Egg this time is a remote interview with Elijah Wood, whichhas been conducted from the world premiere of RotK in Berlin. Elijahwas absent, but reporters had a possibility to ask him questions overa phone line. He would then answer them into a video camera installedin his New York hotel.

As Wood could not see the interviewer, Dominic Monaghan pulled a prankon hin. He assumed a strong German accent and started impersonating aGerman reporter, asking most outrageous questions. The whole piece ofinterview is 8 minutes 34 seconds long.

Peter Jackson often announced this piece of interview to appear on theRotK SEE DVD. Now we know, in what context it will happen. Also, thistime the easter egg has passed British censorship (both MTV MovieAward's easter eggs of previous LotR releases have been dropped in theUK release, because of "adult" dialogues). However, there still mightbe some adult language, as the new Easter Egg has been rated 12 by BBFC.

Link to PJ interview.Link to BBFC website.


ROTK: Extended Edition Release Date
Tehanu @ 5:42 pm EST
The Lidless Eye heard from a source in New Line, and writes:

"1. The announcement will be made in 2-3 weeks, once they are confident they can "get all the assets in place" on the day in question.

2. It will definitely be in December, not November. Any website quoting an exact date is just guessing.

3. It will be a worldwide release, but with a few countries being 1-2 days later.

"Remember, I and Leonides* were the ones who broke the news in June last year about the ROTK trailer being released in late September and attached at first to Second Hand Lions."

So this looks like really solid confirmation of the December release date for the Extended edition, and what's important to millions of LOTR fans around the world is the knowledge that we won't have to wait months for it to arrive in other countries.


Kong Pre Production Going Strong
Xoanon @ 1:35 pm EST
Kong Pre Production Going Strong

Here's another update from Wellington... It seems that the large new concrete structure on Stone Street Studio's site, that I previously reported (and photographed on June 11) as a possible Kong film set turns out to be an entirely new large concrete building, possibly (probably?) a new indoor stage.

Also, the wall of ships containers has been completed and is now 4 high, and as you can see in the included new pics, it's got a massive blue screen hanging from it.

You can see in one the photos (taken from the supermarket behind the Stone Street Studio) that there's a new "old" wall just behind the blue screen, labelled "East River Shipping Company" (sorry, it's a bit unclear in the pic, but it looks damn old). For those not from around here, there's no East River in Wellington... :)

Furthermore, there's another new "old" wall being constructed on the entrance side of the studio, marked with a few letters "..O.N. ... P.A...". I'm not sure what it's going to say but it's not finished yet. More later. I have no pictures (yet), since it's just beside where the security guard sits, and he looks mean as an Orc. I ain't messing with him... :)

The second picture is taken from the front entrance, hiding behind the "army" truck, a truck which is marked "Genetic Department, Three Foot Six Ltd, Miramar, Wellington". In the photo you also can clearly see the size of the blue screen at the back of the studio entrance, at the same carpark where (for instance) the Dead Marshes were filmed.

The King Kong boat I previously reported on May the 7th, which was originally called the "Manuia" and was green, is now black and is called the "Venture" (If I recall correctly). I'll try to get some new photos soon.


SPECIAL REPORT: 'The Battle for Middle-earth'
Quickbeam @ 12:46 am EST
Where the Fine Arts Meets Electronic Arts

A Special Peek Behind the Scenes for EA Games’ The Battle for Middle-earth Game

Down in the depths of Southern California you will find an amazing place. The Electronic Arts L.A. Campus is designed to keep the resident video game designers very happy. Everything in the environment, from the shiny green landscaping down to the massive salt-water aquarium in the lobby, helps keep the army of people working for EA Games content through the long haul of production. The campus is both an artists’ studio and multi-leveled corporate playground all at once. Instead of sterile ‘cube farms’ you see in most offices, they have colorful hexagon cubicles, where many of the panels are forced open by employees so they can see, interact with, and throw paper balls at their neighbors. They have complete recreational facilities, covering all the bases. Their vibrant dining facility offers homemade breakfast burritos, cooked to order. They have their own gym, basketball courts, and soccer field (ready for a round volleyball).

The facility excludes such annoying distractions as corporate goons who love to pester the artists while they work, or shrill customer service call centers. Nothing like that here. This place is for gamers! One thing is for sure -- this ain’t your Father’s office space.

Here there be many wondrous sights and secretive assets! My tour of the campus included a preview of hundreds of cool things related to EA Games that must, alas, remain secret. I was there to visit the Battle for Middle-earth production team -- who are busy creating a new, virtual Middle-earth where the player controls the armies, strategies, and ever-changing shifts of power as seen in The Lord of the Rings films. Actually, you might play this Battle for Middle-earth game as either the Free People’s side or the Sauron side. Anything is possible. This is a real-time strategy game that promises to delight the hardcore gamer – and packs a big ‘Wow’ factor for Tolkien fans.

Mark Skaggs is a busy man these days. He is the VP and Executive Producer for The Battle for Middle-earth, and the buck stops with him. Overseeing a massive team of 80 different artists, drafters, animators, programmers, project managers, and the requisite marketing crew is what he simply calls ‘A Day’s Work.’ And seeing the strenuous efforts of his team going on all around me, as I walk the corridors of the Campus, it is suddenly very clear how similar to Peter Jackson he really is. Like the famed movie director, Mark must bear the brunt of huge expectations from Ringer fans -- including myself -- all the while attempting to orchestrate a swarm of people unified under his vision and guidance. I don’t envy him a bit, as he too is trying to handle one of the biggest fantasy franchises of all time.

Yet he and his team are doing it with finesse.

He proudly shows the assembled reporters a unique demo of the game, shown recently at E3. It begins with a stunning map that must have taken years to develop. It’s a gorgeous virtual rending of all the lands of Middle-earth that were involved in the War of the Ring, with exaggerated relief features, smoke rising out of Mt. Doom, and verdant forests. My hat is off Richard Kreegler, for it is one of the most stylish Middle-earth maps I’ve ever seen in any medium. This is the kind of artwork that should please Tolkien fans, while it’s not perfectly accurate in geographic detail, that’s not the point. It’s just so organic and inviting. This is indeed art.

You click on the map to enter the virtual locations where battle will be decided. As the camera moves down towards the city of Osgiliath, or wherever you might go, you certainly can expect beautiful visuals. And Howard Shore’s amazing score.

First we saw how an Orc Camp is created. For those non-gamers out there, the skill and challenge inherent in every Real-Time Strategy Game really boils down to managing resources. Units are built on the field where Orcs can create armor, weapons, practice their fighting maneuvers, etc. The same thing exists for the good guys, with stables, food storage, and barracks. It’s all about building the best army and deploying them with gusto. This is mighty cool stuff. The graphics are top notch, as everything is cut from similar cloth that WETA had already masterfully woven for the cinema version of LOTR.

Matt Britton comes in to explain how 35 supremely talented artists and animators put it all together. The EA team has full access to designs and assets from the WETA Camperdown Studio in Wellington. I’ve been there myself recently -- shooting for the “RINGERS” documentary, and there is no shortage of magic inside the confines of that marvelous building, believe me. Pure unadulterated magic. And the production team from EA Games enjoys such a rich bounty of existing work; only to extrapolate those ideas for a new digital environment. They take existing architecture, creatures, and even “staged lighting” and make it unique for their game.

There are so many types of army units you can choose from. There be Ents here! And Mumakil that threaten to stomp everyone in their path! When the Balrog appears, sheesh.... you might as well hang it up buddy, because you’re toast. All the best design elements are recreated in detail from what you’ve seen on the silver screen: from the Riders of Rohan and their equestrian motifs -- down to the ugly, coarse brown hair growing on a Warg’s back. The “Army of the Dead” units have a very unique effect surrounding them, ghostly and surreal.

Some units are chosen individually, others are counted as “hordes” that allow you to chunk out huge portions of armies and deploy them en masse. Mark tells us about a new concept in developing your units (gamers call this “powering up” units) called “veterancy.” The characters and units you develop over time have increased power and effectiveness based upon their previous battles. Even the buildings themselves (such as battlements and armories) increase veterancy.

As the game demo progressed I realized that Warg pits are very fun indeed. Every kid should have one in his backyard. I feel sorry for city-dwellers like me who live in apartment without a nice yard. The Orcs of Isengard are shown furiously chopping at trees -- however the catch for the Evil Player is to not rouse the Ents who are nearby! Something more appealing for you greenies out there: you can build your own Entmoot if you like.

I am so there!

We are treated to a special presentation by Richard Taylor. NO, not the same Richard Taylor over in New Zealand.... same name, different gentleman.... a very generous talent from American shores. Besides working on Star Trek, he was the Visual Effects Supervisor and concept designer for Disney’s TRON, that most nostalgic and groundbreaking of CGI films. Here at EA Games, Mr. Taylor creates stunning animatics that play during the course of the game. He is a film director of a special kind -- making “mini-movies” that must meet the high demands of Tolkien’s universe. Saying to the assembled reporters, “Games have their own lives,” Mr. Taylor explains the agonizing process of storyboards, sketches, camera controls and angles; not to mention the endless man-hours needed for character movement. All for a 40-second clip that looks as good as anything you’ve seen from Hollywood. The disciplines of filmmaking are in full force here, and it’s remarkable to see it from concept to creation.

Dustin Browder, Game Design Director working on BFME, offers us some very cool game strategies and sage advice. He shows us the basics of going around the map and placing you bases in the best locations. Just like in real estate, it’s all about location. We also got to see a remarkable interface that uses the Palant'r concept. By looking at the lower-left of your screen, you can check on the prevailing status of your units and heroes. The design is elegant in the extreme.

Did I say “heroes?” Yes, there are major characters from LOTR in every aspect of this RTS game. You will witness the courage of Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Theoden, etc., while the forces of Sauron command the Witch-king, the Balrog, and more. This game has the goods. And just wait till you sit down and play it yourself.

I hear you asking: On what platforms will BFME be made available? When will it come out in stores? Well, to find out you absolutely must visit the EA Games website for The Battle for Middle-earth [click here]. There you will find a plethora of information, discussion with other gamers, and even more previews of this utterly cool game. While you’re at it -- don’t miss the “Video” page with promotional clips in glorious Quicktime! [click here]

It’s always good to know that artists, when given a good home and the right support, will wax creative in the extreme, producing the most awesome work that comes from pure inspiration. Over at the EA Games Los Angeles Campus, they make unprecedented efforts so their artistic team feels good about their work. This idea is borne out in full with BFME. This game is truly beautiful.... and now I can see why working for EA is the most desirable job in the gaming industry.

Much too hasty,


PJ To be Featured in Forbes
Xoanon @ 8:24 pm EST
Hobbitt on Holiday writes: The forthcoming issue of Forbes Magazine (July 5 issue) contains a profile of Peter Jackson by writer Brett Pulley.

It contains the following anecdote in the first paragraph:

"Around town [Wellington] people breathlessly recount the true story of how a fully clothed Paris Hilton accidentally fell into a swimming pool at an Oscar party -- only to be rescued by Jackson himself. "We're thinking of naming one of the islands after him," jokes Belinda Todd, a local television writer. "I mean its only fair."

Story goes on the claim that Jackson has personally made $125 million US$ from the three films. He will appear at #12 overall and 35th in annual pay on the Forbes Annual Celebrity 100 List.


More NZ Kong Reports
Xoanon @ 3:18 pm EST
Deni wirtes: I just read this report by Xoanon about the new happenings on King Kong. I thought I should add a bit of information to help clear up some confusion.

The filming on Mount Victoria over the weekend was probably for the 48 hour film project which had around 47 film crews, including 3 from WETA, all trying to make an 8 minute movie in 48 hours. I doubt there was any Kong filming going on, everything was too hectic this weekend.

Also there are currently some dinosaur models on view at the Camperdown studios (you can see them through the window), although unfortuately my camera isn't good enough to get a decent picture, sorry.

There were also quite a few "army" trucks parked around the Stone Street studios over the last week or so. With the expansion of Post on Park, Miramar is becoming one big film studio!


Kong is Coming...
Xoanon @ 9:10 pm EST
Kong is Coming...

Almost, but not entirely... writes:

I sent a quick report a few weeks ago about the work going on around Wellington NZ for King Kong... here's a quick update, and a few (bad) pics... :

At the carpark behind the Stone Stree Studios in Miramar - The Mumak harness that I reported was being stored at the back of the carpark has now in fact, been taken away. The Three Foot Six truck marked "Genetics Departement" (???) that was parked there has also gone. A small shed that was located beside the back gate is also gone. What has been placed in the carpark will now prevent any more cool photos from that perspective - a two-high stack of ships containers, filled with large barrels filled with water (presumably for steadying the stack). I'm assuming it's there for giant outdoor blue-screens like they did for LOTR. One of the crew told me they're going to be building it four high. :(

Also at the back of the carpark, still "kinda" visible despite the
container wall is a new structure, presumably a set of some sort. It's about 20 meters high, and appeared over the course of last week. I figured I'd have enough time to come back and photograph it, but the container wall took only two days and surpised me.

As for the boat I wrote about previously, Dan Hennah himself has been sighted there (not by me though), apparently doing a spot of welding the the front of the boat has been covered in some sort of thick metal plating. Not sure why, though.

Also in town, there was a film crew yesterday, busy filming a street scene on Mount Victoria, (in front of the old catholic church, St Gerards). I heard it was a New York scene for King Kong, but can't confirm that. I've also heard that filming won't begin until August, so at least one of my sources is wrong. :)

Enjoy the photos, I'll post more as it happens.

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