Cinema and Media Studies The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
by
Kristin Thompson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0075

Introduction

The Lord of the Rings is one of the most successful and influential films ever made. Its three parts, released in December of 2001, 2002, and 2003 respectively, grossed nearly three billion dollars worldwide. New technologies introduced for the epic fantasy were widely adopted in filmmaking. Franchise series were increasingly important to Hollywood’s business approach, and the filmmakers pioneered unprecedented cooperation with the makers of licensed products, particularly video games. New Line was among the first to exploit online publicity; both studio and filmmakers cautiously developed unusually close relations with fans’ sites. Like Star Wars, the trilogy became a model for Hollywood practice. The Lord of the Rings was adapted from J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel of the same name (three volumes, 1954 and 1955). The book gained greater popularity when it appeared in Ballantine Books’ paperback edition in the United States (1965). In 1969 Tolkien and his British publisher Unwin Hyman sold United Artists the production and distribution rights to the novel. Abandoning a project to product the trilogy, in 1976 United Artists sold the rights to independent producer Saul Zaentz. Zaentz produced an animated film by Ralph Bakshi, The Lord of the Rings (1978), based on the first half of the book; its failure scotched plans for a second. In 1995 a New Zealand director, Peter Jackson, had just completed a comic horror film for Universal, The Frighteners (1995). A record number of digital effect shots were created in a new facility, Weta Ltd., which Jackson and some of his colleagues had started in 1994. Seeking a bigger special-effects challenge, Jackson and his partner Fran Walsh hit upon The Lord of the Rings. They had a connection with Miramax Films, which had distributed the pair’s Heavenly Creatures (1994). Miramax head Harvey Weinstein used his connection with Zaentz, whose The English Patient (1996) Miramax had produced and distributed, to acquire the rights to the trilogy. In 1997 Miramax commenced pre-production on a two-part version of The Lord of the Rings. After eighteen months, Michael Eisner, head of Miramax’s parent company Walt Disney, reduced the project to a single feature. Jackson took the project to New Line Cinema, whose co-president, Bob Shaye, bought the project, to be made in three parts shot simultaneously in New Zealand. Principal photography lasted from October 1999 to December 2000. All three parts met with popular and critical acclaim, winning a total of seventeen Academy Awards.

General Overviews

Few sources provide thorough overviews of the Lord of the Rings phenomenon. The subject extends far beyond the production, distribution, and exhibition of the film. The trilogy was the center of an extensive franchise, with hundreds of licensed products made internationally. Its production coincided with the spread of digital technology, and both its filmmaking techniques and its online publicity were highly innovative. The influences of The Lord of the Rings have lasted for years after the 2004 release of the final part in an extended-version DVD. Its economic bolstering of the international independent film market, its developments in special effects, and its long-term financial and cultural impact on New Zealand make this phenomenon a vast topic. Most literature on the film has necessarily been patchy in coverage. Moreover, most information needed for a thorough account was never available in print or online, and in the decade since the final part’s release, many of the more specialized online articles, reports, and publicity relating to the trilogy have disappeared. New Line has kept such tight control over information about the project that no researcher could gain access to all the studio’s records. Participants in the film and its ancillaries were bound by reportedly draconian confidentiality clauses, and access to them was limited largely to journalistic interviews in highly restricted situations. As a result, most of the general information on the film was published in the popular and trade press during the years of its production and release. The only overview written with the cooperation of the filmmakers and of people associated with licensees, distributors, and the publicity campaigns was Thompson 2007, which gives an extensive account of the production, franchising, publicity, and impact of The Lord of the Rings. Miklos, et al. 2007 covers much of the same material in a less comprehensive fashion.

  • Miklos, Lothar, Susanne Eichner, Elizabeth Prommer, and Michael Wedel. Die “Herr der Ringe”-Trilogie: Attraktion und Fascinzation eines populärkulturellen Phänomens. Konstanz, Germany: UVK Verlagsgesellschaft, 2007.

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    An analysis of the franchise phenomenon, with sections: “Der Produktionskontext von Der Herr der Ringe” (genre, marketing); “Text und Textualität von Der Herr der Ringe” (mise-en-scene, narration; “Der Herr der Ringe im Kontext bon Kultur under Lebenswelt”’ (reception in Germany) and “Der Herr der Ringe als globales Phänomen” (world audiences).

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  • Thompson, Kristin. The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Based on interviews with the producers, director, screenwriters, designers, IT personnel, and others directly associated with the film; also with video-game experts at Electronic Arts, professional publicists and fan webmasters, tour operators, and government officials concerned with leveraging off the trilogy. Its sections will be described in the relevant categories.

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Anthologies

The huge success and impact of The Lord of the Rings led to the publication of several scholarly anthologies. Most of these were written fairly soon after the third part’s release. Although delays spread out their publication somewhat, the editors and authors of each were usually unaware of the other publications. This led to a certain repetition of subject matter. Presumably the anthology format kept the authors from gaining permission to interview the filmmakers, since studio gatekeepers would be even more reluctant to grant access to a large group of authors than a single one. As a result, some authors have concentrated on cultural studies of the film, dealing with race, class, gender, national identity, and similar topics. Others have focused on the franchise rather than the film, including the publicity around the film, the reactions of fans, the merchandising, and the film’s impact on New Zealand. Croft 2004 was written largely by literary rather than film scholars, with the majority of the essays complaining about the adaptation. Vossen 2004 places The Lord of the Rings in the context of Jackson’s career. Although publishing delays made Margolis, et al. 2008 one of the last anthologies to appear, it was well underway as the films were being made; it brought a local perspective to the subject, drawing many of its authors from academic institutions in New Zealand. Lam and Oryshchuk 2007 assembles essays on a wide range of topics from a culture-studies perspective, loosely unified by a notion that “Middle-earth” has been recreated in a Baudrillardian “hyperreality.” Three of these anthologies originated from the ambitious International Lord of the Rings Research Project, based at the University of Aberystwyth, Wales, and conducted by Martin Barker and Ernest Mathijs. Their research studied fan reactions to The Return of the King, using paper questionnaires in several countries and an online one internationally, as well as follow-up interviews with selected audience members among the nearly 25,000 respondents. Of these three books, Barker and Mathijs 2008 is most directly concerned with analyzing the resulting data. Mathijs 2006 and Mathijs and Pomerance 2006 touch only tangentially on the audience study, containing a wide variety of essays on topics related to the franchise, many of them from a cultural-studies perspective. Bogstad and Kaveny 2011 is the only anthology assembled after the publication of the others; it is less comprehensive, with essays filling in gaps in the earlier works.

  • Barker, Martin, and Ernest Mathijs, eds. Watching The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s World Audiences. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

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    Of the three collections originating from the International Lord of the Rings Research Project, this is the most informative and useful. With statistical analysis of the questionnaire results and speculation on the significance of the differences in answers among national groups.

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  • Bogstad, Janice M., and Philip E. Kaveny, eds. Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Edited by two literary scholars, this collection takes a primarily positive view of the film trilogy, in part as a response to scholarly attacks on Jackson’s adaptation, such as those in Croft 2004. Includes analyses of story and character, as well as essays on topics such as the swords and horses.

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  • Croft, Janet Brennan, ed. Tolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings. Altadena, CA: Mythopoeic, 2004.

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    The first academic book devoted to the trilogy. Written primarily by literary scholars, well over half the essays are essentially complaints—often the same ones from essay to essay—about the adaptation of Tolkien’s novel. (See Thompson’s review in Tolkien Studies 3, 222–228.)

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  • Lam, Adam, and Nataliya Oryshchuk, eds. How We Became Middle-earth: A Collection of Essays on The Lord of the Rings. Comarë Series 13. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    A collection based on the theory of Jean Baudrillard. Many essays concentrate more on theory than research, frequently containing misinformation and viewing the subject with distaste or contempt. One exception is Anne Buchmann, whose interviews of people connected with the film in “Creating Middle-earth: The Insiders’ Views” is useful.

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  • Margolis, Harriet, Sean Cubitt, Barry King, and Thierry Jutel, eds. Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2008.

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    Among the anthologies, the most systematic attempt to cover the entire Lord of the Rings phenomenon. Sometimes favors political interpretation over research. The most useful essays include Cubitt and King’s dossiers on acting and script adaptation, Deborah Jones’s “’Ring Leader,’” Cubitt’s “Realising Middle-earth,” and Ann Hardy’s “There and Back Again.”

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  • Mathijs, Ernest, ed. The Lord of the Rings: Popular Culture in Global Context. London: Wallflower, 2006.

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    Connected to the International Lord of the Rings Research Project at the University of Aberystwyth. Some essays relate to fan reception of The Return of the King, but most are on a variety of topics relating to topics such as motifs and press coverage. (See Thompson’s review in Tolkien Studies IV, 244–254.)

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  • Mathijs, Ernest, and Murray Pomerance, eds. From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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    Also linked to the International Lord of the Rings Research Project at the University of Aberystwyth. The quality of the essays varies considerably, ranging from Sarah Kozloff’s useful study of the film as melodrama to Tom Conley’s error-ridden essays on maps. (See Thompson’s review in Tolkien Studies IV, 244–254.)

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  • Vossen, Ursula, ed. Von Neuseeland nach Mittelerde: Die Welt des Peter Jackson. Marburg, Germany: Schüren Verlag, 2004.

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    Although this book is an auteur study of Peter Jackson’s career, about half of it deals with The Lord of the Rings, covering the production of the film and its fandom. One chapter compares Jackson’s film with other adaptations, and there is a new interview with Jackson himself.

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Journals

Numerous popular film journals ran issues that devoted a cluster of articles (or even an entire issue) to the trilogy. These tend to repeat essentially the same information, often based on brief interviews with stars or cast members during press junkets. The studio publicity department carefully guided the types of information that were given by the interviewees, in part by controlling the junket situation and in part by issuing EPKs (electronic press kits on CDs, containing clips, images, and information). Most cover stories or special issues in the popular magazines aimed to introduce people not familiar with Tolkien’s books to the world of Middle-earth and hence are not usually of great use to the researcher. The most extensive of these popular publications, Entertainment Weekly 2004, is the only one listed here. Two exceptions are journals that were published with extensive cooperation from the filmmakers and New Line executives. One, The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, was a tie-in with the franchise, and although it was under New Line’s control, the high quality and imagination of the editorial work and the obvious enthusiasm of the filmmakers in communicating with their fan base created a uniquely informative resource. The other, Chagollan 2004, was a special issue published on the occasion of the co-presidents of New Line being presented with the magazine’s “Showmen of the Year” prize; it is the most comprehensive overview of the studio at the time of the trilogy’s production.

  • Chagollan, Steve, ed. “Showmen of the Year: Bob Shaye—Michael Lynne.” Variety (August 2004): 23–29.

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    Although the issue’s numerous articles provide an overview and history of New Line Cinema, it contains considerable information on the trilogy’s production and distribution. Based on interviews with key executives at New Line.

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  • Entertainment Weekly. The Entertainment Weekly Ultimate Viewer’s Guide: The Lord of the Rings. New York: Entertainment Weekly, 2004.

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    Entertainment Weekly, owned by Time Warner, parent company of New Line, published this “Special Collector’s Issue” after the third part’s release. A popularly oriented but unusually thorough series of short articles, including profiles of cast and crew members and a group interview assembling quotations from many of them.

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  • The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, February 2002–January 2005.

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    This magazine was available only by subscription to members of the licensed fan club. The magazine—for both its articles and advertisements—is a treasure-trove concerning many aspects of the film’s making, the franchise products, and fan activities. Particularly useful articles are listed here within specific topics.

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The Making of the Film

There are few films that were as heavily documented as Lord of the Rings at the time they were being made. Peter Jackson and his team took full advantage of television infotainment shows and of supplements on DVDs. Before principal photography began, Jackson persuaded New Line to hire Costa Botes (who had co-directed Forgotten Silver with Jackson) and an assistant to use unobtrusive digital cameras to record candid footage for use in documentaries; Botes 2006 consists of three features that are concerned primarily with giving a sense of the behind-the-scenes atmosphere of the filming process rather than an informational overview. Dan Arden produced more formal making-of documentaries that were shown on television and then included as supplements in the theatrical-version DVD releases; aimed at audiences unfamiliar with Tolkien’s work, these supplements are not as in-depth as Pellerin 2002–2004. For the latter, the most comprehensive single source on the making of the trilogy, filmmaker Michael Pellerin, partly using Botes’s footage and partly recording new on-set material and talking-head interviews with many members of the cast and crew, created unprecedentedly elaborate supplements for the extended-version DVDs. He also produced four lengthy commentary tracks for the extended versions. In addition, the complexity of both the design elements and the digital special effects led to extensive press coverage. Those involved in these areas gave numerous interviews, and specialist journals were allowed access to the facilities in Wellington for demonstrations and explanations of how the look and sound of the film were accomplished. Most such material covers the making of the film. Sibley 2002 is a licensed coffee-table book aimed at a popular audience and concentrates more on the actors and designers than on the more technical aspects of filmmaking. The financial and organizational side of the production can be glimpsed less extensively in the interviews given by New Line officials, usually published in trade journals such as Variety, or in news releases doled out cautiously and selectively to fan websites.

  • Botes, Costa, dir. The Fellowship of the Ring: Behind the Scenes; The Two Towers: Behind the Scenes; The Return of the King: Behind the Scenes. 3 vols. 2006.

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    Originally titled The Making of The Lord of the Rings. Released as supplements in 2006 in the “Limited Edition” version of the DVDs and also included in the Blu-ray editions (2011). Botes was hired to shoot candid, behind-the-scenes footage during the entire production of the trilogy. Some scenes were used by other documentarians making official supplements and promotional films. Eschewing narration or narrative structure, Botes’s features give an impressionistic overview of the cast and crew’s activities.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    Among the most extensive supplements ever created for home video, the production documentaries occupy two discs in each set; there are also four commentary tracks, each lasting about eleven and a half hours. Also included in the Blu-ray set (2011). Individual supplements are listed in the relevant categories.

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  • Sibley, Brian. The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

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    An overview of the making of the trilogy for general audiences. Released after the first part, the book concentrates on design and principal photography with a short section on post-production of The Fellowship of the Ring. The pickups and post-production of the second and third parts are not covered.

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Cast Memoirs, Commentaries, and Diaries

Given the relatively large cast of the film, surprisingly few of the actors have written much about their experiences. The main exception is Ian McKellen, who started his own website in 1997, before actors’ websites were common. When filming started in 1999, McKellen was the only member of the cast who had one. McKellen 2000–2008 and McKellen 1999–2001 became part of the quasi-official level of online publicity, written independently but subject to approval from New Line. Astin and Layden 2004 is concerned mainly with behind-the-scenes accounts of the actors, while Serkis 2003 focuses on the technology and design elements that went into the creation of the motion-captured character Gollum. Pellerin 2002–2004 contains extensive commentaries and numerous talking-heads interview excerpts with cast members.

  • Astin, Sean, and Joe Layden. There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale. New York: St. Martin’s, 2004.

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    Contains some autobiographical background but is mainly concerned with the period when Astin was playing Sam Gamgee. Less informative than it might be, but far from sugar coated, it reveals a surprising amount about Astin’s insecurities and the tensions that developed among some of the cast members.

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  • McKellen, Ian. The Grey Book (20 August 1999–14 December 2001).

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    A journal posted from McKellen’s casting to the world premiere of The Fellowship of the Ring. Sanctioned, or at least tolerated, by New Line, this became a key source of information, especially once McKellen’s popularity soared with the release of the first part. Again, McKellen wrote the entries himself.

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  • McKellen, Ian. E-Posts (2000–2008).

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    An occasional column in which McKellen answered questions sent in by fans. He wrote the answers himself, and the results range from casual and humorous to highly informative.

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  • McKellen, Ian. The White Book (25 June 2002–12 November 2003).

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    A continuation of The Grey Book, posted from the filming of pickups for The Two Towers to his last piece of recorded dialogue as the film was finished.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    The cast commentary track features Elijah Wood (Frodo), Ian McKellen (Gandalf), Liv Tyler (Arwen), Sean Astin (Sam), John Rhys-David (Gimli), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), Orlando Bloom (Legolas), and Sean Bean (Boromir). The supplementary documentaries in the appendices contain many excerpts from interviews with cast members.

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  • Serkis, Andy. The Lord of the Rings Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic. London: Collins, 2003.

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    The actor who played Gollum provides a history of his participation in the project, as well as information on devising the character’s voice and on the revolutionary motion-capture and other digital technology used for his appearance and movements. With numerous design drawings and quotations from other members of cast and crew.

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The Producers

There were several producers listed in the credits for the trilogy. These included Harvey and Bob Weinstein as executive producers, though their active contributions to the project ended after New Line acquired the project. Bob Shaye, as the one who acquired the project for New Line and decided to make it in three parts, was the ultimate decision maker; relatively few sources deal directly with his contribution, Goldstein 2001 being a rare and useful report. The producer in New Zealand directly in charge of day-to-day operations during most of the time during the making of the trilogy was Barrie M. Osborne, interviewed in Fry 2002. The liaison between New Line and the filmmaking team, often credited with arguing Peter Jackson’s side during disagreements with the studio, was Mark Ordesky, interviewed in Madsen 2003. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were also producers, through their company Wingnut Films. Pellerin 2002–2004 contains commentaries and making-of interviews with the main hands-on producers in New Zealand.

  • Fry, Jason. “The ‘True Hero’ of The Lord of the Rings.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 5, October–November 2002, 50–57.

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    An interview with Barrie Osborne, the trilogy’s producer. After giving background on Osborne’s career, this article discusses the many filming units and how they were coordinated, helping reorganize Weta Digital for an epic production, transporting large numbers of people, and work on the extended DVD version of The Fellowship of the Ring.

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  • Goldstein, Patrick. “A Studio Executive Tries His Hand at Wizardry.” Los Angeles Times, 11 December 2001, F1, F4–F5.

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    Although not written as an interview, this is a rare article based on a conversation with New Line founder and president Bob Shaye. It gives his account of the meeting with Peter Jackson that resulted in the production of the film and numerous insights into his view of the project.

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  • Madsen, Dan. “A Fine Madness.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 11, October–November 2003, 46–55.

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    An interview with New Line producer Mark Ordesky, a key figure in the trilogy’s production, in part through his role as liaison between studio and filmmakers. He recalls the pitch leading to New Line’s undertaking the film, the advantages of shooting in New Zealand, and the production’s unusual length.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    “The Production/Post-production Team” commentary involves a large group of the crew, including Barrie Osborne (producer), Mark Ordesky (producer), Andrew Lesnie (cinematographer), Howard Shore (composer), Alex Funke (miniatures unit cinematographer), and members of the sound, editing, and special effects teams.

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Direction and Screenplay

The lengthiest source on these subjects is the combined director/writer commentary track (approximately eleven and a half hours) on Pellerin 2002–2004. Peter Jackson gave innumerable interviews to a wide range of publications during the production and release of the trilogy. One important early interview appeared in New Zealand’s primary professional filmmaking journal, Onfilm (see Wakefield 2001). Among the most consistently candid and original of Jackson’s interviews made up a series in the official fan magazine, Snyder and Madsen 2002–2005. Jackson has spoken of someday doing a making-of documentary on The Lord of the Rings, but so far the most extended published record of his thoughts on the project is Sibley 2006. The professionally oriented journal Creative Screenwriting conducted interviews concerning all three parts of the trilogy. Philippa Boyens became the most visible of the three writers in the public arena and was interviewed in Smith 2001, Ryfle 2002, and Madsen 2005. The final Creative Screenwriting interview, Goldsmith 2004, included Jackson and Walsh as well.

  • Goldsmith, Jeff. “The Lord of the Rings: Return [sic] of the King.” Creative Screenwriting 11.1 (January–February 2004): 62–67.

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    A more detailed article than the two earlier Creative Screenwriting pieces, this contains interviews with Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh as well as Philippa Boyens. The discussion covers the adaptation techniques for the trilogy, including outlining the original script, the departure from Miramax, the villains, the battles, rewrites and pickups, and the multiple endings.

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  • Madsen, Dan. “The Storytellers.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 18, December 2004–January 2005, 24–29.

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    An interview with Philippa Boyens on how she became involved in the project, how the novel was pared down for the film, and which characters were the easiest and hardest to write.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    “The Director and Writers” commentary track features Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens. They discuss the inspirations for various scenes. One of the most interesting aspects of this track is the trio’s explanations for the changes they made in Tolkien’s story as they adapted the novel.

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  • Ryfle, Steve. “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers: Interview with Philippa Boyens.” Creative Screenwriting 9.6 (November–December 2002): 40–42.

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    Deals with topics such as the rearrangement of events in the narrative, the frequent revisions during filming, the introduction of Gollum and of the Men of Rohan, Frodo’s change of character, and the reactions of fans to the narrative choices of the writers.

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  • Sibley, Brian. Peter Jackson: A Film-Maker’s Journey. London: HarperCollins, 2006.

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    Although described as “The Authorized Biography,” this book contains extensive passages from interviews with Jackson and seems as much an autobiography as a biography. Chapters 6 to 10 deal with The Lord of the Rings, but earlier chapters chronicle the origins of the filmmaking infrastructure vital to making the trilogy.

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  • Smith, Patricia Burkhard. “Ring Bearer: Patricia Burkhard Smith Talks with Philippa Boyens.” Creative Screenwriting 8.2 (March–April 2001): 4, 6, 8.

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    Published well before The Fellowship of the Rings was finished, this interview concentrates on the historical background of the move from Miramax to New Line and the logistics of adapting a long novel for the screen. The importance of special effects and the New Zealand locations is stressed.

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  • Snyder, Jon B., and Madsen, Dan. “Update with Peter Jackson.” Series in The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine (2002–2005).

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    Jackson was interviewed for every issue of the fan magazine except number twelve. Snyder wrote the first two interviews, Madsen the rest. Members of the fan club were allowed to submit questions, and most interviews contain two or three of these.

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  • Wakefield, Philip. “Directing the Three Ring Circus.” Onfilm, December 2001.

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    A major interview with Peter Jackson weeks after he finished The Fellowship of the Ring. On trimming the film to three hours and to achieve a PG-13 rating, the number of units filming, the expansion of the budget, the New Zealand tax incentive, and his reluctance to work in Hollywood.

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Design

Even critics and fans who disliked the film as an adaptation of Tolkien’s novel were nearly universal in their praise for the film’s design. Drawings, paintings, and photographs of the sets and locations, the costumes and make-up, the props and weapons, were easy to package as tie-in coffee-table books. They also offered fruitful material for the elaborate DVD supplements (Pellerin 2002–2004).

  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    Each DVD set contains a commentary track by designers Grant Major (production), Ngila Dickson (costumes, Richard Taylor (costumes, weapons, miniatures), Alan Lee (conceptual), John Howe (conceptual), Dan Hennah (art), Chris Hennah (head of art department), and Tania Rodger (manager, Weta Workshop) and a set of documentaries, “Designing and Building Middle-earth.”

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Conceptual and Art Design

Partly out of respect for source material and partly to reassure fans of the novel that the film would create a Middle-earth faithful to Tolkien’s, the production hired two famous illustrators of the books, calendars, and games: Alan Lee, interviewed in Lalumiè 2002a, and John Howe, interviewed in Lalumière 2002b and Carroll 2004. They produced thousands of drawings and paintings upon which designers of the sets, fanciful creatures, costumes, and props based their work. Four lavish collections of the conceptual art appeared: Russell 2001. The production designer was Grant Major, the art director Dan Hennah, jointly interviewed in Snyder 2002, and the head of the Weta Workshop team of designers was Richard Taylor. The announced intention was to make Middle-earth as fully realized as possible, with each culture having a distinctive look, and with ruins and signs of age giving a sense of history to each. In many cases experts in making real objects—swordsmiths, jewelers, carriage makers, and calligraphers—were hired. This approach is termed “over-design,” since details of many of the resulting mise-en-scène elements were not actually visible on the screen. The richness of the design was fascinating to fans, and all the designers were interviewed numerous times, notably in the fan magazine and in the extended-version DVD supplements.

  • Carroll, Lisa D. “Right Place, Right Time.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 17, October–November 2004, 48–55.

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    The magazine’s second interview with conceptual designer John Howe. On Howe’s passion for historically accurate armor and weaponry, his designs for the Black Riders’ fell beasts, his influence on the look for Gandalf, and the landscapes of New Zealand as influences for Middle-earth.

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  • Lalumière, Francis K. “Conceptual Artist Alan Lee.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 1, February–March 2002a, 50–55.

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    An interview with one of the most noted Tolkien illustrators on how he was recruited to help design The Lord of the Rings. On how meetings involving the designers were held during pre-production, Lee’s background, working with John Howe, and his book illustrations that inspired designs in the film.

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  • Lalumière, Francis K. “Master of High Drama: An Interview with The Lord of the Rings Conceptual Artist John Howe.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 3, June–July 2002b, 48–57.

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    Noted Tolkien illustrator Howe on how he came to work on the trilogy, the team assembled for the design process, the numerous conceptual sketches required, Howe’s penchant for the more action-filled scenes and the monsters, and his design for Bag End.

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  • Russell, Gary. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. 3 vols. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.

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    Three lavishly illustrated volumes of conceptual drawings and paintings by many of the artists who worked on the trilogy. These are arranged by locale within each volume. The Art of The Lord of the Rings (2004) condensed images from the three books and includes additional images that had previously been embargoed. Also published in 2002 and 2003.

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  • Snyder, Jon B. “Hobbiton: Creating a World from Scratch.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, no. 1, February–March 2002, 44–49.

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    A joint interview with production designer Grant Major and art director Dan Hennah on the creation of the Hobbiton set. They discuss basing the look of the Shire on 17th-century England, the computer modeling of the location chosen, and the creation of the set a year in advance to allow plants to grow.

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Costume, Weapon, and Prop Design

The same richness of detail and “authenticity” were evident in the costumes, designed by Ngila Dickson, who is interviewed in Madsen 2002. Taylor’s work crossed over from supervising the designs of the settings (particularly miniatures) to that of armor and weapons. Taylor was a ubiquitous spokesperson for the design side of the production, and the fan magazine, coffee-table books, and DVD commentaries often feature him, notably in Atkinson 2003. The designs for the military aspects of the film are dealt with in Smith 2003.

  • Atkinson, Carla. “Elven Armor and Weaponry.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 8, April–May 2003, 48–57.

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    A particularly good account based on an interview with Richard Taylor, who discusses the research behind making historical changes in elvish armor, inspiration from plant forms, the different technology of the bows and arrows in various elvish cultures, and the elves in the Helm’s Deep battle scene.

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  • Madsen, Dan. “The Costumes of Middle-earth: An Interview with Ngila Dickson.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 3, June–July 2002, 58–67.

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    Continued in issue 4 (August–September 2002): 54–63. The first part deals with Dickson’s background in television, the lack of detailed costume descriptions in the book, and designing Gandalf’s costume. In the second, Dickson briefly describes the concepts behind the major costumes, notably those of the Ringwraiths, and discusses the process of aging garments.

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  • Smith, Chris. The Lord of the Rings Weapons and Warfare: An Illustrated Guide to the Battles, Armies and Armor of Middle-earth. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003.

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    Written as if it were a history of real peoples and events, the book has sections on the characters involved in military activities. A chapter on each major battle includes a diagram created by Weta Workshop designers. Drawing upon the appendices, the text expands the story material of the film.

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Technology: Cinematography and Special Effects

For The Lord of the Rings, several digital programs were invented or radically improved. Because of dependence on special effects, the trilogy was one of the first films to rely extensively upon transferring 35mm film to digital intermediates to be manipulated and then scanned back onto negative film. The digital intermediate permitted the use of selective digital grading; this technique had been used on a few films, but the first reliable, cost-effective program was developed for the trilogy, in part by its colorist, Peter Doyle. The MASSIVE program, for generating large numbers of digital figures moving differently from each other, was invented for the trilogy. Most famously, motion-capture technology and new techniques for illuminating artificial skin allowed the creation of the first fully digital, realistic humanlike character, Gollum. Digital intermediates and color grading quickly came to be almost universally used in international filmmaking. Cinematographer Andrew Lesnie won an Academy Award for the cinematography of The Fellowship of the Ring, and all three parts won Oscars for their special effects. Such aspects of the film were covered widely. The most consistently in-depth coverage was in American Cinematographer and Cinefex, both journals aimed at people within the professions of cinematography and special effects, as well as at serious fans, and both with extensive access to key members of the filmmaking team. Each published at least one lengthy article for each part of the film, American Cinematographer with Gray 2001, Gray 2002, and Gray 2004; Cinefex with Duncan 2002, Fordham 2003, and Fordham 2004. Visual effects director of photography was interviewed in Meyer 2002. As in other areas, Pellerin 2002–2004 provided considerable coverage based on clips and interviews with the filmmakers.

  • Duncan, Jody. “Ring Masters.” Cinefex 89 (April 2002): 64–131.

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    Begins with background on the technical companies making The Fellowship of the Ring. Topics include the use of miniatures, digital matte paintings, previz technology, the MASSIVE program, methods of making hobbits appear small, motion-controlled camera movements, digital grading, the innovation of 3D scanners for maquettes, and the cave troll’s animation.

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  • Fordham, Joe. “Middle-earth Strikes Back.” Cinefex 92 (January 2003): 71–142.

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    On The Two Towers. Includes the expansion of Weta Digital’s facilities, effects subcontracted to other companies, camera movement over miniatures, Treebeard’s design and animatronics, dry-for-wet techniques in the Dead Marshes scene, morphing for Theoden’s recovery, MASSIVE troops at Helm’s Deep, the Orthanc flood, and especially the creation of Gollum.

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  • Fordham, Joe. “Journey’s End.” Cinefex 96 (January 2004): 67–142.

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    On new programs introduced for Gollum and other creatures, camera movements over the miniatures for Rivendell and Minas Tirith, the Mordor cloud effect, combining elements in the Battle of the Pelennor, multiplying troops with MASSIVE software, achieving translucency for the Army of the Dead, and Shelob as a purely digital creation,

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  • Gray, Simon. “Ring Bearers.” American Cinematographer 82.12 (December 2001): 36–51.

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    Deals with miniatures, the variety of cameras used, forced perspective, motion control, contrasting color schemes for different locales, simulation of filters and lighting during digital grading, and eyelights. Includes a sidebar by Gray, interviewing production designer Grant Major about the sets, titled “Designing a Fantasy Land,” p. 44.

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  • Gray, Simon. “A Fellowship in Peril.” American Cinematographer 83.12 (December 2002): 36–52.

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    Deals with shifts in lighting style from the first to second parts; with film stocks and the technical details of digital grading; with realism for the scenes at Edoras; and night shooting for the Helm’s Deep battle. Based on interviews with cinematographer Andrew Lesnie and digital colorist Peter Doyle.

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  • Gray, Simon. “The Fate of Middle-earth.” American Cinematographer 85.1 (January 2004): 54–67.

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    On The Return of the King. Topics include lighting the nighttime siege scenes in Minas Tirith, achieving variety in Mordor’s landscapes, lighting the extras in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, and creating the look of the Grey Havens. There is a sidebar by Gray, “Miniatures Add Grand Scale,” pp. 62–63.

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  • Meyer, Frank. “Making Middle-earth REAL.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 3, June–July 2002, 38–47.

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    Interview with Alex Funke, the visual effects director of photography for the miniatures unit. On the decision to use numerous miniatures rather CGI for settings, on the attempt to achieve realism, and on the techniques for joining shots of miniatures into live-action and CGI imagery.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    The second disc of each set of appendices includes making-of sections on “Filming” and “Visual Effects.” The Fellowship of the Ring supplements deal with an influential innovation, “Digital Grading.” The Two Towers and The Return of the King have lengthy sections on Weta Digital.

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Post-production

The music for The Lord of the Rings has attracted considerable attention, and there are many brief interviews with Howard Shore. Madsen 2002 provides a more substantial one. The foremost expert on the subject is Doug Adams, whose special access to the recording process is evident in Adams 2003. (See also Adams 2010, cited under Aesthetic Analyses.) Less material is available on the editing, but Edwards 2004 is based on an interview with the supervising editor. Rare information on the innovative process of selective digital grading appears among the many technically oriented supplements in Pellerin 2002–2004. (See also Technological Influences.)

  • Adams, Doug. “Seven Days in September.” Film Score Monthly 8.10 (December 2003): 16–26.

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    Adams reports his experiences sitting in on a week of Howard Shore’s recording sessions for The Return of the King, with extensive quotations from an interview with Shore and detailed descriptions of the recording process.

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  • Edwards, Christina. “Inside the Cutting Room: Jamie Selkirk on Editing The Lord of the Rings Films.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 13, February–March 2004, 43–47.

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    Selkirk was co-producer and supervising editor for the trilogy and editor for The Return of the King. On his long working relationship with Jackson, switching to digital editing, mixing long shots and close-ups in battle scenes, editing unfinished digital-effects shots, and making the film in New Zealand rather than Hollywood.

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  • Madsen, Dan. “Howard Shore: The Man Behind the Music.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 5, October–November 2002, 40–49.

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    On the soundtrack of The Fellowship of the Ring. Shore discusses working with the screenwriters, the six months of research he did, the extra music for the extended DVD versions, and the concert versions.

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  • Pellerin, Michael, prod. and dir. The Lord of the Rings Special Extended DVD Edition Supplements. Los Angeles: New Line Home Entertainment, 2002–2004.

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    The Fellowship of the Ring supplements include “Post Production: Putting it All Together,” “Digital Grading,” “Sound and Music”; The Two Towers includes “Editorial: Refining the Story,” “Music and Sound”; The Return of the King includes “Post production: Journey’s End,” with “The End of All Things” covering post-production logistics on a tight deadline.

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Marketing

New Line’s marketing for the trilogy was innovative in several ways. Gordon Paddison, the head of online marketing, had been a pioneer in the use of websites for individual films, and Paddison 2004 describes his successful strategies designing the one for The Lord of the Rings. Martinez 2001 examines the site from a fan’s viewpoint. Donahue 2000 and Lyman 2001 both interview Paddison concerning other online marketing strategies. Paddison also helped introduce electronic rather than paper press kits (EPKs). New Line relied upon brand partnering, the practice of exchanging advertising support with other companies. Its marketing department was creative in devising press events, including inviting fan webmasters to attend alongside professional print and broadcast journalists. Thompson 2007 summarizes all of these tactics. Fitzpatrick 2002 describes one of the many press junkets staged for The Lord of the Rings. Most spectacularly, New Line staged an event at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2001, screening a twenty-six-minute preview of the trilogy and hosting mass press interviews with cast and crew at a chateau decorated with props and sets from the film, ending with a huge party at the chateau. It was a turning point in public and industry perception of the film, generating wild enthusiasm for a film that had been viewed as a potential flop. TheOneRing.net’s Cannes Archive is the most extensive record of the event. Waclawiczek 2011 is the most substantial academic overview of the topic.

Audiences and Fans

Tolkien’s novel had a large worldwide fan following for decades before Jackson commenced his film, though it was far from being a large enough audience to make such an epic production profitable. From the start, New Line and the filmmaking team had to both reassure existing fans and build interest among those who had never read the book. The pre-production and principal photography of the films (1998–2000) coincided with the years when fans were going on the Internet in rapidly increasing numbers. Dozens of large fan sites devoted to the film or to both the film and novel sprang up, as well as uncounted smaller sites and Yahoo! chat groups. Thus, along with the Harry Potter series, the trilogy was the first huge franchise to have its fandom develop online, making easy communication among like-minded people possible. Two early overviews are Davis 2001 and Lalumière and Snyder 2002; see also TheOneRing.net: Cannes Archive (cited under Marketing). Some fans became such experts on the films that their posts were at least as informative as the pieces written by professional journalists, mostly notably on the most respected fan site, TheOneRing.net, active from 1999 to the present. Prominent among these are the authors of Tehenu 2000, Tehanu 2004, and Quickbeam 2003. Fans worked for no compensation building sites, covering news, organizing parties at theaters for the trilogy’s release, and sharing a wide range of information. Recognizing the value of such publicity, New Line’s marketing department cooperated, albeit cautiously, with the most prominent and trustworthy sites. Makers of licensed merchandise frequently contributed items to be given as prizes at fan-organized parties and conventions. At the same time, in academic film publishing a trend toward studying audience reactions to films, called reception studies, was growing popular. Academic studies of aspects of fan activities, such as fanfiction, were published, but the largest project on the fandom was Barker and Mathijs 2008 (cited under Anthologies). Lord of the Rings Research provides a collection of the data for the study.

The Franchise

The three parts of The Lord of the Rings were enormously successful at the box office, but even more money was earned through tie-in products. The trademarks for film versions of The Lord of the Rings are owned by Saul Zaentz, by virtue of the film-production rights that he purchased from United Artists in 1976. As part of its license to produce the trilogy, New Line also gained the rights to make related products and to license other companies to make products. Of these the most significant were the DVDs, which were manufactured and distributed by New Line’s subsidiary, New Line Home Entertainment. Hundreds of other products were made by other companies under license to New Line. The continuous release of such items slowed but did not cease after the three parts of the film went out of theatrical distribution. Once a certain sales threshold had been reached by each licensed company, both Zaentz and New Line would receive a royalty for each item sold. Some of the actors participated in the production of certain products, having their faces scanned for action figures and recording dialogue for the video games; they also receive royalties.

Licensed Merchandise

The sales of licenses to make products tied to the trilogy helped New Line to finance the film’s production. The process began in the spring of 2000. Companies desiring licenses had to commit to all three films in advance, sight unseen. The studio worried about offending Tolkien fans with tacky products and pledged to license only quality products, such as the weapons and jewelry replicas made by United Cutlery and the Noble Collection. There were, however, cheap action figures from Toy Biz and free plastic figures given away by brand partner Burger King. New Line limited the licenses connected to The Fellowship of the Ring to about a hundred firms, but the first part’s success led to an expansion to over three hundred by the time The Return of the King came out on DVD in its theatrical version. Alley 2003 provides insight into how the filmmakers cooperated with the licensees. Gilsdorf 2003 briefly analyzes the importance of the merchandise to the film franchise. Wasko 2008 is a short retrospective overview of the merchandising. Thompson 2007 deals at greater length with the merchandising. Bennett 2003 explores a new type of licensed product: museum exhibitions

  • Alley, Judy. “Jack of All Trades.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 7, February–March 2003, 54–59.

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    Alley’s story of dealing with fabric-based props and acting as a set dresser for the trilogy. In 2002 she became the merchandising assets wrangler for New Line, sharing “assets” (anything from sound clips to helmets to digital designs) with merchandisers to aid in the design of products.

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  • Bennett, Ray. “Hobbit Forming.” Hollywood Reporter, 30 September–6 October 2003, 14.

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    Museums exhibitions are a relatively recent addition to licensed film tie-in products. This account of the touring “The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy—The Exhibition,” which originated at the Te Papa Museum in New Zealand, describes it during its run at London’s Science Museum, its only European venue.

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  • Gilsdorf, Ethan. “Lord of the Gold Ring.” Boston Globe, 16 November 2003.

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    A thoughtful, informative analysis of the expansion of Tolkien merchandise since the film, questioning whether it has tarnished the book’s image. Covers merchandising’s importance to New Line, the rise in sales of the novel and related products, the Tolkien Estate’s attempts to guard his legacy, and academic interest in Tolkien.

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  • Thompson, Kristin. The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Part 3, pp. 193–253, deals with merchandising. It discusses new products, such as licensed museum exhibitions and fan conventions. It stresses items based on digital technology, covering the making of all the DVD supplements and the unprecedented cooperation between the filmmakers and the designers of the Electronic Arts games.

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  • Wasko, Janet. “The Lord of the Rings: Selling the Franchise.” In Watching The Lord of the Rings: Tolkien’s World Audiences. Edited by Martin Barker and Ernest Mathijs, 21–36. New York: Peter Lang, 2008.

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    An overview that should be used with caution, since it contains some errors, most notably confusing brand partners with companies that had licenses for merchandise. Better on merchandising and synergy and has some useful bibliography.

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Individual Companies and Lines of Merchandise

A researcher trying to compile a list of all the Rings-related licensed products made internationally would almost certainly need to gain access to New Line’s records. Every issue of The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine contains an article profiling one company’s output, often based on interviews with the owners of the business or the designers of the products. Blackmon 2002, Joy 2003a, Joy 2003b, Joy 2004, and Wohlsen 2004 are just a sample. There are also numerous ads throughout the magazine and a “shop” section at the end where club members could order items. Among the most popular merchandise were the Sideshow Weta collectibles, completely laid out in Falconer 2011. The trilogy generated an unusually high number of tie-in books, examined in Brown 2003. Xoanon 2003 interviews Richard Taylor, going into detail on a particular product.

  • Blackmon, Stephen. “Down the Adventure Path: Character Building: The Artists of Toy Biz.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 5, October–November 2002, 68–70.

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    The large toy company Toy Biz made the plastic action figures for the trilogy. In this interview with the senior production managers, they describe the process of scanning the actors for use in designing the figures, as well as seeing a twenty-minute clip from the film at a licensing show.

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  • Brown, Anthony. “Brought to Book.” Xposé 23 (Summer 2003): 34, 37–38, 40.

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    A rare discussion of the tie-in books published by HarperCollins in the United Kingdom and Houghton Mifflin in the United States (the publishers of Tolkien’s works). Based on an interview with Jane Johnston, editor of HarperCollins’ Tolkien line since 1984. Discusses visits to New Zealand and the problem of avoiding spoilers.

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  • Falconer, Daniel. The Weta Collector’s Guide. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins, 2011.

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    A lavishly illustrated catalogue of the collectible statues and models created by Weta Workshop designers. During the trilogy’s release, such products were distributed in partnership with Sideshow Collectibles, but afterward each made its own line of objects. The first half of the book relates to Lord of the Rings–based creations.

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  • Joy, Dave. “Down the Adventure Path: A Noble Adventure.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 9, June–July 2003a, 64–66.

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    The Noble Collection created replicas of the jewelry, weapons, and staffs from the film, as well as chess sets and other upscale merchandise. An interview with chief designer Robert Khoury and marketing director Akram Saigh. Deals with the close cooperation with the filmmakers, who provided molds from the actual props.

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  • Joy, Dave. “The Role of a Lifetime.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 8, April–May 2003b, 68–71.

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    On Decipher’s two series of role-playing games: The Lord of the Rings role-playing adventure games, which allow beginners to play existing characters, and The Lord of the Rings role-playing games, where players create new characters. Discusses the specific techniques of the games, with a “What Is Roleplaying?” sidebar, p. 70.

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  • Joy, Dave. “Swordplay: Legendary Movie Replicas.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 17, October–November 2004, 60–66.

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    On the United Cutlery line of high-end weapon replicas. On the popularity of the series and the growing number of products as the trilogy progressed, the considerable amount of photographic and design information supplied by Weta, and details of some of the individual weapons.

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  • Wohlsen, Marcus. “Down the Adventure Path: A Perfect Fit.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 11, October–November 2004, 64–66.

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    An interview with Paul Gallant, owner of Wrebbit and inventor of three-dimensional puzzles. Working from photographs supplied by New Line, the company created foam models and digital drawings for approval and created puzzles based on settings such as the Green Dragon, Minas Tirith, and Orthanc.

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  • Xoanon [Michael Regina]. “Interview with Richard Taylor.” TheOneRing.net, August 2003.

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    Taylor discusses a series of medallions being made for Sideshow/Weta. A relatively minor product, but the interview includes background information on the collaboration of the two companies and detailed accounts of the conception, design, and making of the medallions. Section on interaction with the fans at conventions.

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Video Games and DVDs

Both the video games and the DVDs for The Lord of the Rings were treated in innovative ways. Traditionally makers of games derived from films had little or no access to the scripts, designs, sound recordings, publicity photographs, and other material that would have helped make the game resemble the film. For the trilogy, the filmmakers cooperated extensively, supplying thousands of items to aid the design process. The largest games manufacturer, Electronic Arts, brought out its first game, The Two Towers, shortly before the release of the film’s second part in 2002, and followed it with The Return of the King (2003), The Battle for Middle-earth (2004), and The Battle for Middle-earth II (2006). Colville 2002 deals with the first game; Joy 2004 interviews designs concerning The Return of the King. Quickbeam 2004 and Xoanon 2008 cover production information on later games. Dobner 2003 reveals the ways in which the filmmakers cooperated with EA. In 2010 EA lost its license. It was taken up by Warner Bros., which continues to make trilogy-based games. The home-video versions of the trilogy were released on both VHS tape and DVD, but tape was already in decline. Like The Matrix before it, The Lord of the Rings helped push fans to buy DVD players. Each part of the trilogy was released initially in its theatrical version, accompanied by trailers and promotional making-of programs. Each was also subsequently released in an “extended edition,” with longer and entirely new scenes edited in. In these four-disc sets, two discs were devoted to extensive documentaries on all phases of the film’s making, produced and directed by Michael Pellerin. Horn 2002 interviews Pellerin on his methods. A “limited edition” release in 2006 contained the theatrical and extended editions, as well as behind-the-scenes documentaries by Costa Botes. Daly 2006 interviews Botes on these supplements. The Blu-ray edition, consisting of the extended version and all the Pellerin and Botes documentaries, came out in 2012.

Impact on the Film Industry

Thompson 2007 provides the only overview of The Lord of the Rings’ impact on the industry as a whole. The immediate impact of the trilogy’s success was to bring New Line out of a slump and make it perhaps the most powerful American independent company. Two early industry analyses of this growth are Harris 2002 and New Line: Indie unit of AOL TW sticks to its roots despite Lord of the Rings windfall (2002). Although New Line professed a cautious approach, it continued to have some ambitious projects, most importantly a project to adapt Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy as a franchise to replace The Lord of the Rings. Oppelaar 2003 assesses New Line’s situation when it was moving toward the Pullman project. Ultimately the failure of the big-budget first part, The Golden Compass (2007), led to parent company Time Warner reducing New Line size, stripping it of departments such as distribution and home entertainment, and folding it into Warner Bros. as a production unit. New Line had financed The Lord of the Rings in part by pre-selling distribution rights to various companies around the world. The trilogy’s huge success helped all of them and through them pumped so much money into the international independent film market that it helped pull that market out of a financial downturn. The various technological innovations developed for making the trilogy were made available to the industry and have proven highly influential.

  • Harris, Dana. “‘Rings’ Fling Brings Payday.” Variety, 25 February–3 March 2002, 11, 32.

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    On New Line’s slump in early 2001 and sudden recovery with the success of The Fellowship of the Ring. Information about producer Toby Emmerich (currently head of New Line as a production unit of Warner Bros.), with a summary of the studio’s continued dependence on franchises.

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  • “New Line: Indie Unit of AOL TW Sticks to Its Roots Despite Lord of the Rings Windfall.” Variety Deal Memo 9.8 (2002): 10–11.

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    A compact summary of New Line, with charts of its top-grossing films and franchises and its company affiliations and subsidiaries. Also a list of the key international distributors buying New Line films, including The Lord of the Rings. A summary of its cautious policy following the trilogy’s success.

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  • Oppelaar, Justin. “New Line’s Billion-Dollar Bet.” Variety, 20–16 January 2003, 11.

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    An article on the directions that the income from The Lord of the Rings might take New Line, with quotations from co-presidents Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne. One of the few articles to make an estimate of the profits of the trilogy. Mentions the His Dark Materials franchise as upcoming.

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  • Thompson, Kristin. The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

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    Part 4 (pp. 257–332) deals with the impact of the trilogy, with a chapter devoted to the international film industry and a chapter on the influences on New Zealand, both in terms of the film industry there and the tourism industry.

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The International Independent Cinema

One of the least known effects of The Lord of the Rings within the film industry was its role in helping the international independent and foreign-language cinema to recover from a serious financial slump. The downturn began in 2001, caused by overproduction, the bursting of the dot-com and telecom bubbles, the crises in the Brazilian and Argentine economies, the 9/11 attacks’ disruption of major festival markets, the strength of the American dollar against other currencies, and other factors. Coincidentally, during this period twenty-six distributors around the world, most of them independent, paid large sums of money to obtain the rights to release the trilogy in their countries—money that contributed about 70 percent of the financing of its production. Dawtrey 2001 explains the arrangement with the foreign distributors, and Swart and Phillips 2002 surveys the independent market of the period. The resultant success of the trilogy buoyed these distributors and allowed them to purchase and help finance other films in the following years. This boost helped end the independent-market slump. The trilogy’s impact was revealed mostly in trade-paper reports on independent film market events. Dawtrey 2002 deals with Cannes; Galloway 2003, Galloway 2004, and Dunkley and Swart 2004 analyze the American Film Market event of those two years; and Horst 2002 examines MIFED.

International Distributors

Carver 1998 deals with the period before New Line acquired the trilogy project, but it outlines the formation of the studio’s international web of distribution partner. Information on the impact of the film’s success on these individual distributors is scarce. Thompson 2007 (cited under Impact on the Film Industry) deals with the distribution in Denmark by SF Film (pp. 268–272). Some trade-paper profiles of distributors in larger markets were done, probably in some cases specifically because The Lord of the Rings had caused such a dramatic rise in their profits and profiles. Dam 2004, Edmunds 2004, Masters 2005, Rodier 2005, and Top UK Indie Thrives via New Line Tie, Rolls Dice with Exhibition Diversification (2003) all examine European distributors of The Lord of the Rings.

  • Carver, Bendict. “New Line Firms Int’l Pacts.” Variety, 4 November 1998.

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    New Line’s renewal and expansion of its deals with international independent distributors in 1998, the year when the company announced it would produce The Lord of the Rings. This article only briefly mentions the trilogy, but it surveys the studio’s formation of the distribution network that would handle it abroad.

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  • Dam, Tim. “Britain’s Mystery Moguls.” Screen International, 20 February 2004, 15–17.

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    A company profile of Entertainment Film Distributors, which became the most successful independent British distributor through its output contract with New Line and especially through its distribution of The Lord of the Rings. Facts and figures on what effects the trilogy and other New Line films had on the firm.

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  • Edmunds, Marlene. “Strong SF Lifts Bonnier into Black.” Variety, 17 February 2004.

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    During 2003, Svensk Filmmindustri was the Bonnier Entertainment’s main source of products, which rose from $2.6 million in 2002 to $164 million in 2003, largely based on a deal with 20th Century Fox and on the release of The Lord of the Rings in theaters and on video across Scandinavia.

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  • Masters, Charles. “At Metropolitan, It’s a Family Affair.” Hollywood Reporter, 1–7 March 2005, 8.

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    A major international distributor of international films, based in France: “The backbone of the company’s distribution slate remains its output deal with New Line, and Metropolitan’s recent burst of production activity is undoubtedly spurred by the cash bonanza flowing from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy.”

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  • Rodier, Melanie. “Quiet Power.” Screen International, 13 May 2005, 19–23.

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    On Medusa, which began in 1995 and in a decade became the largest independent production/distribution company in Italy. Its acquisition of The Lord of the Rings was a turning point. The income allowed the firm to invest in international co-productions and especially in Asian films.

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  • “Top UK Indie Thrives via New Line Tie, Rolls Dice with Exhibition Diversification.” Variety Deal Memo 10.21 (2003): 6–7.

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    A study of Entertainment Film Distributors. Its output deal with New Line underpinned its success; a chart shows that it ranked second in market share in the United Kingdom during 2001–2003 (not including the release of The Return of the King). Also includes a breakdown of ownership of the firm.

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Technological Influences

The selective digital grading process developed by Peter Doyle and others for The Lord of the Rings necessitated using digital intermediates: the 35mm camera negative would be scanned as digital files, manipulated, and scanned onto raw 35mm negative. Approximately 80 percent of The Fellowship of the Ring was treated this way, and the entirety of the other two parts passed through a digital-intermediate stage. Within a few years, digital intermediates were common across the industry, and now it is a rare film, even in small producing nations, that does not have a DI and a colorist. Bankston 2005, Kaufman 2002, and a 2002 press release from 5D deal with digital intermediates and color grading. Another program developed specifically for the trilogy was MASSIVE, which gave a primitive sort of artificial intelligence to a range of digital figures, which could be multiplied to create crowds of figures that moved independently of each other. Gifford 2004 includes an interview with the program’s inventor. Digital techniques for sub-surface light scattering were developed to allow the wholly digitally generated character of Gollum to have the appearance of realistic human skin. New techniques of motion capture were also developed for performer Andy Serkis to use in playing Gollum. These programs and techniques were made available to the industry and have been widely used. On these techniques, see Fordham 2003 (cited under Technology: Cinematography and Special Effects). Other programs and techniques are dealt with in Bayless 2004 and Morton 2004. Robson 2004 describes the expansion of the special-effects facilities in Wellington caused by the trilogy impact.

Impact on New Zealand

Despite the fact that New Zealand had been a minor film-producing nation with most of its established directors working abroad, Peter Jackson insisted on making The Lord of the Rings there. New Line co-president Bob Shaye agreed, because a favorable exchange rate and lower production costs would help lower the film’s budget. The unspoiled natural beauty of New Zealand could provide locations for all the Middle-earth landscapes. Nearly all the planning, shooting, and post-production work was done at companies owned by Peter Jackson and his colleagues. Profits were put back into these companies to expand them. During and immediately after the trilogy’s making, Weta Digital, Weta Workshop, Park Road Post, and the Stone Street Studios grew into a state-of-the-art production infrastructure. Questions as to whether these companies would continue to draw sufficient business from abroad after the trilogy were soon resolved as other major films and franchises continued to use both the locations and the “Wellywood” facilities. There has continued to be some controversy as to whether the large projects from abroad are beneficial to the local industry, but production of New Zealand films continues at a higher level than before the trilogy helped the industry expand. The improved skill levels of film workers and the number employed have been a clear advantage within the film industry.

Impact on the Film Industry’s Growth

Even before work started on The Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, its future impact was apparent, as Calder 1998 shows. New Zealand’s government was quick to recognize and try to calculate the benefits, beginning with New Zealand Institute of Economic Research 2002. The money spent within New Zealand during the making of the trilogy led the government to seek to lure more offshore productions. In 2003 the Large Screen Production Grant, a tax-rebate system, was introduced. In 2004, the funding for Film New Zealand, the government body responsible for encouraging foreign companies to make films in the country, was reorganized with more substantial funding. Filmmakers who had been working abroad for many years returned to New Zealand. The country had lacked enough trained personnel to staff large productions, but the up-skilling gained through experience on The Lord of the Rings has left the country with a sophisticated workforce in most areas of filmmaking. Weta Digital has become one of the top special-effects firms in the world, routinely providing part or all of the effects shots in major Hollywood releases. Cogent assessments of the current situation of the industry have come at intervals: see Wakefield 2002, Grant 2006, George 2010, and Bulbeck 2011

Impact on the Industry’s Infrastructure

Between 1995, when Peter Jackson first conceived a film based on Tolkien’s novel and the end of 2003, when The Return of the King was released, the filmmaking facilities in Wellington grew into a set of cutting-edge companies, capable of making films from start to completion. In addition, work on the trilogy created a core of thousands of highly trained technicians. The main facilities are locally owned. In 1992, Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, along with their business partners Richard Taylor and Jamie Selkirk, had started Weta Ltd. Calder 2002 profiles the company and its growth on its tenth anniversary, and Finlay 2006 is a government profile of Weta Ltd. One half, Weta Workshop, concentrated on practical effects, costumes, prosthetic makeup, and props, as well as producing licensed products to tie in with the trilogy and subsequent projects. Taylor 2003 sketches the history of the Weta Workshop. The other half, Weta Digital, grew from a one-computer operation in 1994 to one of the top digital-effects companies in the world. Beck 2006 gauges its growth. The company purchased and expanded the Stone Street Studios, to which the country’s first soundproof stage was added in 2005 for King Kong. Positively Wellington Business 2005 describes the new stage. On their own, Jackson and Walsh purchased a government post-production house, The Film Unit, in 1997 and expanded it into a state-of-the-art company; Wakefield 2004 describes the new headquarters built for it. Although these facilities are primarily associated with big-budget projects from abroad, such as Avatar and Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they are also available at a discount to small local productions. Wakefield 2006 compares the trilogy’s impact on local films versus big-budget projects from abroad. Much of the money for the expansion of the infrastructure initially came from the work done there on The Lord of the Rings, making the impact of the trilogy long term. Calder 2004 summarizes the reinvestment of income from the trilogy.

  • Beck, Jerry. “Weta Evolves into Global Giant.” Variety, 12 November 2006.

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    On Weta Digital’s situation three years after The Return of the King was finished, including a list of the major films that the firm has worked on (including Avatar, in pre-production) and the staff who gained training on the trilogy. Quotations from Weta supervisors Joe Letteri and Eileen Moran.

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  • Calder, Peter. “The Little Monster that Could.” Variety, 16–22 December 2002, B6, B8.

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    Profiles Weta, Ltd. on its tenth anniversary. A brief early history of Weta Digital and a breakdown of its five divisions: makeup and prosthetics, armor, weapons, creatures, and miniatures, followed by a summary of Weta Digital’s growth. With a sidebar, “Wizards Behind the Workshop,” on Mike Grealish, leather craftsman.

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  • Calder, Peter. “Jackson Invests His Capital in Pic Capital.” Variety, 8–14 November 2004, A1–A2.

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    An excellent summary of the expansion of filmmaking infrastructure in Wellington, with facts on the amounts of money re-invested by Peter Jackson, descriptions of the facilities, lists of films made there, and the cooperation of Film Wellington.

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  • Finlay, Steven. Weta Ltd.: A Case Study. Wellington: Competitive Advantage New Zealand (CANZ), 2006.

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    This study of Weta Ltd., done with Richard Taylor’s cooperation, examines the company and its employees. Two sections detail the firm’s work on Peter Jackson’s earlier films and on The Lord of the Rings. With a bibliography and links to studies of the industry in the wake of the trilogy.

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  • Positively Wellington Business. “Sound Stage Puts NZ Film Industry Centre Stage.” 13 April 2005.

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    A press release concerning the huge new soundstage built at the Stone Street Studios in the wake of the trilogy, with figures on cost and size. Jamie Selkirk, co-owner and manager of the studios, is quoted.

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  • Taylor, Richard. “Dream Job: The Story of Weta Workshop.” The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine no. 10, August–September 2003, 48–54.

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    Despite the extensive coverage of Weta Workshop, little has been written on its history. Taylor, its cofounder, details the founding of the company in the 1990s, which made props and other objects for Peter Jackson’s earlier films, and its rapid growth during the Lord of the Rings project.

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  • Wakefield, Phil. “The Post Is Clear.” Hollywood Reporter, 24 February–1 March 2004, 22.

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    Written when the construction for the new home of Park Road Post was nearing completion. With facts on its size, cost, and facilities, and a quotation from Peter Jackson on his and Fran Walsh’s investment of their income from the trilogy on expanding the Miramar infrastructure.

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  • Wakefield, Phil. “Restless Natives.” Hollywood Reporter, 28 February–6 March 2006, 19–20, 22.

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    Despite a rise in local New Zealand filmmaking, some industry insiders claim that the government has favored luring big-budget Hollywood films. Deals with a recent doubling in the New Zealand Film Commission’s budget. Includes a sidebar, “Post Haste” (p. 21), about foreign productions’ increasing use of New Zealand post-production facilities.

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Aesthetic Analyses

The film version of The Lord of the Rings is not often treated as a subject for aesthetic analysis. There are probably several reasons for this. Over the past few decades, academic film studies have largely avoided aesthetics, preferring to concentrate on cultural aspects of film, primarily race, class, and gender. Moreover, as a blockbuster genre film from a Hollywood studio, the trilogy is perhaps not seen as a subject to be taken entirely seriously. Even those who admire it tend to consider it to be a flawed work. One exception is Howard Shore’s soundtrack, widely recognized as one of the finest elements in the film: Adams 2010 analyzes how its leitmotifs lend the sprawling film a degree of unity and enhance the impact of many individual scenes. Kozloff 2006 is a rare discussion of genre in the film. Butler 2007 and Cubitt 2008 provide differing views on the relationship of CGI to the representation of space. The adaptation of Tolkien’s novel is considered in Fuller 2004. Thompson 2010 singles out a scene for detailed study, and Shippey 2007 and Thompson 2011 consider some of the more successful changes made by the screenwriters.

  • Adams, Doug. The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films. Tuxedo Park, NY: Carpentier, 2010.

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    A detailed, scene-by-scene analysis of the motifs and score by Howard Shore, with an account of the recording sessions. The author had extensive access to Shore and the scoring process throughout the production of the films. Includes a CD of cut and alternate versions of passages.

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  • Butler, David. “One Wall and No Roof Make a House: The Illusion of Space and Place in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.” In How We Became Middle-earth: A Collection of Essays on The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Adam Lam and Nataliya Oryshchuk, 149–168. Comarë Series 13. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    On the film’s successful creation of an alternative world using cinematic space, judging advances in CGI to have made it superior to earlier films like Excalibur and Dune. Credits Jackson with keeping clarity and spatial consistency within locales but deplores the use of distracting swooping camera movements.

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  • Cubitt, Sean. “Realising Middle-earth: Production Design and Film Technology.” In Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Harriet Margolis, Sean Cubitt, Barry King, and Thierry Jutel, 185–191. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2008.

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    Discusses the film’s design and special effects in terms of realism, arguing for a new concept of Bazinian realism in a CGI-dominated film. Includes discussions of shot lengths and randomness.

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  • Fuller, Graham. “Kingdom Come.” Film Comment 40.1 (January–February 2004: 24–29.

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    A discussion of the adaptation of Tolkien’s narrative, with some background information on the process. Includes some visual analysis and suggestions concerning influences.

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  • Kozloff, Sarah. “The Lord of the Rings as Melodrama.” In From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Edited by Ernest Mathijs and Murray Pomerance, 155–172. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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    An informed and clearly argued piece, pointing out that both the novel and film of The Lord of the Rings consistently use such 19th-century stage conventions as the rescue in the nick of time.

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  • Shippey, Tom. “Another Road to Middle-earth: Jackson’s Movie Trilogy.” In Roots and Branches: Selected Papers on Tolkien. By Tom Shippey, 365–386. Cormarë Series 11. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    A generous view taken by a top literary critic of Tolkien, analyzing the changes made for the film in terms of differences in the two media and approving many of the strategies used by the filmmakers.

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  • Thompson, Kristin. “Stepping Out of Blockbuster Mode: The Lighting of the Beacons in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” In Film Moments: Criticism, History, Theory. Edited by Tom Brown and James Walters, 144–148. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

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    Suggests that the Beacons sequence departs from the linear narrative of classical Hollywood cinema, adopting a strategy more akin to experimental films. By changing the position of the flaring beacon within the frame at each cut, the scene forces the viewer to scan the screen from shot to shot.

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  • Thompson, Kristin. “Gollum Talks to Himself: Problems and Solutions in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.” In Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy. Edited by Janice M. Bogstad and Philip E. Kaveny, 25–45. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Adaptations from literature to film can be seen as a series of solutions to problems. While few spectators would approve every change made in Tolkien’s novel, some scenes in the film version are arguably quite successful. The famous scene when Gollum debates with himself is analyzed, along with other examples.

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Interpretative Readings

The Lord of the Rings film has been extensively written about from an interpretive stance. Although cultural studies probably are the basis for the majority of such essays, a variety of other approaches have been used as well. This list includes one entry for each of the common subjects and methodologies: race, Kim 2004; philosophical, Garbowski 2007; myth, Croft 2011; feminist, McKenna 2007; ecological, Wilson 2007; religion, Hardy 2008; psychoanalysis, Goldberg and Gabbard 2006; and ethics, Wright 2004.

  • Croft, Janet Brennan Croft. “Jackson’s Aragorn and the American Superhero Monomyth.” In Picturing Tolkien: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Film Trilogy. Edited by Janice M. Bogstad and Philip E. Kaveny, 216–226. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011.

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    Draws on Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth to analyze several characters, primarily Aragorn, to determine how, for commercial reasons, Jackson has changed them to conform to an American variant of that monomyth.

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  • Garbowski, Christopher. “Surprised by Joy: Eucatastrophe in Tolkien’s and Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.” In How We Became Middle-earth: A Collection of Essays on The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Adam Lam and Nataliya Oryshchuk, 271–289. Comarë Series 13. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    Based on the philosophical idea of “virtue ethics.” Tolkien’s concept of “eucatastrophe” arises in a world that is ultimately human. Garbowski suggests that the author adopted a Catholic “aesthetics of delight.” Providing a beauty comparable to that in the novel, the film also achieves “eucatastrophe”: “a forceful expression of the aesthetic fulfillment of hope.”

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  • Goldberg, Ruth, and Krin Gabbard. “’What Does the Eye Demand’: Sexuality, Forbidden Vision and Embodiment in The Lord of the Rings.” In From Hobbits to Hollywood: Essays on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings. Edited by Ernest Mathijs and Murray Pomerance, 268–281. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006.

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    An analysis using “the tools of dream analysis.” The authors claim that “it is Peter Jackson’s rendition of the story that calls out for a psychoanalytical reading. For it is Jackson’s choice of images and words that bring what was latent in the original narrative to the surface in his retelling of The Lord of the Rings.”

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  • Hardy, Ann. “There and Back Again: The Lord of the Rings, Contemporary Religiosity, and Cinema.” In Studying the Event Film: The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Harriet Margolis, Sean Cubitt, Barry King, and Thierry Jutel, 205–212. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2008.

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    Argues that what is religious in Tolkien’s novel becomes akin to a more modern spiritualism in the film and develops the idea of media as a new source of common experiences.

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  • Kim, Sue. “Beyond Black and White: Race and Postmodernism in The Lord of the Rings Films.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 50.4 (Winter 2004): 875–907.

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    Begins by describing the trilogy’s racist aspects but claims one needs to understand “why certain kinds of culturally created racial codings are used, and how they function within larger contexts,” stressing the economic-structural conditions behind the film but not evident in it. Concludes that postmodernism’s assumption that everything is “hopelessly indeterminate” implies a “politics of despair,” which Kim rejects.

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  • McKenna, Elise. “To Sex Up The Lord of the Rings: Jackson’s Feminine Approach in his ‘Sub-creation.’” In How We Became Middle-earth: A Collection of Essays on The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Adam Lam and Nataliya Oryshchuk, 229–237. Comarë Series 13. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    Using Jung’s theory of anima and animus, the author argues that Jackson has brought Tolkien’s story out of a completely male-dominated world by altering the roles of the female characters, along with some of the male ones.

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  • Wilson, Thomas Murray. “Blockbuster Pastoral: An Ecocritical Reading of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings.” In How We Became Middle-earth: A Collection of Essays on The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Adam Lam and Nataliya Oryshchuk, 185–196. Comarë Series 13. Zollikofen, Switzerland: Walking Tree, 2007.

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    Claims that in times of ecological problems, the pastoral genre is revived. The Lord of the Rings is termed a blockbuster pastoral. Its depiction of nature is one of the chief reasons for its popularity.

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  • Wright, Greg. Peter Jackson in Perspective: The Power Behind Cinema’s The Lord of the Rings. Hollywood, CA: Hollywood Jesus, 2004.

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    Despite Wright’s connection with the website HollywoodJesus.com, his discussion of the trilogy avoids a thoroughgoing Christian interpretation. Entirely sympathetic to Jackson’s film, he discusses character and action in an insightful way, stressing ethical rather than religious implications. The analysis is divided into short pieces, reflecting the fact that this volume collects a long series of posts from the website.

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