There is a strange cognitive dissonance in attending a panel devoted to The Hobbit, and seeing people dressed as Iron Man in the room. There are also several Star Trek minidresses, a few unidentifiable anime characters, and I thought I saw Joss Whedon in the crowd. Well, not really, but I’m making a sport of shouting “Joss Whedon” in crowded panel.
Cliff Broadway, the director of the feature documentary Ringers: Lord of the Fans, and Larry D. Curtis, who is being touted as a “Hobbit Embedded Reporter,” have already taken the stage. Cliff welcomed us with an elvish greeting. He explains TheOneRing.net, which he explains: it is the single largest and most comprehensive Lord of the Rings website, where he writes under the pseudonym of QuickBeam. He also demands to see a zombie Frodo wearing a Finn hat from Adventure Time. Also on the stage is a miniature PVC figurine of Clifford the Big Red Dog. I guess ‘cause his name is Cliff. He hypes some of the things on the site, including live interview shows with people like Sean Astin and Doug Jones. The site is a fan-run site that has been running since 1999, and has hundreds of thousands of followers.
Michael Urban (a writer for the site, and old-school Tolkien nerd) lets us know about the new Reinier Knizia Hobbit board games which are to be tied into the new Peter Jackson films, due out in early 2013. Evidently, the old Lord of the Rings tabletop games are the “coolest games you’ll ever find,” according to Broadway. After some light banter, we watched various slides of lovely New Zealand vistas, which, as we all know, is Middle Earth. Also included are funny local businesses like Hobbit Sushi and Strider High Heeled shoes. Introducing the panel is legitimate kiwi Sir Richard Taylor, the Academy Award winning special effects guy from Peter Jackson’s five Tolkien feature films. He is self-deprecating and gushes about Tolkien and making the Lord of the Rings movies. All of the people who worked in the WETA workshop are all, I find, from south of Christchurch. He then chucks nine pieces of genuine elvish chainmail into the audience. Nine people were elated. The rest were crestfallen. Also there was plenty of time to slam Kristen Stewart.
Other writers in attendance: Anne Gifels, Lisa Crouch, and Rebecca Perry.
But to the news: If you hadn’t heard: The Hobbit will be filmed (and in some theaters, projected) in 48 frames per second, which is twice the usual 24 that most films are seen in. The reports from CinemaCon (a recent convention for theater owners held in Las Vegas) a few months ago were warm at best (some said that it looked like a cheap BBC miniseries from the 1980s), but the people open the panel were a bit rhapsodic about the process, although they did tempter their enthusiasm with a warning: it may not be for you. They assured us “It does not look cheap!” James Cameron is, reportedly, also on board the 48fps bandwagon, and the next Avatar films will be filmed on high-end digital 48fps cameras.
Lisa Crouch acknowledged the concern that The Lord of the Rings was loaded down with sexy tall males, and The Hobbit follows 13 squat dwarves. The new film, she assures us, will have, um… hot dwarves. Yup. This will be one sexed up film, provided you’re into dwarves. We alsop got to see a really out-of-focus picture of the concept art of Ratagast the Brown Wizard played in the movie by Sylvester McCoy). I'd include a picture, but it looks like a brown blob. We were informed that Ratagast will drive around in a rabbit-drawn sled.
The character of Tauriel, a sword-wielding warrioress who only plays a small part in the original novel will play a larger role in the Hobbit feature film, and there is some speculation about a romance between she and Kili, the dwarf. This may not be much of news, as an audience poll revealed that no one cared about Tauriel, and everyone wanted to see Smaug. Sadly, no news on Smaug, the wicked treasure-hoarding dragon.
More news on The Hobbit as it comes in.