For starters, each week the website hosts ongoing series such as TORn book club, the Happy Hobbit, TORn Tuesday that features interview podcasts, and a Josh Long show in which he previews collectibles related to the world of Tolkien. Special mention was made that WETA is releasing fantastic collectibles that the fans want. And, Peter Lyon, the master swordsmith for the LoTR and Hobbit series, is making limited edition swords. In addition, there are Saturday chats and Hall of Fire streaming events.
Each year, fans have three important dates they celebrate. The first is the Tolkien Toast (January 3) in which fans come together to celebrate Tolkien’s birthday and raise a special toast. A special Tolkien Reading (March 25) is hosted each year. The panelists mentioned that this year, they read the Destruction of the Ring chapter out loud at WonderCon. And, of course, Bilbo and Frodo Baggins’ birthdays are celebrated on September 22. The event is free and open to the public. There is a very active Southern California group, Tolkien Forever, which fans can connect with outside of these dedicated events and the various conventions the organization attends each year.
What’s next for fans of Tolkien? From The Silmarillion, the story of Beren and Lúthien will be edited by Christopher Tolkien for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with illustrations by artist Alan Lee. Expect this book to released in early May 2017. Jackson announced that WingNut Films will be adapting Philip Reeve’s book, Mortal Engines, and will be directed by Christian Rivers, who has worked with Jackson on the LoTR trilogy, among others. The series can be described as Mad Max meets Steampunk. The panelists were excited because this project would make for a definitive Steampunk film. And, WingNut Films is working on the new Ghost in the Shell, expected to release in 2017.
Special mention of projects by LoTR alumni were highlighted: Karl Urban in Pete’s Dragon; War for the Planet of the Apes features Andy Serkis; and Captain Fantastic will star Viggo Mortensen. Luke Evans is filling the role of Gaston in Beauty and the Beast, Richard Armitage plays Daniel Miller in the new series, Berlin Station, and Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, and many other alumni can be found filling roles on the small screen.
Other activities on the horizon include the news that WETA and ILM have been jointly hired to complete the effects on the next Pirates of the Caribbean film. Broadway expressed the two studios are in a friendly rivalry, one-upping each other, but it is a 50/50 collaborative process. A new video game, Shadow of Mordor 2, is expected to release soon. And, expect the release of new appendices.
The last topic covered, “Big Debates = Big Opportunities,” finished up the hour-long panel. Warner Brothers has released a $800 set of the LoTR and Hobbit films. Jackson and others involved in the production process have, on a number occasions, mentioned footage that was shot – specifically scenes from the books – but was subsequently left out. Even though there is extra content that has not been released, the set does not include any new content other than having all of the films boxed together. The panelists encouraged fans to leave comments on Amazon stating they were not planning to purchase the set, because WB was not providing anything new. High Frame Rate (HFR) was touched on and concerns were expressed that the LoTR films were not shot with HFR in mind. And, the panelists talked about “Old Guard” individuals in Tolkien’s close circle that have been opposed to adaptations while individuals who are more removed from the core group are more interested in pursuing more Tolkien-related projects. It sounded as though no consensus has be struck between the two groups, so fans will still be waiting for awhile to come.
Panel photography by Michele Brittany.