Of all the reports you might read on panels from Comic-Con, none will be more "insider" than on this one. Better? Maybe, but not more inside. As part of TheOneRing.net crew delivering the latest on The Hobbit films coming from Peter Jackson, I am also tasked with bringing it to Movies.com readers so I get to both present content and report on it!
Warner Bros. knows The Hobbit is a big deal but it also knows the passion of fans is already high and with only 56 days of shooting with 200 more to go, the studio will wait until 2012 to unleash its big promotional guns, when the December release of the first film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is only months away. So with the big studio not flexing its corporate muscles, TheOneRing.net was left to carry the torch and provide content for the SDCC fans.
And the interest was rabid.
Upon arriving an hour early for the first panel content of the day, and in fact the whole convention, the Con help immediately wanted to open the room which held around 500 attendees because of the many hundreds, perhaps thousands that were wrapped around the guts of the upstairs rooms of the convention center. (Really, thousands!) The line was at the point of churning the chaos of the Con into a real mess. The first woman in line had been waiting since 4 a.m. to make sure she could get in and was excited and smiling after her six hour wait, and all this without the big name draw that the convention so covets. No cast members from the Twlight franchise brought breakfast.
Along with Clifford Broadway, the idea was to update the audience (and 54,000 viewers on TORn's live streaming broadcast) on all matters Hobbit. But of course, some attendees knew a lot already but missing the recently released Dwarven images from the production has been difficult to do. Targeting wide demographics, WB hit diverse media outlets with photo studio style images, feeding the ravenous demand with a gradual release. We collected them all and displayed them and talked about each individually but also the importance of having them all be distinct personalities that are instantly recognizable. A film can't afford to have 13 Dwarves that the audience can't keep track of.
Bombur (Stephen Hunter), the prodigious eater with a hair necklace was a favorite of the panelists while Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) drew a shout of "Klingon!" from the crowd that enjoyed the joke that has played out online in a lot of formats. The panel-named "hot dwarves" (Dean O'Gorman' Fili and Aiden Turner's Kili) also received some chuckles with their young faces and barely-Dwarven facial features. How this plays on screen remains to be seen but the crowd was skeptical although most seemed willing to give Jackson's production the benefit of the doubt.
The wizards were cheered mightily by the audience who was thrilled to see Ian McKellen return as Gandalf and Christopher Lee as Saruman. Radagast the Brown, played by Sylvester McCoy, was a topic of dicussion as well, with TORn theorizing that his part is larger than people most suspect.
As TheOneRing planned the panel in a staff meeting, one of the big reveals was that Ian McKellen and Christopher Lee were likely currently filming in the U.K. during what was supposed to be a "break" in the productions. But, the night before the presentation, scant hours before the Con doors were to open Thursday morning, Jackson released production diary video on his Facebook page that showed the Kiwi director making jokes about James Bond locations while wandering about Pinewood Studios just west of London. And at the end of the vid, Lee sits in full Sarumon costume, very effectively erasing the spoiler completely!
But there were still what we called "hot topics" in the presentation. Will animals talk in the Hobbit after Jackson's Middle-earth didn't feature such things in the Lord of the Rings movies? Spider, eagles, wargs and birds all speak with humans, not to mention the very important dragon Smaug. There also was a healthy debate between the panelists about where the split would occur in the two films.
Broadway feels having the first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, end just as Bilbo gets the ring from Gollum would leave a healthy amount of action and plot for the second movie. My contention is that Bilbo will load up Dwarves in barrels and escape the Elves, coming into his own, completing his character arc for the first film and leaving a big battle and a big dragon for all of us to look forward to in December 2013 with The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
Weta's Danial Falconer took the stage to give away some Weta books, we showed a video game trailer and then sent every person attending home with a shirt, soundtrack CD or a bucket hat. Despite Warners not promoting an event, they were in attendence to catch the flavor of fans and maybe to keep an eye and an ear on what was being presented. Bet the farm than at Comic-Con 2012, The Hobbit, even in a year with incredible competition, will get the full power of WB's marketing machine and may be the one film to rule them all at the box office.
Immediately following the panel, Warners released (in front of my very eyes) the official photo imagry of 13 Dwarves was released.
Caption: Jed Brophy as Nori, Dean O'Gorman as Fili, Mark Hadlow as Dori, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield (center), Ken Stott as Balin, John Callen as Oin, Stephen Hunte as Bombur, William Kircher as Bifur, Adam Brown as Ori and Aidan Turner as Kili in New Line Cinema’s and MGM's fantasy adventure The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo by James Fisher.
One of the biggest challenges was ending the panel, getting the crowd to take the swag and vacate the room for the next panel. Felicia Day sat in my chair!