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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
FOTR EE Appendices Discussion ~~Designing Middle-earth~~Part 2

hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 2 2009, 6:19am

Post #1 of 20 (244 views)
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FOTR EE Appendices Discussion ~~Designing Middle-earth~~Part 2 Can't Post

Welcome! This is more of our Appendices discussion: Designing Middle-earth.




Great picture, isn't it?
(We're using it just because we love it. It's Dartmoor, in Devon, England; Alan Lee's home)


Do you remember those stories Peter told of sending a package to Alan Lee, and tracking the Fed Ex through Devonshire?
Remember poor John Howe, awakened at 3 AM at his home in Switzerland, and his amusement when he says how it was a really a matter of just waiting for a sincere but very nervous Peter to finish 'selling' his ideas, so that John could just say yes?

We loved those stories (and these guys) from the minute we heard about them.Smile It all just rings so true, and it is so geeky, and it's all so lucky, so very good, for them, and for us all, that it all happened; and nice that it happened just that way.
(Hope you can remember these stories. Please, do re-watch the Appendices when you can if you've forgotten them or if you just need to smile)

And, thank you Peter! HeartHeartHeartHeart
Thank you for loving to tell us stories like these; for loving the art of these two wonderful men; and, most importantly, thank you for being wise enough to hire them to work on the design of the films!Shocked

Here is the letter sent to Alan Lee. Nice, unh?


Notice the date: Nov. 13, 1997! It kind of boggles the mind.


For you geekiest of geeks, a copy of Wingnut's earliest logo, which we printed separately because the letter's easier to read in that first screenshot.



Crazy
That's it then. Off they went, our two artists, to spend years in New Zealand!

All this seems so obviously right now, but it couldn't have been so easy to see that it would work out so well at the time, could it?


The question is, why did they agree to do this at all?

Why did these two successful artists assent so quickly?

TonguePeter Jackson? Who? He was a mostly unknown, untried director, who lived all the way around the world (from them), and who was ready to (likely) interfer with - maybe even spoil - a beloved book, and ruin the market for their best, or certainly most popular, works...forever.

I mean - why did these two trust Peter?

Why did they go?


Was this all inevitable?

Don't think so, but it's great that it came about. Peter and Fran, and others, had been staring at this art for months while working on the first two scripts; they got "locked-in" to it. Which we say is a good thing. But, they all could have disliked it, or thought it too stylized, or too well known, or too something. After all, these guys were not film-designers for one thing, and Peter didn't have a clue about what kind of people they were...

Why did Peter hire them?

Is this a common practice, to hire illustrative artists for movies?


In The Frodo Franchise, there's a great a small interview with a fellow from the Netherlands who owned a Tolkien Shop. He received an order in 1997 for thousands of dollars worth of Tolkien illustrations for Wingnut Films. Cool!
It's that fellows fault, you see. Now we know; he must have had lots of Howe and Lee.

Well, the point of hiring Alan and John is that their artwork was what the film makers liked most and I believe this to be true, because Peter is all geeky delight when he remembers the day he asked John to draw the rest of Bag End and when he asked Alan to show him the rest of Orthanc. Shocked

! Its interesting to know, also, that Alan Lee and John Howe were part of the team working on the design of LOTR before New Line was involved. In fact, they, as Kristin Thompson, who actually has seen this pitch-film says, "Lee and Howe...featured very prominently...helping to convince Bob Shaye to take on the project." !
Shocked

Well, it's a nice story how it all happened - it all worked out so well; just like a lot of things about the making of The Lord of the Rings...
And, of course, one of the most wonderful parts of the story is that Alan Lee and John Howe met on the plane to New Zealand. Smile

Oh, the geekiness of it!

More to come...

hob and ohob


Blessings,
hob





Elven
Valinor


Jun 2 2009, 11:25am

Post #2 of 20 (127 views)
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Some thoughts on Pt2 - EE - Designing Middle Earth [In reply to] Can't Post

Now this another thought beside the thought that I have that it was just meant to be - but I also think in hindsight, and I say this with all love, but fear of failure - not to the self nor to just a film career, but fear that the film would not live up to the expectation of Tolkien, and the millions who know the books. With he importance of these books in the literary world, the films had to match it - they had to make it so that any other attempts would pale in comparison at least until enough time has passed that either technology or want of a different film would even be considered. Howe and Lee would also be critics of the film - but more than that, it is utterly gentlemanly and resprectful to these two artists who have put Middle-earth into pictures and have kept doing so for years becasue their interpretations are so close to what Tolkien wrote - and who better to express the designs then these two 'living' artists. And also Peters passion as a Film Maker and his uncanny knack of being able to pick the right people - his intuitiveness - so as to make the films as best as they could possibly be.

Cheers hobbitlove and ohob Smile Smile
Elven x


Swishtail.

Tolkien was a Capricorn!!
Russell Crowe for Beorn!!

Avatar: Liberace - The other Lord of the Rings.

Quote of The Week: The thing is I always write in the morning, and I know that if I go to the Net I won’t write ... you can start in the most scholarly website and end up at Paris Hilton dot com .. GdT


Peredhil lover
Valinor

Jun 2 2009, 5:49pm

Post #3 of 20 (125 views)
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John and Alan [In reply to] Can't Post

Oh yes, I remember these stories how John and Alan came on board. Loved them so much! Laugh

And why did they agree to be included in this project? Well, I'd think that they thought it would be fun and an interesting experience. Or maybe they thought they'd better do it themselves instead of allowing someone other to ruin their picture of Middle-earth forever? Tongue

I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.


jschomburg
Rivendell

Jun 3 2009, 12:22pm

Post #4 of 20 (124 views)
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Alan and John joining the design team because - [In reply to] Can't Post

My take is that they believed this to be a "once in a life time" opportunity to take part in an Epic motion picture about the stories that they truly loved and devoted a significant part of their lives to. It also was a strong "leap of faith" on their part - but thank goodness for that!! I think that they thought it would be a great experience to work in New Zealand for a time, and an opportunity they may not get a second chance at. From the appendices - some of John's comments on how Peter pushed them to take their designs to a higher level and get it "right" and how stimulating an environment it was confirmed they made a wise decision. I'm also guessing that once they met and worked with the young talent at Weta, that this was very rewarding as well.

Bottom line - sure glad they took the job!!!


squire
Half-elven


Jun 4 2009, 2:34am

Post #5 of 20 (124 views)
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Production Designer? We got Lee 'n' Howe! We don't need no steenkin' Production Designer (Oh yes you do) [In reply to] Can't Post

That's it then. Off they went, our two artists, to spend years in New Zealand!
All this seems so obviously right now, but it couldn't have been so easy to see that it would work out so well at the time, could it?
The filmmakers had no idea whether Lee or Howe were prima donnas who would prove impossible to work with, or precious artists who could not adjust to the limitations of film and production budgets. My impression (first expressed in my TTT Design discussion) is that Jackson bought Lee’s and Howe’s earlier designs as part of their contract, so that if they quit in a hissy fit, the film company would still have the rights to all their earlier paintings.

The question is, why did they agree to do this at all?
Glamor. Glory. The chance to express their vision in 3-D, and in moving pictures. The chance to keep Jackson from blowing the only Lord of the Rings film likely to be made in their lifetimes.

Why did Peter hire them?
He liked their work. Why not? It’s first class. And most Tolkien art isn’t.

Is this a common practice, to hire illustrative artists for movies?
Yes. Concept designers save the production designer from having to think outside the box of what can be done. The Concept Designer dreams big dreams. Then the production designer (Grant Major for LotR) takes the big dreams and shrinks them down to fit in a film studio or a rented location – using clever tricks the concept designer never dreamed of to make it all look as big as the concept designer’s original mad painting.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


weaver
Half-elven

Jun 4 2009, 3:53am

Post #6 of 20 (102 views)
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thanks for the link to the former discussion.... [In reply to] Can't Post

That was fun to revisit -- and it's still as good in reruns as it was when you originally posted it!

Weaver





weaver
Half-elven

Jun 4 2009, 4:02am

Post #7 of 20 (107 views)
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I was surpised that Lee and Howe had never met... [In reply to] Can't Post

You would think at a Tolkien conference or convention or something, they would have crossed paths...

Lee and Howe are both such soft-spoken, calm, gentle souls -- I could see that they would respond favorably to Jackson's very respectful, soft-sell sales pitch to them. And Jackson, Lee and Howe all seem to be more about the end product than ego...and maybe they recognized a kindred spirit in him, in that they were all essentially engaged in the same activity, that of bringing someone else's vision (Tolkien's) to life, rather than their own...

Does anyone know if Lee and Howe had ever worked in other films, or collaborative efforts like this? I guess it would be a thrill if for years you had worked alone in your studio, and all of a sudden you were working with a whole team who appreciated your work and your vision and gave you immediate gratification for your efforts...on the other hand, if you weren't used to that sort of thing, it might have been really hard to adjust to having to include so many others in your creative process.

Weaver





GaladrielTX
Tol Eressea


Jun 4 2009, 5:41pm

Post #8 of 20 (103 views)
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Why did they do it? [In reply to] Can't Post

The points you made above ring true for me. Plus, I imagine that if a filmmaker called me up to work on accounting for a film and flew me to New Zealand, the experience would be so interesting that I might not care even if they were making The Revenge of the Nerds VIII!

~~~~~~~~

The TORNsib formerly known as Galadriel.



sador
Half-elven

Jun 4 2009, 8:38pm

Post #9 of 20 (111 views)
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Actually, I do not remember [In reply to] Can't Post

any reference to how Lee and Howe worked together.
Was there any tension between them? I mean, Lee designed all those big scenes, and got an Oscar - while Howe was working on orcs and armour. Was he jealous, or actually happy to leave the spotlight to Lee?
I really don't know; but I do not remember any reference from either of them about working with the other, and I just wonder.

"And winter comes after autumn." - Bifur


squire
Half-elven


Jun 4 2009, 8:52pm

Post #10 of 20 (133 views)
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Howe're you gonna keep 'em up in Geneva, after they've seen NZ? [In reply to] Can't Post

In the Two Towers EE documentary also called "Designing Middle-earth", Lee and Howe discuss their working relationship: slightly competitive, but perfectly civil. We speculated here about why Howe left the production before Lee, and why Lee got an Oscar but Howe did not. It was just speculation - the artists have not talked about it as far as I know.

Howe did a lot more than "orcs and armor" - he did Bag End, Barad-dur, and Minas Morgul, if I remember. He was referred to once as Jackson's "Mordor architect", meaning he did the bad guy sets, but that doesn' t really seem to capture his work on the film. Bag End as Mordor is a book concept, not a film concept!

Not to mention the unquantifiable effect of being part of a collaborative design team, where one's contribution is not always attributable like an oil painting is.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Footeramas: The 3rd TORn Reading Room LotR Discussion; and "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
squiretalk introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


sador
Half-elven

Jun 4 2009, 9:15pm

Post #11 of 20 (186 views)
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Thank you! [In reply to] Can't Post

Now you brought it up, I did remember that part somewhere in the EEs where they spoke of sharing an office. But it still is not conclusive (about how they actually related to each other).

"And winter comes after autumn." - Bifur


grammaboodawg
Immortal


Jun 7 2009, 2:10pm

Post #12 of 20 (91 views)
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Alan Lee's from the Shire [In reply to] Can't Post

and John Howe's from Minas Tirith ;) I'd always related to them like that. Howe is a master of armour and Medieval heritage while Alan Lee seems a bit quieter, ethereal, hobbity ;)

What a great picture of the landscape. VERY Shirelike :)

Lucky and Blessed we were AND ARE to have Howe and Lee bringing their years of the love of Tolkien with them. I remember being staggered to hear that Peter had brought them on board. I'd already had so many of the calendars and pictures by these 2 artists that LotR really was imprinted on my mind (and heart) through their depictions. I just love them so much.


Quote
I am writing in the hope that you would consider...



Oh geez! Such humility and honour he showed for them. Phone calls, letter delivery, hat in hand, never realizing that if they'd missed out on this project would have probably saddened them forever. Tolkien was so much a part of them and their identity. They were bitten by the bug way before Peter even considered doing the films. To me, it's just another bit of truth that these stories were meant to be reborn. Not just artistically, but because the world needs the hope, beauty and morality Tolkien exudes in his works. By morality, I mean loyality, courage, selflessness, trust, friendships, honour... all of those things that seem to fade when those in influence and power are driven by more selfish purposes. The needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many. Although, I think there are influences in the world now that will "hopefully" change that focus.

Oh, the geekiness... fersher and for always. I'm more relieved than I can say that they both have said "Yes" to us again. I've missed them and the discovery of their vision. It won't be long, now ;)

Thanks so much, hob!!! *warm hug* Well done!


sample

"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West."
~Hug like a hobbit!~ "In my heaven..."

I really need these new films to take me back to, and not re-introduce me to, that magical world.



TORn's Observations Lists


hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 1:05am

Post #13 of 20 (83 views)
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Yes! As you and Squire point out, they were two of the best. [In reply to] Can't Post

Peter was humble and hopeful with these two great artists - but his instincts are so good, as you say - we've learned to respect them a lot. When you really think about what Peter could have envisioned - what kind of man he might have been: selfish and egotistical, trite and inflexible, or just uncaring. Wow! Are we lucky or what?

Quote


Peters passion...and his uncanny knack of being able to pick the right people - his intuitiveness - so as to make the films as best as they could possibly be.

Thanks for these terrific comments, Elven!

{{{hugs}}}

hob


Blessings,
hob





hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 1:07am

Post #14 of 20 (80 views)
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What you said and so much more I'm thinkin'. it was Tolkien-inspired magic... = ) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Blessings,
hob





hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 1:15am

Post #15 of 20 (83 views)
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This time, I agree and disagree... [In reply to] Can't Post

I so agree with this!

Quote

Oh geez! Such humility and honour he showed for them...another bit of truth that these stories were meant to be reborn. Not just artistically, but because the world needs the hope, beauty and morality Tolkien exudes in his works."




I think I disagee that Alan is a hobbit though - he may just be an Elf!

Thanks for sharing such important thoughts.Heart

hob


Blessings,
hob





hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 2:00am

Post #16 of 20 (89 views)
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My rose-colored glasses help me a lot. [In reply to] Can't Post

but, I'd say these people on the Appendices are having fun! This was a happy experience, no matter what the challenges. And, they are proud of what they did.
Thanks so much for the links to the other discussions. We are working on a way to incorporate those brilliant things into the new set of discussions. Maybe just run the whole series? They are terrific!!!!! I don't know how to format them to re-post them. Weaver! I'll ask Weaver!

Well, thanks for posting and stay tuned if you can. I really think this particular design discussion is a bit of an eye-opener as to just how much influence John Howe and Alan Lee had on the look of these films.

I have said many times that I'd love for other folks who worked on the films to write their memoirs of my "once in a life time experience" in NZ with LOTR. These are very intelligent, talented people who would have much to share. But, then they did share a lot - in interviews here and elsewhere. So we do know quite a bit more than an average fan would know of say, a particular artist, or certainly a production supervisor (if there are such types of fans - well, besides us here on tORn). I think that when you watch these, the interviewees are so often grinning, or speaking with excitement in their voices, enjoying recollecting and telling about the experiences they had; but more than that, they do seem honest and fairly humble. Don't they?

One thing in those older discussions - it came across quite clearly that fans of Tolkien probably weren't all that familiar with Howe and Lee! Most of the sibs (who participated in that linked discussion) weren't!
This sounds right. Thinking back - I know I didn't know a blasted thing about them - not one thing! I still remember the OMG moment when I saw my first Alan Lee painting of Rivendell! I wonder if the average LOTR-movie audience would have needed any "familiar" stuff at all to be referenced in order to accept the 'vision' of PJ and all. I suppose it was all for the die-hard Tolkienites - those pesky purists who were starting websites and patrolling production perimeters...The original estimates of the percent of the audience for these movies who were already fans of Tolkien and were considered die-hards was 25%. That's significant if, say half of those knew something about M-e as envisioned by Lee and Howe, or, in other words, only held in their heads images produced in those "40 years of Tolkien art". I wonder if it would have made any difference at all!
Oh, pooh! I'm not interested in any more questions today! We 'geniuses' here need all the anwers don't we? Can I just say kismet a hundred times - it will be my answer to everything?
It was kismet that Lee and Howe were there and PJ like what they did! Okay.

Thanks, Squire.

hob


Blessings,
hob





hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 2:09am

Post #17 of 20 (86 views)
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Grant Major looks like a whimp, but he wasn't. [In reply to] Can't Post

As Peter clearly states: he knew how to get things done! And it shows! The sets are beautiful, IMhO.
I should say, that Grant is often pictured right next to Alan Lee when they are talking to Peter - of course, he has his head in his hand while Alan is pulling out drawing after drawing to show Peter. LOL!

Somewhere there is an Alan Lee quote about the best way to save money on these films would have been to break Alan Lee's fingers...
Alan laughs at himself a lot. He comes across as a very, very charming man; and no fool, I think.

Quote

Concept designers save the production designer from having to think outside the box of what can be done. The Concept Designer dreams big dreams. Then the production designer (Grant Major for LotR) takes the big dreams and shrinks them down to fit in a film studio or a rented location

Cheers,

hob



Blessings,
hob





hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 8 2009, 3:00am

Post #18 of 20 (80 views)
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"once in a life time" Indeed! Pretty much sums it up; and it's heard, alot! Thanks, friend. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Blessings,
hob





N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 8 2009, 4:07am

Post #19 of 20 (86 views)
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They don't need to be reposted. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Thanks so much for the links to the other discussions. We are working on a way to incorporate those brilliant things into the new set of discussions. Maybe just run the whole series? They are terrific! I don't know how to format them to re-post them. Weaver! I'll ask Weaver!


Not squire's two movie discussions, at any rate, which are already organized for easy reading on the site (always easy to find via the links in his footer). To repost them here entire would be to re-do what he'd already done, by transcribing them from the old TORN forums.

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>
We're discussing The Hobbit in the Reading Room, Mar. 23 - Aug. 9. Everyone is welcome!

Join us June 1-7 for "On the Doorstep".
+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=
How to find old Reading Room discussions.


hobbitlove
Gondor


Jun 10 2009, 8:21am

Post #20 of 20 (74 views)
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I think we decided we couldn't just repost, but, as a recent [In reply to] Can't Post

question in Feedback points out, the older stuff is a treasure - so worth re-visiting. I'm not sure these discussions will have longevity - enough to make it through all three movies - just too much stuff to get to, but, I for one, would love to find a way to keep going. That may be to review the older TT discussion and use it as a foundation for new discussions. Now, I'm not in charge, and I don't know spit about what's the best way to manage this, but we'll figure this out to the benefit of all, I'm sure.
There has always been way too much interesting and fun stuff going on around here (at tORn) and you can just take some of the blame for that! Tongue
Thanks, N.E.B.
hob


Blessings,
hob




 
 

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