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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Middle-earth TV Series Discussion:
Interview with Narnia Conceptual Designer John Howe

mushroom
Registered User

Aug 18, 6:09pm

Post #1 of 13 (1156 views)
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Interview with Narnia Conceptual Designer John Howe Can't Post

no big news but some interesting comments from JH on what has already been announced or shown by amazon (i.e the maps).

From the interview on narnianfans.com

-Are you contributing to the Narnia TV show in the works for Netflix or the LOTR series for Amazon ?

I am contributing to the Amazon project. I have been working on it for a while and we will see how it continues, but I really can’t tell you very much about it.
Designing second age is going to be a challenge. The show runners are determined to remain faithful to the existing trilogies and the spirit of the books. It is a huge project and a very different project from a feature film.

- Does the change in medium for television make any difference in your work?

In the concept design process not really, no. It is the same job. It takes a different form when it goes into production. The initial work is very similar. We need to create environments and sets and all of that. And that is the same whether it is for movies or television. I suppose the major difference is partially budgetary but not aesthetic.

.....


- Can you read and write in the dwarf runes and elvish scripts?

No, there are specialists who do that. You know with something like LOTR you need to befall into the company of people who devote their entire leisure time to studying Elvish writing or Dwarven scripts or languages in Middle Earth or any subject in Middle earth in a totally obsessive way. They are such experts that you really can’t get anywhere, you just ask them what they think. There is no point in trying to do it. I did the map that was on Amazon. We did a big map of Númenor we made two mistakes. I was working with Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, a very solid historian who reads Norse and Icelandic. He is really a serious scholar and actually knew Tolkien. Curiously enough actually met him when he was a student in Oxford when he was a professor in retirement. So Tom worked so hard researching all these elements that we needed to integrate into this map because in the second age Tolkien didn’t really give us a map of the second age. We have a map of Númenor and a map of Middle earth. We have a map of Middle Earth in the third age but it is not the same as in the second age so we spent a lot of time trying to figure out where there were bridges where there were fords where there were roads what they would have been called in what language and we made two mistakes. The map went up on Amazon on Twitter on Instagram and literally probably 20 minutes later somebody was writing a letter to Harper Collins signaling that something was wrong with the map and it is extraordinary, so to have those resources at your fingertips is these people absolutely passionate about it is a real gift. So you want to be really careful with all of that and we made mistakes. If you imagine the map is this big [a meter] we made mistakes where something was this far [a centimeter] from where it should have been and someone spotted it immediately.

It is amazing the scholarship that the fans are actually involved in. They are so passionate. I think it probably comes from the fact that you can with Tolkien be passionate about it because his sources are serious sources. You can become an expert on Narnia or Game of Thrones but not in the same way it is not quite the same. You look at the number of books that have been written on LOTR there are hundreds and hundreds of books. Far more than what has been written on Narnia.

.....

full interview here:

https://narniafans.com/2019/08/interview-with-narnia-conceptual-designer-john-howe/


Lissuin
Valinor


Aug 19, 1:12am

Post #2 of 13 (1052 views)
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Fascinating, [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
The map went up on Amazon on Twitter on Instagram and literally probably 20 minutes later somebody was writing a letter to Harper Collins signaling that something was wrong with the map ...


and not surprising. Laugh

Thank you for posting the interview.


Chen G.
Rohan

Aug 19, 6:53am

Post #3 of 13 (1026 views)
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“The showrunners are determined to remain faithful to the existing trilogies” [In reply to] Can't Post

Hell yeah!


Otaku-sempai
Immortal


Aug 19, 2:53pm

Post #4 of 13 (960 views)
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Well... [In reply to] Can't Post

...where the choice could come down to fidelity to the Jackson films or fidelity to Tolkien's legendarium, I would have to choose Tolkien. Fortunately, Jackson's two trilogies barely touch upon the Second Age.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - DRWolf (after John C. Maxwell)


Mari D.
Rivendell


Aug 19, 3:25pm

Post #5 of 13 (947 views)
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Well, this sounds VERY good to me! :-) [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
The show runners are determined to remain faithful to ... the spirit of the books.



fantasywind
The Shire

Aug 19, 3:36pm

Post #6 of 13 (943 views)
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That depends :) [In reply to] Can't Post

You know 'spirit of the books' may be understood rather widely hehe (various attempts of works based on the franchise were done and many claimed to have that 'spirit of the books' :)), let's hope they actually will mean fidelity to Tolkien vision. I hope that they will use every available scrap of lore and us it to it's full potential. Interesting interview. It's crazy how it's still so long before we will see anything substantial, nothing to judge so far :).


InTheChair
Lorien

Aug 20, 9:41pm

Post #7 of 13 (847 views)
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Probably just trying to keep everyone happy while they continue to work [In reply to] Can't Post

By specifically mentioning the trilogies they hope to appease fans of those, while it has been rumored previously that the Estate has vetoed anything that contradicts to radically what is stated in the texts.

The mentioning of the trilogies could mean that for all the invented material (The bulk of the show) they will comply as much as they can with those movies.


mushroom
Registered User

Aug 24, 8:01am

Post #8 of 13 (480 views)
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Short interview [In reply to] Can't Post

 with comment similarities as the one on the first post.It was during his exhibit at Shanghai with journalists...and well there is also a lot of translation...

I tried to transcript Start at : 21 mn


You are in charge of the Amazon tv series about Lord of the Rings,right?

I am working on it yes, not in charge...

Whether the artistic style will be different from the films and the TV serie ?

I think the people making the movie (meant the series ?) want(ed) to be coherent,to be part of the same universe,to be very much respectful of what has is done already.
....
The Amazon series is going to be very respectful of the two trilogies we done,by Peter...yeah it s a continuation...

So where it will be shot,in New Zealand?

Probably (nods) yes probably.
....
Well I mean it s a different undertaking a television or a streaming online series than movies.....

(John to the journalists)
Have you seen the maps? the map of Numeror...I do that.It took us a long,it took us weeks and weeks There was a lot of rsearch involved in that map.Is very complicated...

(Barely audible) You ....with story?

Hum I am not really allowed to say....

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=vdcl8RZkO3U


Solicitr
Rohan

Aug 24, 6:21pm

Post #9 of 13 (451 views)
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Subject [In reply to] Can't Post

I certainly wouldn't mind combining the good part of Jackson's movies, the visual aesthetic, with screenwriting on the level of some of the programs the writing staff are alumni of. My only fear is that, for all of the intellectual and artistic heft of productions like The Sopranos and The Wire and Breaking Bade, they also carry an extremely cynical, even nasty worldview which doesn't really suit Tolkien.


Althoun
Lorien

Aug 24, 6:38pm

Post #10 of 13 (446 views)
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Visual aesthetic [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I certainly wouldn't mind combining the good part of Jackson's movies, the visual aesthetic, with screenwriting on the level of some of the programs the writing staff are alumni of. My only fear is that, for all of the intellectual and artistic heft of productions like The Sopranos and The Wire and Breaking Bade, they also carry an extremely cynical, even nasty worldview which doesn't really suit Tolkien.


Yeah, we do need to bear in mind that John Howe is a concept artist for the show (as he was in Jackson's movies) and is speaking purely from the vantage point of design.

He isn't talking about the scripts!

On that point about cynicism in storytelling, Gennifer Hutchison - alumnus of Breaking Bad fame and one of the LoTR shows main screenwriters - had something very intriguing (and perhaps revealing) to say on her Twitter account back in June (long before her affiliation with the project was made public):

https://twitter.com/GennHutchison/status/1136643414097686528


Quote
Earnest storytelling does not mean saccharine storytelling.

It also does not mean soft or conflict-free or without darkness or emotional weight.

Earnest storytelling, for me, is that which contains the element of hope, of people striving to do good even against the darkness.

We’re moving away from cynical stories toward earnest stories. It’s a welcome change.

There’s room for all sorts of stories. And the pendulum will swing again.


It is obvious to me that her "musings" in this respect had to do with the fact that she was - at that moment in time - engaged in writing scripts for LoTR and this must have become a great consideration for her (having come from the Breaking Bad writers room).

That said, the Second Age (as per Tolkien's own description of it) should come across feeling grimmer, darker and more tragic than the LoTR trilogy (I mean, he described late-stage Númenor in its imperialism as a realm filled with "dark tales of horror").

Its still "earnest" but definitely not "saccharine" - what with the torture-death and use-of-his-corpse as a battle standard end for Celebrimbor, the Morgoth-worship, the human sacrifice of Faithful Númenóreans and native Middle-earthers enslaved and shipped from their homelands in Sauron's Temple, Ar-Pharazon forcibly marrying Tar-Míriel etc. etc.

The good guys - Gil-galad, Elrond, Galadriel, Elendil - are still 'earnestly' striving for good against the darkness, but the 'darkness' is etched more fully and not in a PG-13 manner.

A fine balance needs to be struck and from the looks of what Ms. Hutchison had to say, I think we're probably in safe hands.


(This post was edited by Althoun on Aug 24, 6:45pm)


Chen G.
Rohan

Aug 24, 6:46pm

Post #11 of 13 (436 views)
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Agreed [In reply to] Can't Post

The thing that seperates Tolkien's works from those properties is that his worldview is profoundly uncynical. Yes, his mankind is - as real mankind is - flawed to the core, but his world is still worth fighting for.


Lissuin
Valinor


Aug 25, 2:56am

Post #12 of 13 (399 views)
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This is the first truly hopeful signal on the storytelling I've seen yet. Gennifer Hutchison: [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Earnest storytelling, for me, is that which contains the element of hope, of people striving to do good even against the darkness.

We’re moving away from cynical stories toward earnest stories. It’s a welcome change.


Perhaps I was wrong to despair. Thank you for this.


Akhnaten
The Shire

Sep 4, 12:26am

Post #13 of 13 (270 views)
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The Dark Crystal [In reply to] Can't Post

The new Dark Crystal series from Netflix was the first high profile fantasy series to come out since Game of Thrones and has been very well received. I think this shows that 1) there’s still a place for high fantasy and 2) People still enjoy an earnest story of good vs evil. The Skeksis are unquestionably evil (although still really compelling ones) and while some of the Gelfling characters make questionable decisions, they are good at heart.

 
 

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