- Production design of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
"The Lord of the Rings" film trilogy began its production design in August 1997.
Peter Jacksonrequired complete realism and plausibility in his vision of Middle-earth, and hired Weta Workshopto create the various pieces of armour, weapons, prosthetics and creatures seen in the trilogy, as well as aged costumes and historically influenced sets.
Jackson began storyboarding the trilogy with
Christian Riversin August 1997,cite book | last = Russell| first = Gary| authorlink = Gary Russell| title = The Art of the Two Towers| publisher = Harper Collins| date = 2003] effectively creating a rough black and white 2-D version of the film. Jackson showed excerpts of the "animated" storyboards (filmed images with voices and a temporary soundtrack) to allow potential cast a view of the film's style.
To plan his visual effects sequences, Jackson also utilized a
lipstick camerafor the models of sets and computer animatics (learned from Industrial Light and Magic), planning the battle sequences like a real general and giving a sense of direction. This would often allow room for him to improvise for action sequences, such as the Moria staircase collapse (which was never in any script draft).cite video| title = The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Appendices|medium = DVD|publisher = New Line Cinema| date = 2002] He also bought 40,000 toy soldiers to play with.cite video| title = The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers "Appendices"| medium = DVD| publisher = New Line Cinema| date = 2003] Pre-visualisation would continue throughout production, such as the late addition of the the Ents attacking Isengard, and the siege of Minas Tirith in February 2003. cite video| title = The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King "Appendices"| medium = DVD| publisher = New Line Cinema| date = 2004 ]
The design of the trilogy began in August 1997 with the storyboarding, and in November 1997, famed Tolkien illustrators
Alan Leeand John Howejoined the project. Up until then, concept artists had primarily been influenced by " Dungeons and Dragons" in their designs. Jackson himself wanted a gritty realism and historical regard for the fantasy. Some of their famous images of Bag End, Orthanc, Helm's Deep, the Black Gate, and John Howe's Gandalfand the Balrogmade it into the film. The last one inspired the opening of "The Two Towers". Jackson sometimes replicated some shots from famous Tolkien illustrations as a nod to fans. [cite web| title = The Art of Film| publisher = JW's LOTR fansite| url = http://www.angelfire.com/film/rings/art.html | accessdate = 2006-10-15]
Lee worked on designs for architecture, the first being
Helm's Deep, as well as the Elven realms, Moria, Edoras, and Minas Tirith, and although Howe primarily designed armour and the forces of evil (see below), he contributed with Bag End, Minas Morgul, Cirith Ungoland the Barad-dûr. Lee also applied a personal touch by painted imagery in Rivendell, such as the one of Isildurremoving the One Ringfrom Sauron, as well as tapestries in Edoras. There are real life influences to Middle-earth: Rivendell is "a cross between a Japanese Temple and Frank Lloyd Wright",cite book| last = Russell|first = Gary| authorlink = Gary Russell| title = The Art of the Fellowship of the Ring| publisher = Harper Collins| date = 2002] and Minas Tirithtakes influence from Mont-St-Michel, St Michael's Mountand Palatine Chapel in Aachen. The City of the Dead takes after Petra, Jordan, and the Grey Havenswere inspired by the paintings of J. M. W. Turner.
Grant Major was charged with the task of converting Lee and Howe's designs into architecture, creating models of the sets, whilst Dan Hennah worked as art director, scouting locations and organizing the building of sets. The army often helped out too, building
Hobbitonalmost a year before filming [cite news| title = Hobbiton is being built| publisher = The One Ring.net| date = 2006-04-12| url = http://www.theonering.net/perl/newsview/1/923891184| accessdate = 2006-10-15] to give the impression of real growth and age, and moved 5000 cubic metres of earth, and creating roads to the Edoraslocation during six months of building, although there was some controversy over their pay. [cite news|title = NZ troops worked on Lord of the Rings for $20 a day| publisher = New Zealand Herald| date = 2001-02-02| url = http://www.nzherald.co.nz/feature/story.cfm?c_id=594&ObjectID=170838| accessdate = 2006-10-15] Sometimes sets would be reshaped: the caverns of Isengardbecame Shelob's Lair, and Helm's Deep became a Minas Tirith backlot. Sets would also occasionally employ forced perspectiveto save budget too. Despite a large amount of safety involved, there were still fires on a Rohirrim village location and the Morgul Road set, and Alan Lee fell off a Lothlórien miniature.cite book| last = Sibley | first = Brian| authorlink = Brian Sibley| title = The Making of the Movie Trilogy| publisher = Harper Collins| date = 2002]
The Art Department was careful to respect nature, considering its importance to Tolkien, such as taking plants from the Edoras location into a nursery. They would sometimes mould shapes from real rocks and bark too, and take branches into a steel structure with polystyrene for more convincing prop trees.
Brian Masseyled the Greens Department, and even wrote a booklet on tree growth when he complained of the props "being too coney" for Lothlórienwhen time came to for Fangornforest. The numerous props within the trilogy are all originally designed at different scales, and many craftsmen were hired, most notably Jens Hansen to create 15 replicas of the One Ring. Statues were sculpted out of polystyrene, although some thrones seen in the trilogy are in fact crafted out of marble, stone and wood as they would be. A former bank worker named Daniel Reeve was hired to write the numerous books, spines, documents, maps, diagrams and even Orc graffiti that appear in the trilogy.
Jackson hired longtime collaborator Richard Taylor to lead
Weta Workshopon five major design elements: armour, weapons, prosthetics/make-up, creatures and miniatures. Notable among the concept artists were Daniel Falconerand Warren Mahy, who enjoyed creating the forces of good and evil respectively. Jamie Beswarickand Mike Asquithalso helped with the maquettes, as well as Ben Wooten with his extensive zoology knowledge, amongst many others. John Howewas the supervisor on armour, having studied and worn it. Stu Johnsonand Warren Greenmade 48,000 pieces of armour from the numerous molds of plate steel, as well as a small group who spent days linking plastic chain mail (eventually wearing their thumbprints away). Peter Lyon also forged swords, each taking from three to six days, creating spring steel "hero" swords for close-ups, aluminium fight swords and rubber versions too. Weta also created 10,000 real arrows and 500 bows. Howe even created a less crude type of crossbowfor the Uruk-hai (the first army approved), based on a 16th century manuscript.
Weta created numerous pieces of prosthetics, and would have to monitor them on set too. They created 1800 Orc body suits to go with 10,000 Orc heads, lasting six days and one day respectively. Weta also spent a year creating Hobbit feet that would look like furry feet yet act as shoes for actors. In total, 1800 pairs were used by the four lead actors during production. Actors would also go in for face casts to create pointed ears and false noses. Most extensive was John Rhys-Davies as Gimli, who would spend four-and-a-half hours in the morning to apply Dwarven prosthetics. Gino Acevedo also worked on created realistic skin tones for the actors, such as Bernard Hill's possessed Théoden and a younger Bilbo. Peter(s) King and Owen also led the make-up department in making numerous wigs and creating general dirt on the actors. As well as applying make-up, at the end of the day there was an hour of carefully removing the make-up and prosthetics. As well as the prosthetics, there were also numerous corpses of actors and horses.
Weta's first completed creature was the Cave Troll, and originally wanted to make the Orcs totally animalistic before the switch to prosthetics. They gave specific designs to the Moria Orcs,
Uruk-haiand Mordor Orcs so as to give variety to the characters. They also spent time making creatures biologically believable, rooting them sometimes in real creatures: Shelob's body is a funnel web spider, and the Wargs are a bear/hyena/wolf hybrid. Howe lent himself for Beswarick to study when shaping Gollum, and he also took inspiration from Iggy Popdue to his skin-muscle ratio. Whilst most creatures were destined to exist in the computer, Weta did create a 14 feet tall Treebeardpuppet (which needed 5 people to operate), a single dead " mûmak" and later on, a "Phoney Pony" for close-up shots of riding actors. Designing continued throughout production, such as Gollum's redesign in May 2001and the Great Beasts in early 2003.
Several cultures' backstories had to be shown through only subliminal glimpses on screen, as are the miniatures, and for the Elves and Gondorians, fictional histories had to be presented within the changes of armour. The Elves have an
Art Nouveauinfluence that involves leaves and flowers, whilst the Dwarves have a preoccupation with geometrythat is supposed to remind the audience of their digging nature. The Hobbits hark back to 18th century England, the Rohirrim have numerous horse and sun motifs and draw visual inspiration from Beowulfand the Anglo-Saxon artifacts found in the Sutton Hooburial ship, and the Gondorians reflect 16th century German and Italian armour as well as tree motifs. The evil HaradrimMen take influence from Aztecs and Kiribati after bad feedback from Phillipa Boyens over looking African. Most of the Orc armour is sharp, reflecting secateurs, and have runes written on them to reflect a worship of Sauron.
Several liberties were taken in adapting Tolkien's weaponry and armour to the screen. While
plate armouris used in the films, it is unmentioned in any of the author's writings (except for vambraces), where scale and especially mail predominate. Some swords, like the broken royal sword Narsil, are also interpreted as two-handed longswords. These design choices help evoke the Late Medievaland Renaissanceperiods, whereas Tolkien's original atmosphere is generally more akin to the Early Medievalperiod. In a private letter he compared Middle-earth clothing and war gear to that of Dark Age Europe and the Bayeux Tapestry. Weta also invented Elvish inscriptions for weapons like the spear Aeglosand the swords Sting and Narsil. In some cases Tolkien writes about runes on sword blades but does not give them in detail. The Elves use curved swords, whereas the author mostly assigns such swords to Orcs and enemy Men (he writes about "one" Elf bearing a curved sword in very early writings). [ME-ref|BOLT2|"The Fall of Gondolin"] The designers went so far as to invent new weapons, such as the Elvish sword "Hadhafang", used by Arwen; while the design is original the name is derived from Tolkien's "Etymologies" in " The Lost Road". [ME-ref|LR|The Etymologies]
Ngila Dickson was hired on
April 1 1999to handle the numerous costumes. She and 40 seamstresses worked on over 19,000 costumes. Due to the large shooting schedule, 10 versions of each costume would have to be made, and then 30 more for stunt, scale and other doubles, all in all meaning each design would have 40 versions.
Due to Jackson's requirement of realism, the costumers took great pains to make costumes look "lived in", wearing away colour, stuffing pockets and dirtying costumes for the likes of Gandalf and Aragorn due to their terrain crossing nature. Like armour, there would also be acid etching and some overdyeing of colours. Dickson decided to give the Hobbits shorts due to their barefeet, and specifically worked on long sleeves for the Elves for a gliding impression. Dickson also took great pains to distinguish the Gondorians (silvers and black) and the Rohirrim (brown and green).
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