Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tolkien Family No Longer Controlling Tolkien Estate

Christopher Tolkien resigned from the Tolkien Estate on August 29 leaving control of his father's work more or less in the hands of lawyers and other non-family members. The 93 year was one of the leading officers that controlled the rights of Tolkien's work. Other then the movie rights and related merchandise, including video games, the Estate rarely granted rights to others. The movie rights themselves were basically a mistake as the 1969 deal that eventually gave rise to the Peter Jackson movies was done at a time when the concept of Intellectual Property (IP) was still new and not really being exploited in a way we understand today. For example, back then something like coke can didn't have to be hidden on screen nor permission to be used granted in advance. Today showing that same can would require the company signing off on how its used, the story line its shown in, how long its on screen and other details which is why some objects get stickers and other things to hide their logos and other IP attributes).

Christopher Tolkien has long hated the fact his father's work (other family members have indicated they liked the movies) were being re-interpreted by Hollywood. He fairly frequently bashed the Peter Jackson's Middle-Earth movies for not staying close enough to the novels and probably would have tried to revoke that 1969 contract if he could. Instead he simply sued the studio on a number of occasions with the last lawsuit being settled for $80 million - after Christopher Tolkien resigned.

This brings us to why this news matters to Middle-Earth fans. He was probably the one and only blockade preventing the Tolkien works from being exploited for their maximum value by Hollywood and other interested parties. The just announced Amazon TV deal is likely the direct result of his resignation as unlikely he would have signed off on it. I would not be the least bit surprised if the other Estate officers overriding his wishes led to the resignation. What this will mean in the long term remains unknown but I suspect we will see merchandise and other related works showing up in a wide variety of places that was not available before. Whether this turns out for the better for Tolkien's work is too early to say.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Amazon Buys Rights to The Lord of the Rings TV Series

Amazon has announced via press release that their quest for a "Game of Thrones" style series has landed the father of them all - The Lord of the Rings. Or at least the rights to telling prequel stories set before The Fellowship of the Ring.
“The Lord of the Rings is a cultural phenomenon that has captured the imagination of generations of fans through literature and the big screen,” said Sharon Tal Yguado, Head of Scripted Series, Amazon Studios. “We are honored to be working with the Tolkien Estate and Trust, HarperCollins and New Line on this exciting collaboration for television and are thrilled to be taking The Lord of the Rings fans on a new epic journey in Middle Earth.”

“We are delighted that Amazon, with its longstanding commitment to literature, is the home of the first-ever multi-season television series for The Lord of the Rings,” said Matt Galsor, a representative for the Tolkien Estate and Trust and HarperCollins. “Sharon and the team at Amazon Studios have exceptional ideas to bring to the screen previously unexplored stories based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s original writings.”

Set in Middle Earth, the television adaptation will explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring. The deal includes a potential additional spin-off series.
Considering that Tolkien Estate's love of suing their partners, Tolkien relatives (especially Christopher Tolkien, son of JRR) hating any interpretation of the material that isn't a word for word translation while always happy to make a deal anyway, I am hoping the Tolkien family involvement remains the cashing of checks only.

No other details were provided so official title, planned release date, era to explore or really anything else except "we have rights to do this" was revealed. An area that is ripe for exploring that would beautifully tie into the movies that are likely to remain a touchstone is to tell the story of the rise of Sauron and the forging of the One Ring. JRR Tolkien's other Middle-Earth books provided a pretty detailed history of Middle-Earth so it will be interesting to see what areas Amazon chooses to explore while seeing how writers expand on his work since often what he wrote was rather matter of fact, dry and detail oriented but not in a way that is TV friendly or honestly reading friendly either.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Middle-Earth Extended Edition Trilogies Collection Revealed (Updated x2)

If you are a die-hard fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies and do not mind buying yet another copy of the movies, then you might be interested in this news. A post on Amazon.com has revealed the existence of the Middle-Earth Collector's Edition that will re-release the extended editions of all six movies in new packaging. The collection will contain 30 Blu-ray discs (5 for each movie) that will contain the exact same movies (theatrical and extended) along with the same extensive behind-the-scenes documentary (called The Appendixes) and other featurettes that remain the gold standard of extra features. There is no indication of new special features (but then this release has not been officially announced either).

There are two differences between this release and previous releases. The minor one is the digital copy codes will be for Ultraviolet only and not iTunes. The real attraction though is the packaging. From the description, the movies will be "housed in six stunning faux leather books and a collectible Hobbit-style wood shelf. The one-of-a-kind wood shelf is crafted from solid wood with design selected by Peter Jackson." In addition there will be a "spectacular 100-page sketch-style book with replica The Red Book of Westmarch, filled with original film sketches and new artwork" along with "original reproductions of exquisite watercolor paintings by acclaimed conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, framable and wall-ready."

The listed release date is November 1, 2016 at a whopping $800. If order from Amazon get it a month early on October 4 instead. When first heard about this my guess at the price was $150 ($20 per movie plus cost of the wooden case and fake leather) so I am hoping this is just an error on someone's part or set high until the official announcement comes. To me the real shame isn't just the price but that this "Complete" collection failed to include the music for each movie. If you do decide to risk the price tag, please buy from this link so the site gets credit.

Update: Warner Bros. has officially announced the box set and the $800 is true. It looks really nice but I can't recommend anyone spend that kind of money for what is ultimately around $100 in Blu-rays (going by the typical sale prices of the extended edition sets) and $50 of fake leather and wood material that probably cost a tiny fraction to acquire and make. They are also selling a 6-disc blu-ray box set of the theatrical versions of the film. Basically what seemed like cool news turned into something shrug worthy at most due to excessive cost. Full details in the press release below. If you are willing to spend the money, click these links so site gets some Amazon credit for the purchases:
30-Disc Middle-Earth Limited Edition Collector's Edition ($719.99) | Middle-Earth 6 Film Theatrical Collection ($56.69)

Update 2:> Added video of Dominic Monaghan looking over the box set. It really is nice looking, just not $800 of nice. Again, if plan on buying use links above as I would really appreciate it.