More on Disney, Universal, and the latest play for Lord of the Rings
Published: October 22, 2013 at 8:50 PM
Walt Disney World News Today has claimed that "Disney and Warner Brothers have either signed or are very close to signing an agreement that will bring 'The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit' movie-inspired areas to the Disney Parks." [Please note that, despite the website's name, the publication is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.]
Earlier this year, another site reported that Universal had the deal in hand, only to back off soon after. The Lord of the Rings franchise is the eighth-highest-grossing film franchise of all time, according to Box Office Mojo, testifying to its commercial appeal. If you're curious, Harry Potter is the number-one film franchise of all time, followed by Marvel.
Universal's been thought to have the inside track on negotiations, given its wildly successful partnership with Warner Bros. on The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Warner Bros. also owns the film rights to Lord of the Rings, and would need to sign off on a theme park deal. Universal's also worked with Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson on the King Kong attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood.
But Warner Bros. isn't the only party to any potential deal. The estate of author J.R.R. Tolkien also would need to give its blessing, and that's been thought to be another strike against Disney's involvement. Tolkien was well known for his contempt of Walt Disney and his work, once ordering his partners to "veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."
And yet… the Tolkien heirs have been said to be less than happy with Jackson's films [scroll down for link], and a disgust with Walt Disney didn't keep P.L. Travers from signing over Mary Poppins, did it?
At this point we at Theme Park Insider have no information that we're confident about that suggests either Universal or Disney have a deal in hand. But perhaps it might be of interest what Disney Legend and former Imagineering Senior VP Tony Baxter had to say about Lord of the Rings in an interview with Theme Park Insider earlier this month. (That interview will appear on the site within a few weeks.)
Baxter compared Lord of the Rings unfavorably to Harry Potter as a theme park-friendly property. "Things like Remembralls and Howlers," he said, citing two examples from the Potter universe, "they were so classic in the ways that the words were constructed, that they stick in your brain. Whereas I look at the world of Lord of the Rings, and I can't tell you — other than the Orcs — I can't tell you the names of the people. They were too confusing."
Would a Disney Legend dissing the viability of Lord of the Rings as a theme park-friendly environment be enough to suggest that Disney's theme park designers aren't sold on the Lord of the Rings franchise? Or does it say nothing more than one man's opinion about a potential challenge facing anyone trying to being that franchise to life in a theme park?
Would you like to see Lord of the Rings in a Disney theme park, a Universal theme park, or a theme park anywhere else in the world?