More on Disney, Universal, and the latest play for Lord of the Rings
A report claims that a theme park deal for The Lord of the Rings
franchise is imminent, and that it's Disney, not Universal, about to do the deal. 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?
The whole Tolkien-Disney thing makes me seriously doubt this. If it's true that his will had a no-Disney clause, then there's no Disney. Not to mention that Christopher Tolkien has been trying to keep the texts of his father safe from others. I could ramble on, but I'll let our chief Tolkien expert Tim Odom take over if there's anything left to add.
Please let Disney have it.....
I think Disney should focus bringing in quality lands/attractions for Marvel and Star Wars first before going in for LOTR.
First of all, Excellent column. Robert you have such a great way of presenting a topic and showing the different sides and letting people make up their own minds. I love that.
Would I like to see a Lord of the Rings franchise in a theme park? Hell yes! It's crying out for the theme park treatment and the 'lack of memorable names' is not a hindrance. It doesn't seem to have stopped a whole raft of other attractions existing, (I can't name a single transformer and frankly dinosaur names apart from T-Rex are a nightmare), but really are 'Frodo', 'Bilbo', 'Gandalf', 'Smaug' that difficult?
When would Disney have the time to build this? Also I am not really a fan of Disney picking up different IPs. That is originally why I liked the Disney parks so much because they had their own identity. Now Disney just keeps buying up different properties that have no connection to their parks. However I do see the similarities between LOTR (the movies, at least LOTR has great literature to back it up) and Avatar. I found both movies to be long, dry and they actually gave me nightmares.
NO-NO-NO. We do not need to keep getting all these movie franchises to keep up with what a totally different company is doing. What happened to the days of pure imagineer genius, where there minds could come up with anything. Think of the original Epcot rides.... Figment and Horizens were amazing and stood alone without a movie serious to make sure the money is flowing from super fans. I want old school Disney doing what they do best, creating amazing theming and attractions straight from their creative brains. I want no more movies taking their place! Sure a franchise is good, but how many do you really need to theme a whole land around.
The only way I could see Disney getting this license is if the movie contract would allow for them to make theme park attractions off of the movies (and not the books.) And, even then, I think it would be held up in litigation for a while, the Tolkien estate is notorious for defending their rights to the material. It is pretty doubtful that they would get the estate's approval, they fight against everyone. They fought against Peter Jackson making movies based on the Hobbit, since apparently he did an awful job with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If, by some miracle, Disney (or anyone else) gets this license and approval from the Tolkien estate, expect it to be as exact to the books as humanly possible, without a single deviation.
This would be perfect for Disney it would give them a chance to re-use some ride systems that they have not already recycled
I'm surprised that you didn't connect the dots a little more. Other web sites said when development of "Avatar" stalled, Disney sought out the executives of "The Lord of The Rings" to provide some impetus for James Cameron to act. Did it work? They did make the Avatar announcement in Japan.
Long ball guess from nothing more than the recesses of my boredom- Disney wins the LOTR rights, leverages them against Uni/Comcast to get Marvel back east of the Miss. Rapes Tomorrowland with Marvel instead of Star Wars. Space Mountain becomes an IronMan ride. I'm sad now. Thanks TDO.
Well, if you assume this rumor is true, don't expect to see anything until about 2040. Except cheap merchandise, of course. Disney will get that out right away. But I wouldn't expect to see any rides or LotR-land, or such in my lifetime.
To the question of time and resources for Disney to adapt LOTR into theme parks, that's pretty mute. Disney has billions of dollars at their disposal to turn the IP into reality. The real question would be if Disney did get the rights, how long would it take for them to develop something. Avatar has 3 planned sequels that will still be current when Pandora opens at DAK, and the same goes with Star Wars and the rumored DHS expansion. Even if Disney gave LOTR a fast track, the current "Hobbit" movies will finish next winter (2014), with no other adaptations planned beyond Peter Jackson's prequel trilogy. That means any theme park or land would be opening without a concurrent mass-media release unless Disney were also given the rights to develop such material. Some may argue that Diagon Alley is opening without concurrent mass-media, but WWoHP did, and provided proof of concept, which eventually led to the expansion.
LOTR would be an outstanding coup for either Universal or Disney.
Why does the Tolkien estate deplore Jackson's movies? I think it is as simple as they want a direct translation of the books, and Jackson changed things. For instance, Fellowship of the Rings had no Tom Bombadil, and they REALLY expanded Arwen's role. And each movie changed more, like there were no elves at Helm's Deep, no Mouth of Sauron, etc. And don't even get me started on The Hobbit, where a 300 page children's book is now 3 3-hour movies. How happy do you think the Tolkien estate is that Legolas is going to be in there, when he never appeared in The Hobbit?
^I know it is blasphemy to say, but even as a LONG time LOTR fan (been reading and rereading the books since I was nine years old) I think Jackson's movies are an improvement over the books. Seldom does a movie transcend its source material, but in this case I really think Peter Jackson just nailed it. The only thing I miss from the books (so far) is the Scouring of the Shire, but I understand and agree with the reasons why it was not included in the movie.
I would also agree that the LOTR movies are a dramatic improvement. Even if you don't like the changes, you have to admit, they are farmore true to the book than any movie adapted from literature (aside from perhaps Shakespere). Do they take liberty with the characters, sure, but the movies play out sychronously with the book. "The Hobbit" on the other hand, is a bit of a diversion. I don't know if Jackson felt that he had the poetic liscense to take liberties with the work because of the success from LOTR, or felt that he had to diverge from the story in order to meet WB's demand for 3 movies (instead of the 2 that he originally envisioned). Obviously, no one knows what the next 2 will be like, but the first (along with the ridiculous 48 fps and 3-D upsell gimmicks) was good, but certainly not great. After seeing the first "Hobbit", I still think I prefer the old Rankin-Bass animated version of the story. Perhaps Jackson will change my mind after the next 2 films.
Would Love to hear another major franchise from the sci-fi universe. Can we all please hear the Star Trek warp speed back into the america. Soon.
@Russell I completely agree about Tom Bombadil, but completely disagree about Rankin/Bass. Ugh, what those hacks did to Tolkien's works was an abomination.
In terms of theming, the possibilities for a LOTR land are endless. Plenty of iconic, instantly recognisable villages/cities/forts they could use.
I don't know how they could do it also. Although LotR has a great universe to be explored, I think is not so easy to make rides or even interesting theming for lands and shops. And also as stated above, the franchise is not going get anything new after 2014. Disney would be great because they have more parks and if they got and could do, I bet they would do it at DHS, making the attractions based on the movies, instead of the books. There is the option of making just one ride like they did for Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Also, Disney have Star Wars, Avatar and Marvel, that are as great franchises as LotR, and that are going to be in theaters for a longer time.
I don't see Disney coming up with the money for a LOR park. However, they probably could sell it as a third gate for Disney Japan where Oriental Land Co supplies the money.
Sorry about the late reply, but yes, I have watched the Extended Editions of all the LOTR films (I have not seen the extended cut of The Hobbit yet.) Hell, I watched the first 2 extended editions in the theater as a marathon leading into a midnight showing of Return of the King. Yeah, I love those movies.
I would be so exited if this was to come to fruition. Please help Disney to get the rights because Universal doesn't have enough room to do it justice. Plus they'll probably do an outside steel coaster that ruins the effect like in potter.
I would love to see LOTR at IOA. There are three lands at that park that could go soon. 1. Lost Continent. This there aren't any good rides in this area anymore. Just shows and restaurants. 2. Toon Lagoon. Universal is going to lose the characters in a couple of years. None will have broken hearts if this land goes. 3. Marvel super hero island. Many don't want to see this land go, but it will some day. Also the LOTR land could go in the World Expo section of USF. Just demolish MIB and fear Fear Factor Live. I think Disney would mess up LOTR.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.