Well, no kidding.
That Universal wants the rights to Lord of the Rings is hardly a secret. We've had plenty of threads on this site where readers have offered their wishes and suggestions for what Universal should do with the franchise. By all accounts, Universal Creative and LOTR/Hobbit director Peter Jackson have a strong working relationship, dating to Jackson's work on the King Kong 360/3D experience at Universal Studios Hollywood. New Line Cinema, which produces the Lord of the Rings films, has worked with the Universal theme parks on Halloween Horror Nights attractions, and now is a subsidiary of Warner Bros., which is quite pleased with how Universal handled that other little film franchise it runs: Harry Potter.
The only connections missing are the blessings of Tolkien family, and of course, the little matter of money. Film rights are not theme park rights, and that deal would have to be negotiated separately, with all parties involved.
And that's where we've been. The Tolkien family's not taken an aggressive role in the development of Lord of the Rings, and apparently isn't all that happy with the resulting films (link in French). I've not heard any reputable reports about any potential relationship between Christopher Tolkien and J.K. Rowling, either, so I don't know if she'd be able to convince the Tolkien family to sign off on a deal.
But Universal Creative has impressed many people in the film industry with its handling of franchises such as Potter, Kong and Transformers. And Universal finally now enjoys stable ownership, with Comcast acquiring full control of the Universal Orlando Resort and demonstrating that it's willing to spend money to support its parks, with major expansions underway in Orlando, Hollywood and Japan. (Singapore lacks the room for any significant expansion, though it is getting a new Sesame Street dark ride this spring.)
Perhaps Disney can swoop in and write a bigger check than Comcast would be willing to put on the table. Perhaps the Tolkien family might decide that it'd rather not see a Lord of the Rings theme park land, no matter how credible Universal Creative and Comcast's money might be. But if those don't happen, Lord of the Rings at Universal seems a matter of "when" and not "if."Tweet
I Respond: Why would she even try?
(Related): It seems reasonable to question if the Tolkien family would EVER do anything with Disney.
From a previous post offered by Mr. Tim Odom:
"It might be advisable [...] to let the Americans do what seems good to them — as long as it was possible [...] to veto anything from or influenced by the Disney studios (for all whose works I have a heartfelt loathing)."
- The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, #13
"I recognize [Walt Disney's] talent, but it has always seemed to me hopelessly corrupted. Though in most of the 'pictures' proceeding from his studios there are admirable or charming passages, the effect of all of them to me is disgusting. Some have given me nausea"
– Letter to Miss J.L. Curry, of 15 July 1964
Then again I might just be getting old.....
(sorry for the double post when the non-logged in comment appears.)
Anyway, I find it amusing that the Tolkien family doesn't seem to like the commercialization of Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. I thought Peter Jackson did a good job with the Lord of the Rings films, I thought The Hobbit was an excellent movie.. what aspect of money is there not to like? As long as the films don't suck and the source material can be handled properly and respectfully to J.R.R. Tolkien's work, what's the issue? I don't honestly see one.
Then again, I'm not some old eighty-something.
Class act those people.......
By the way I'm hungry now....
I Respond: I don't know the actual economics of WHY, but I was in a meeting once where a theme park executive (a VP) indicated that when an AP holder visits the park more than seven or eight times the park begins losing money on the deal.
But, I will say, the pancakes in that Grand Slam were pretty awesome.
This is probably the only blockbuster series of movies I have no desire to watch. My brother-in-law bought me a box set a while ago because he always buys movies that he likes for other people instead of what they like. They are still shrink wrapped and have never been opened.
Total blue-sky thinking (imagineering?) of course but sometimes it helps to be able to visualise an idea...
Total blue-sky thinking (imagineering?) of course but sometimes it helps to be able to visualise an idea...
Now, put LOTR in Hollywood in lieu of the planned HP land, and I think they would have a serious hit. Instead of copying what has been done in Orlando, Hollywood would have their own unique land that would drive attendance from around the country, and compete head to head with Disneyland and DCA. While plans are already in motion for HP land in Hollywood, they could probably be relatively easily converted to LOTR since the two franchises have similar styles. A Forbidden Journey-style attraction themed to LOTR wouldn't be that difficult to convert with Ringwraiths filling in for the dementors, the Battle of Pelanor Fields filling in for the Quiddich match, and the Battle at the Black Gate and casting the Ring into Mt. Doom creating the climax.
I'm all for cloning successful rides on opposing coasts, but if Universal is going to spend billions purchasing the rights to the LOTR franchise, they should let it stand on its own before placing it alongside an already successful fantasy novel series turned theme park land.
However, I could see Universal canceling the planned HP London expansion at USF and replacing it with LOTR. That switch could work. Then they could put the Grigotts coaster and all the London stuff in Hollywood instead of a clone of IOA's Wizarding World.
However, I could see them scrapping the HP plans for Hollywood and creating a LOTR land there in lieu of a clone of IOA's Wizarding World. That would make far more sense since field work has yet to begin and minor tweaks could be made to the plans to suit the LOTR universe.
Unless, of course Universal Creative has plans on the book to make the Orlando expansion in the LOTR universe, and has been using HP as a front all along and a fallback if the LOTR deal never got done. Now that would work, because it would put LOTR as a separate admission from HP.
So in Orlando the options are:
Studios: Large tract of land behind Simpsons and MIB is often discussed but entrance would be awkward.
But here is another option for that land
Enter through Kidzone as its rethemed for the Shire, with the Coaster being a ride on one of Gandalfs fireworks, ET could be a dark ride, and have it themed to Bilbo's Birthday everyday and with a festival feel.
Then use the large tract of land to open up to Rivendale, Lonely Mountain and of course in the back Mordor
Lost Continent: but could be awkward this close to WWOHP and kinda small for all the trouble
Marvel: Solves two problems...and could claim the unused amphitheater land
Jurassic Park: Plenty of land...but again maybe to close to WWOHP
Toon Lagoon: Solves problem of theme that is losing relevance
Best Option: Theme Toon Lagoon for Hobbit Trilogy & theme Marvel Superhero Island for the LOTR Trilogy
While you could take Dudley Doo Right or Bluto's Bilge Barges offline for a few months at a time, it would take over a year to repurpose that land for a non-water based attraction. Look at Jaws, it's been almost a year since work started, and the new attraction isn't likely to open for another year and a half. It doesn't hurt USF because there's plenty of other stuff to do, but do that to IOA, and you've got a serious problem.
Imagine tearing down all of Toon Lagoon for LOTR. The only way it could be done "right" would be to completely cut off access to the entire island, which eliminates the circular traffic around the park, creating dead ends at Spiderman and JP. Also, with the new on-site resort under construction just beyond the southern boundary of IOA, there's not a lot of space behind DDR or JP to work with for a new attraction or expansion of the area they could use (the Toon Lagoon Theater space could be used though).
Marvel Island is off limits until Disney pushes the issue. They just plunked a bunch of money to upgrade Spiderman, I doubt they would retheme one of the best rides on the planet for a new property. Again, to do it "right", that entire island would need to close and all of the intricate themeing around Hulk, Dr. Doom, and Spiderman would need to be completely reworked. That's 2 of the 5 "big" rides in the park that would be closed for nearly 2 years---not going to fly with park guests.
It makes a lot more sense for Studios, but I just don't see that park getting another huge investment after it has been almost completely revitalized over the past 5-7 years with Mummy, Despicable Me, Rip Ride Rocket, Transformers, Simpsons, and the new HP expansion. Also, there's existing space within the park that needs attention (T2 and Twister) before they expand the footprint anymore.
The only way it makes sense to put LOTR into Orlando would be to make an entirely new theme park. Putting LOTR in Hollywood makes far more logical sense because that park needs to maintain the momentum created by Transformers, and start turning itself into a destination instead of an also-ran.
As to Lord of The Rings, Universal is the logical place for a park IF one is done. Universal is probably just trying to set itself up for the franchise whenever it is available. They have enough on their plates right now
Note at the end of the 20th century the surveyed British and American Booksellers and Libarians for the greatest english written novels of the century.
Only two books appeared in the top ten of all four list
The Hobbit and To Kill a Mockingbird and LOTR as a collection was in the top 20 for all 4.
So even if you don't go to the movies most people have read the books over the last seventy some years
Also most people refer to Tolkein as inspiring many if not all the fantasy writers since then.
I think a dual trilogy where every movie makes almost if not exceeds a billion dollars in revenue, that when done will probably exceed Star Wars current total and get pretty close to Harry Potters for eight films
and 3/4 so far have been nominated for Best Picture
and heck some of the most immersive themed aread imaginable
If this isnt the recipe for a Theme Park land, I don't know what is
on a side note the main difference between rowling's and tolkein's worlds is this:
Rowling integrates Wizards and other creatures into our world and explains how we miss them
Tolkein instead creates his own world with the creatures and men live and yes walk alot
On that note, both in Avatar and LOTR, a chunk of their film's brilliance is the scope and scale that cannot be reflected in a single land alone.
And too like Avatar, what are the rides going to be? Ride a tree? Pet an uruk? (hoever you spell it).
The one thing that LOTR has that Avatar hasn't is the thoroughly established universe that will be profitable with merchandise and food, but isn't that what the Tolkein family is wanting to avoid?
And is make a mediocre segue, LOTR's universe is only mostly well known by those able to tackle the books. Unlike Potter, the majority of the LOTR fans probably have only seen the movies, which are very abridged versions of hte universe, so aside from selling a lot of rings, I'm not sure what other merchandise might have importance to the regular guest.
Utlimately, I think, again just like Avatar, this was a grab just to have it so others would not- even considering the low probability of Disney ever getting the rights. I think it was a rash response to Disney owning Lucas Film.
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One thing to remember is this: The Tolkien estate fought against The Hobbit movies from being made, and has been generally displeased with all of the movies, and generally with Peter Jackson. They don't seem pleased with the commercialization of Middle Earth.
I think we are a long time away from having Lord of the Rings in a theme park. The family is the biggest stumbling block, and they tend to be exceedingly protective of Tolkien's works. Maybe, when the next generation takes over, something will happen (and that will happen sooner than one might think, Christopher Tolkien is in his late 80's), but until then, I really don't see the family signing off on anything anytime soon. Which is disappointing, I would love to see what Universal Creative or Disney (who will never get this license due to Tolkien's loathing for all things Disney) could do with this.