Friday, April 06, 2018

Deal Signed for The Lord of the Rings TV Series

Been a while since posted anything as movie stuff is done but it seems Hollywood is not done with The Lord of the Rings. Amazon and the Tolkien Estate lawyers have signed on the dotted line to create a TV series based on the books and it seems the movies will be a source of inspiration for the film depending on how "materials from the films" is defined.

Here is the summary of the main details:
- The cost for the rights was $250 million
- Amazon has to begin production within the next two years or lose rights to make the TV series
- The deal is at least 5 seasons
- The series is estimated to cost around $1 billion to produce assuming the series is only five seasons
- The deal does include access to the films with New Line and Warner Bros Pictures participating in the deal.
- The deal did not include Peter Jackson who directed all the Middle-Earth films but Amazon and Jackson have talked (about what exactly was not detailed)
- The now blacklisted Bob and Harvey Weinsten where not part of the negotiations but its expected they will eventually sue for their cut of the TV show since they own a cut of the movies.

"This is the most complicated deal I've ever seen," [Tolkien Estate attorney Matt ] Galsor says, "but it was handled relatively quickly, in a way that brought the parties together in a close relationship. It was tough, but everybody liked each other and felt like a team more as the deal closed."

The short of it is a TV series is coming. Amazon spent way to much money to fail to start production by the two year deadline. Since "materials" of the film are included its safe to assume the look and feel of the show will directly draft off the films. It also seems to me the series will tie into the films but not retell the films.

For example the story could involve a Rohanian character who participated in the attack on Helm's Deep (shown via flashbacks) and explores his adventures before, during and after the events of the movies. Lots of opportunities like that for the series. It also could take a page from The Hobbit and try to tell a complete live action history of Middle-Earth from say the perspective of Gandalf set way before the films (so recast via younger actor). There were many books to the saga of Middle-Earth, if able to get through often impenetrable language and a dry academic writing style that told the complete history of Middle-Earth that going back thousands of years before the rise of Sauron and after is final fall. The options available are so huge I feel kind of bad for the team that has to finally settle on just one thing. My suspicion is whatever they land on will involve a hobbit, a wizard, and some warriors that suspiciously mirror the Fellowship but isn't the same as they go on a quest to save Middle-Earth from something that isn't Sauron but related. I assume this because at the end of the day the rights were bought due to the popularity of the films and so whatever they come up with will want to align to that comfort level as much as possible.

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.