The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood

The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood

The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood

The Frodo Franchise: The Lord of the Rings and Modern Hollywood


"Once in a lifetime." The phrase comes up over and over from the people who worked on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings. The film's seventeen Oscars, record-setting earnings, huge fan base, and hundreds of ancillary products attest to its importance and to the fact that Rings is far more than a film. Its makers seized a crucial moment in Hollywood--the special effects digital revolution plus the rise of "infotainment" and the Internet--to satisfy the trilogy's fans while fostering a huge new international audience. The resulting franchise of franchises has earned billions of dollars to date with no end in sight. Kristin Thompson interviewed seventy-six people to examine the movie's scripting and design and the new technologies deployed to produce the films, video games, and DVDs. She demonstrates the impact Rings had on the companies that made it, on the fantasy genre, on New Zealand, and on independent cinema. In fast-paced, compulsively readable prose, she affirms Jackson's Rings as one the most important films ever made.


Get ready to write a sequel.

(in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring)

AT AGE TEN, RAYNER UNWIN was probably the youngest paid editorial consultant in the history of publishing. His father, Stanley, gave him a shilling each to comment on manuscripts of prospective children’s books. In 1936, a fantasy novel was submitted to Allen & Unwin by an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon, J. R. R. Tolkien. Rayner declared it “good” and added with the confidence of youth that “it should appeal to all children between the ages of 5 and 9.” The Hobbit appeared in 1937 and was immediately successful. Since then it has been translated into at least thirty-eight languages and has sold upwards of thirty-five million copies.

Naturally, Allen & Unwin pressed Tolkien for a follow-up. The Hobbit had been based on bedtime stories he told his children, but the sequel proved harder to compose. His faculty duties delayed him, but there was an inner drive as well. Tolkien felt compelled to chart an entire, densely populated world in which Hobbits manifest humble heroism in the face of horrendous dangers. “This tale,” as Tolkien put it in his “Foreword to the Second Edition,” “grew in the telling” over the twelve years he took to write it. When in 1950 he sent the manuscript of The Lord of the Rings (hereafter Rings) to the publisher, it was no longer a children’s book. It was an epic.

Rayner Unwin had grown up in the meantime and as an editor at Allen & Unwin was again asked to evaluate Tolkien’s manuscript. When printed, it would run to around a thousand pages. Rayner Unwin calculated that with a “moderate success,” the book would probably lose one thousand pounds— . . .

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