Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh Join Animated ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’

“The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” is headed to theaters this Christmas. And during a panel at Annecy, it was announced that Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh are executive producers on the project.

They will be joining their longtime teammate and collaborator Philippa Boyens, who is a producer of “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim.” Jackson issued a short video introduction to the panel and Boyens joined director Kenji Kamiyama and producers Joseph Chou and Jason DeMarco on stage for a conversation moderated by Gollum himself Andy Serkis. (Serkis, it was recently announced, would be heading back to the franchise, as director and star, for a pair of Gollum-centered films.)

The centerpiece of the panel was 20-ish minutes of footage from “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” which, as the opening narration by Miranda Otto as Éowyn discloses, takes place 200 years before Bilbo Baggins encounters the ring. This new movie is the first to feature a female protagonist – a headstrong young woman named Hèra (Gaia Wise), who rides horses and who communes with the Great Eagles. Her father is Helm Hammerhand (voiced with typical brio by Brian Cox), who Helm’s Deep would eventually be named after. Hèra rejects the hand of Wulf (Luke Pasqualino), whose father Freca (Shaun Dooley) challenges Helm to a fight. It doesn’t end well for Freca.

While this is a lot of set up, you can both see where the story is going for “The War of the Rohirrim,” with this inter-family squabble blowing up into full-scale battle and Hèra eventually having to lead her people, calling on the power of a seemingly long-lost tribe of female warriors. What is more striking than the story, though, was the look of the footage. The movie has long been described as a “Lord of the Rings” anime; set within the world of the Peter Jackson films but having a look all of its own. And that is certainly what it is. The footage screened was full of the heightened emotions and exaggerated gestures that you expect from traditional anime, with the epic, earthy feel of Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films.

Boyens said that, when thinking about a potential story to be adapted into anime, she immediately knew it would be “The War of the Rohirrim.” It’s based on a slender section of J.R.R. Tolkein’s appendices, so slender in fact that Hèra didn’t even have a name. She decided this, she said, because the story is relatively contained and set amongst the world of men (meaning that there aren’t all sorts of fantastical creatures and characters at the center of the story).

In short, they thought it would be easier.

But during the conversation, it was revealed that the movie currently has a runtime of two and a half hours and that the animation, while mostly handled by Sola Entertainment, called upon help from more than 60 companies to finish the animation, which is a combination of traditional, hand-drawn animation; computer animation; and other techniques like performance capture.

Kamiyama, who began his career in the 1980s doing backgrounds for Disney’s “DuckTales” (yes, seriously) before working on projects like “Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade,” “Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex” and “Blade Runner: Black Lotus,” said that he was an avowed fan of Jackson’s features. But, as DeMarco pointed out, “We didn’t want to make an animated Peter Jackson film.” Instead, they collectively leaned into the more anime aspects of the project and Kamiyama’s style in particular. The result is as exciting a return to Middle Earth as you could probably expect.

Joining Walsh and Jackson as executive producers are Sam Register, Carolyn Blackwood and Toby Emmerich. The screenplay is by Jeffrey Addiss & Will Matthews and Phoebe Gittins & Arty Papageorgiou, story by Jeffrey Addis & Will Matthews and Philippa Boyens, based on characters created by J.R.R. Tolkien.

A New Line Cinema Presentation, a Warner Bros. Animation/Sola Entertainment Production, “The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim,” will be distributed theatrically worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, released in cinemas in North America on December 13, 2024, and internationally beginning December 11, 2024.

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