Blog | 16 September 2002 | Marketing and Merchandise

The marketing of Lord of the Rings will be universal and many-tentacled. The toys, the images, the mementoes of the first film are still in the shops nine months after the premiere, although it is a little shocking that the major display in the bookshop at Auckland's international airport terminal should currently be preparing for Harry Potter2 rather than Frodo and Sam2. In July the standard DVD became available plus some extras for home viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring. It outsold the Potter equivalent according to my local store at Canary Wharf London where they got me to sign a poster. Like the rest of the cast I had recorded my memories of making the film and these have been added to the various commentaries that can be played alongside the movie.

So will continue the process begun I suspect by Oscar voters, of viewing Peter Jackson's trilogy not where it belongs and for which it was designed, the large public screen, but at home on whatever inadequate equipment the DVD will slip into. I do urge first-time viewers to see each film on whatever big screen is convenient.

In November, to get the juices flowing before the December release of The Two Towers, a four-disc super DVD package will be released. But, better still, this November version will include 40 minutes that didn't make it into the cinema film which Peter Jackson has always considered his director's cut, or rather the one that best fitted a theatrical release. There was bound to be some wonderful stuff that didn't make it and which ought to be seen. This longer version follows the same route as before but with much more detail of plot and of character. Howard Shore has added his music seamlessly to the soundtrack. A few weeks ago I saw a screening at the 60-seater cinema within the WETA workshop complex at Camperdown Road in Miramar, Wellington.

It's an undistinguished two storey wooden building within which Treebeard and Minas Tirith were designed and made, where all the weapons, masks and props for Middle-earth were invented and tooled. The cinema is used for viewing daily rushes of the previous day's film, where snacks and take-in food and fizzy drinks are always on hand. Arriving early for the screening - well wouldn't you? - I helped pop some corn and arrange a display of candy-bars in the drafty lobby guarded over by a full-size Gandalf cut-out and, for me much more alarming, by two Saruman figures. What chance would a grey wizard have against two whites?

My impression was that this cut is superior to the previous one and that it is a pity that there are as yet no plans to show it in the cinema, where managers gulp at the thought of a three and a half hour movie, with no interval and thereby less-remunerative refreshment sales. But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps it's the greed of one already sated that makes this extra dish so appetising. At first sitting the original cut may be easier to digest. But this DVD is a must for the devotee.

I am now in Vancouver with the X-Men and Women but even so Middle-earth still beckons. I have been needed to add a couple of lines for the next trailer of Two Towers. The X-Men sound crew, bless them, set me up in an unused studio at Vancouver Film Studios. That's how Gandalf got to work with his Apple (on which were my lines) within the dismantled Cerebro. I am spending spare time in my trailer signing Topps trading cards to be on sale by year's end. You can imagine the Master of Magnetism sniffily dealing with the wizard's business...

A tentative schedule for the release is being organised. The European premiere will be in Paris and Dan Hennah has already scouted out the terrain for the post-show party. There will undoubtedly be premieres and advance screenings in the US and Wellington — I am hoping to attend a couple of these screenings, if only to witness first reactions to the oh-so-thrilling scene that links the first movie to the second.

Gandalf the White
Approving publicity stills for The Two Towers
Approved Gandalf the White and a porcelain version of the animated Fellowship of the Ring Gandalf
Sauron's forces have begun their attack, Photo by Daniel Harris
Signing Gandalf the White trading cards, Vancouver, September 2002
Ian McKellen, September 2002: Nairn Falls, British Columbia

Photos by Keith Stern unless otherwise noted