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LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

About The Locations
Jackson made an early decision to bring Lee in to work with Oscar-nominated production designer Grant Major in creating a realistic, multi-faceted Middle-earth that would give the film an historic feel rather than a mythical one. Likewise, John Howe, who is regarded as one of the most successful Tolkien illustrators in the world, also joined the design team. Together, they formed the cornerstone for the visual harmony that would inform the design for all three films.

"Alan Lee and John Howe are the two people who have defined what Middle-earth looks like," comments miniatures director of photography Alex Funke. "They've both devoted their lives to images of Middle-earth. There is no question that you can ask Alan Lee that he can't answer. He knows; he's been there. He's a fantastic resource. Not only is he a brilliant artist, but he can draw something and then sketch how it has to be built and hand that to the construction department."

Lee remained on set throughout production, giving input and often picking up a paintbrush to add an authentic finishing touch to a set. "There are some sets that I'd been drawing one day that would be in the process of being constructed the very next day," Lee comments. "A few days later, they're finished. A couple of days later they were being filmed, and then dismantled. It was a very quick and exciting process."

With so many practical and digitally created locations and characters to be realized, all three films were storyboarded before production began by artist Christian Rivers. These illustrations were ultimately assembled into an animatic pre-visualization of The Return of the King, which rigorously informed the work of every department – from the production design to cinematography to the groundbreaking physical and visual effects work performed by Weta Digital.

To realize the enormousness of Jackson's vision for The Lord of the Rings, Jackson entrusted his frequent collaborators, Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger of New Zealand-based Weta Workshop. Taylor in turn immediately employed a crew of over 120 technicians divided into six crucial departments: Creatures, Special Effects, Make-up and Prosthetics, Armor and Weapons, Miniatures and Model Effects.

In their 65,000 square foot Weta Workshop, Taylor and his team created over 48,000 separate items – from prosthetic limbs to hand-forged swords; 2,000 stunt weapons; 1,600 pair of Hobbit feet; and 200 handcrafted Orc masks. Weta was also responsible for the design, manufacture and operation of the creature animatronics.

The crew numbered 148 at the height of production, with another 45 technicians on set dressing five hundred actors in Weta product, with over 200 background players in full body prosthetics.

Weta set up a foundry with two full-time armor smiths, Stu Johnson and Warren Green, to hand-beat and hand-make the armor from steel. From these original suits, molds were made and 48,000 separate pieces of armor were created for all of Tolkien's Middle-earth civilizations, including Elves, Orcs, Uruk-hai, Rohirrim and Gondorians. A department of four full-time chain maille technicians assembled more than 12 million circular links to make up the "hero" chain maille suits (those photographed most closely) featured in the trilogy.

One thousand, six hundred pair of Hobbit feet were made to be used throughout production. The prosthetic feet took hours to apply to actors Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Dominic Monaghan and Bill

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