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LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING

Stunts And Visual Effects
As the action in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King intensifies, a massive battle breaks out on the outskirts of Minas Tirith in a place called Pelennor Fields. It is the greatest battle of the entire trilogy, the ultimate clash between Men and the armies of Sauron – comprised of Haradrim, Easterlings, Orcs and Mûmakil, as well as the Ringwraiths under their captain, the Witch-king. "Sauron brings all the weight of his army to bear on Minas Tirith and Pelennor Fields on a scale that truly dwarfs Helm's Deep," comments executive producer Ordesky.

To create the siege of Minas Tirith, Weta Digital once again went to work creating a virtual army that would accompany the live action actors and stuntmen into battle. "You can't just invent the sequence shot-by-shot because there has to be a continuity as the battle unfolds," comments Jackson. "We needed to plot out the formation of enemy soldiers; where they are; how quickly they close in around the walls of the city; when the siege towers go forward; when the catapults fire. It is like plotting a real battle the night before, figuring out the campaign strategy."

A practical component in the attack of Minas Tirith is a giant siege tower –Grond -- hauled by armored mountain Trolls and manned by hordes of Orcs. Over 100 feet in length, with a huge wolf-like head and swinging on huge iron chains, the crew constructed the large battering ram out of wood.

The demands for active participants in this battle eclipse the Battle of Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. "Where at Helm's Deep there were 10,000 Uruk-hai, the enemy forces at the battles of Minas Tirith are probably 200,000 strong," describes conceptual designer Alan Lee.

Envisioning the battle required intensive previsualization to understand the precision geometry involved in what was going to be staged, and how it was going to be accomplished. "We built this landscape in the computer just simply to get the geography, the size and the scale, obviously based on the descriptions in Tolkien's book," Jackson explains.

During principal photography, the massive battle was staged on the South Island location of Twizel, New Zealand, on the site of a sheep farm. A tent village was created out in the middle of the area to house the cast and crew and to use as a staging area for the action that was to be shot. "We served 1440 eggs for breakfast, and 400 loaves of bread," remembers producer Osborne. "We also built a tracking road so that we could get very smooth shots of the charging horses as the Rohirrim come galloping across Pelennor Fields."

"They put out a call from all able bodied riders in New Zealand," recalls Karl Urban, who plays the Éomer, a Rohan warrior and nephew to King Théoden. Hundreds of riders and horses were enlisted from New Zealand and elsewhere. With distinct fighting styles developed for each of the principle characters and the various combatants in battle, much of the live action fighting was coordinated by legendary fight choreographer Bob Anderson.

The visual effects team behind The Lord of the Rings motion pictures was honored with Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects for both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

The challenge for The Return of the King was to capture the same intimate focus as did the physical/live action photography on a far larger canvas. The Weta Digital team would create num

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