Dragon*Con 2000 - The Final Report - A Full Debriefing

For four of us traveling to Atlanta last weekend, it was anything but another run-of-the-mill summer snooze Thursday through Sunday... Ted, Cline, Markus (who helped us out with our video needs), and I had the privilege of going to Atlanta and participating in Dragon*Con 2000, the largest and most well-known sci-fi/fantasy convention in the world. And what a rush it was...!


The Coke Museum... Markus and Cline find the best angle.
The week started with a harrying series of flights across the US until we finally arrived in Atlanta early in the morning on June 28--those red-eye flights are killer... But, we sucked it up and rolled out to our hotel room and, well, uh, promptly fell unconscious on our beds. Rising from our slumber 4 hours later, and finding we still had most of the afternoon and evening left to experience the sights of Atlanta, we decided to go check out the Coke Museum. Looking back on it, it's pretty funny (and a little odd) to realize we spent $6 so that Coke could advertise to us! We did, however, get to taste-test different Coca-Cola brand soft-drinks from all over the world; all four of us agreed we definitely have the best tasting Coke here in the US (to anyone in Italy: how can you drink that stuff Coke sells there?!).

Now, back to the real Dragon*Con happenings.

Thursday started with a 2 hour biographical video on J.R.R. Tolkien that is not available here in the US, and can only be purchased from the UK for an extravagant amount of cash. It was incredibly thorough. Christopher Tolkien was extensively interviewed for most of the video, giving insight into his father's likes and dislikes, his motivations and inspirations, and his keen personal interest in everything that he had created. I'll hopefully be getting a copy of it eventually, and let all of you know where you can get your own, and give you a more thorough recap of it (yes, I'll admit, putting me in a dark room after having two nights of 4 hours of sleep, tended to have a, shall we say, tranquilizing effect on me ;-) ).


Karl Urban signs anautograph for a fan.
Michael Martinez of Xenite.org next held a session called "Reconstructing Middle-earth" in which he discussed the ability to reconstruct Middle-earth, the power of reconstructing Middle-earth, and whether anyone should try and reconstruct Middle-earth outside of the Tolkien's novels. You can now listen to this session in the Dragon*Con Audio Visual Update page. Next we then had the opportunity to hold a question and answer session with Karl Urban (cast as Eomer); he reassured us of Peter Jackson's dedication to the films and assured us that everything is being done "meticulously" and with the most care possible. LOTR is a labor of love for Peter Jackson and his crew. But, due to his contractual obligations, didn't drop any new hints about the flicks.


Tostitos Hint-of-Lime chips--one of the five food groups for any on-the-go Tolkien fan.
Friday began with a TheOneRing.net's presentation on the LOTR movies and additional footage of the movies not released in the Internet Preview Trailer. The new footage was not earth-shattering and didn't reveal much new information--it was mostly more eye candy for those of us hungering for images from the films. Essentially, it was a bit of the extended trailer we all saw with additional footage of John Rhys-Davies as Gimli (looked great), a preliminary Gollum CGI character (I shan't judge this image as it was quite unfinished), various shots of Hobbition (looked like Middle-earth to me), and a few sentences from Sean Astin (Sam Gamgee).

Also of note on Friday was the first Q & A session with Brad Dourif (Grima Wormtongue); he assured us that the 30 minutes footage he has seen so far is just utterly astounding--there is no doubt in his mind that The Lord of the Rings will be an incredible movie. One added note... Brad is a really friendly and easy-going guy who did everything he could to answer our questions while holding fast to his signed contract. His panel sessions were by far the highlight of the weekend!

Saturday came with another session with Karl Urban scheduled, and later a session with Brad Dourif again. Not much new info, except for the fact that we could really tell they were excited to be working on these films. One thing: Brad is a new LOTR fan, having just read The Hobbit to his girlfriend's 10 year old daughter (she loved it too!). Translating a book into a movie is tough, he relayed, but Peter Jackson is using Tolkien's book as a Bible for his filming process; Jackson always seems to have a copy within arms reach! Oh, and later in the evening on Friday we also had a good time whupping some reckless young'ns in that wonderfully friendship-building game, Unreal Tournament ;-)


No no, Brad, wrong camera...
Sunday, the final Day of Dragon*Con 2000, had one special session: Brad Dourif and Karl Urban participating in a Lord of the Rings panel together. Brad showed up 20 minutes early, and spent some time asking us about our likes and dislikes. We ended up talking about Dune a bit (in which he was the mentat, Piter De Vries), and the shortcomings of that movie--he loves the first half, hated the second half, and thinks the movie should have been split into two so that justice could have been to Frank Herbert's grand epic. Once the session officially began, it was rather clear that Brad has spent more time around the Hollywood block, so to speak. He was honest, friendly, and forthcoming; Karl was a bit more reserved. Brad mentioned that he thinks Tolkien is almost great, but not great on the level of Charles Dickens (who is his favorite author, it seems). Brad is struck by the power of complete character development and he doesn't see that in Tolkien (incidentally, I agree. I think Tolkien's power lies in his complete world development, where characters inhabit that new world).

Sunday ended with a session with the guys from the band Glass Hammer. They revealed to us that they're working on an album called "Glass Hammer: Live from Middle-earth," an album which answers the question "what would music in a pub (for instance, The Prancing Pony) in Middle-earth sound like if recorded to a CD?" We were privileged to listen to one track... and it's great! There are patron's jeering and cheering in the background, glasses and silverware clinking, and folks singing along. Look for it this fall!


I think I'll go as a Balrog next year... hmm, would my costume have wings or not? And where would I get Balrog hair?
I can say that I left Dragon*Con 2000 with a new sense of anticipation for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films--it's clear to me that it is a project undertaken not for financial gains, not for accelerating anyone's fame, but because Peter Jackson loves Tolkien's works and wanted to bring Middle-earth to many who could never experience it. Now I understand that it will be his vision, not Tolkien's vision--but that's an entirely separate essay (which I intend to write)... And it seems (according to Brad and Karl) that Christopher Lee (Saruman) is making sure all things are being done with respect to Tolkien's written work--he reads LOTR at least once each year and personally knew Tolkien years ago! Brad and Karl made it clear they have great respect for Lee's knowledge of Middle-earth and The Lord of the Rings--and so does Peter Jackson; his input is often taken into account when filming.


Cline, Markus, Michael Martinez of Xenite.org, Jonathan, and Ted at the D*Con "It's finally over!" party.
We've been unable to post the taped sessions at Dragon*Con due to my luggage arriving in Los Angeles 2 days late (I just got it today). We will have it up as soon as possible... there'll be some great stuff to listen to!

Lastly, I want to thank the following folks for making all this possible:
Ed Kramer - the founder and chairman of Dragon*Con, who worked with us to build the Dragon*Con Community website and setup the initial launch this year as we build the online community for next year's con.
Michael Martinez of Xenite.org - he first invited us to Dragon*Con many months ago, and did a great job putting together the whole Tolkien track (and talk about a knowledge of Tolkien and Middle-earth... wow!).
Jincey from TheOneRing.net - she helped Michael with the Tolkien track and put her heart and soul into all the Tolkien events going on there (some of those trivia questions were killers...).
TheOneRing.net - we traded T-shirts, but will we ever wear them? ;-) Seriously, though, it was great to meet Calisuri and Corvar from TORN and finally put faces to their names.

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