Even More "Fellowship" DVD Details! - Digital Bits

One Ring to rule them all...

...but several DVDs to bind them! Yes indeed, in a gala event at the Warner Bros. studio lot that attracted hundreds of studio executives, retailers and members of the press, New Line last night unveiled its plans for the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD and VHS.

As expected, there will be multiple versions of the film available on DVD. The first is a 2-disc Theatrical Edition on August 6th, which will arrive in dual full frame and 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen versions (SRP for each is $29.95).

Disc One of this release will feature the film itself (in the aspect ratio of your choice, depending on the version you purchase), along with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Dolby Surround audio, English subtitles and closed captioning.

Disc Two will feature over two hours of bonus content, including an exclusive, 10-minute preview of The Two Towers hosted by director Peter Jackson, the Welcome to Middle-earth Houghton Mifflin in-store special, The Quest for the Ring (the FOX Network special) and A Passage to Middle-Earth (the Sci-Fi Channel special), some 15 additional featurettes created for lordoftherings.net, theatrical trailers and TV spots, Enya's May it Be music video, a preview of the Electronic Arts The Two Towers video game, a preview of the special extended DVD version, exclusive online content via DVD-ROM and more. This release will be the PG-13 cut of the film that was seen in theaters.

Then, on November 12th, New Line will release the Special Extended Edition of the film, as a 4-disc set (in anamorphic widescreen, with Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and Dolby Surround). The packaging for this set is still in the mock-up stage, but I can tell you that it looks like an ancient, leather-bound hardcover book. This will feature director Peter Jackson's much talked about extended cut, with some 30 minutes of scenes restored to the film (more on that in a minute). The film will be split over the first two discs of the set, with the second two containing more than SIX HOURS of in-depth behind-the-scenes material. Much of this content is still in production, so the final disc specs are still TBA. But you can look for feature-length director's audio commentary, art and photo galleries, documentaries and more (note that the SRP has not yet been set). Back to the longer cut of the film - Weta Digital is creating many new visual effects shots for the new footage and composer Howard Shore is currently recording new music cues for these scenes, which are being personally supervised by Jackson.

Here's a rundown of the new scenes you can look for (and to you ring-bearers, please forgive me if I get a few of the names or details wrong):

*A new addition to the opening sequence in which Bilbo provides background on Hobbits and their history in voice-over as he writes his memoirs.

*A new introduction to Samwise Gamgee, seen in his capacity as a gardener.

*A scene taking place at the Green Dragon Inn, which introduces us to the camaraderie of the Hobbits (we see them singing together) and sets up the geopolitics of the story.

*The Hobbits witnessing the departure of the Elves from Middle Earth on the way to Bree.

*Aragorn watching over the sleeping Hobbits, singing the ballad of Beren and Luthien to himself in the night.

*Aragorn at his mother's grave, in which we learn that he was raised by Elves and that Sauron has long hunted him.

*Two new moments during the departure from Rivendale, one in which we see Arwen's emotional reaction to Aragorn's leaving, and another in which Elrond sees the Fellowship off.

*A scene with the Fellowship in the mines of Moria, in which we learn how the Dwarves themselves unleashed the fire-demon that eventually destroyed them.

*A scene at Lothlorien, where Galadriel bestows upon each of the Fellowship a gift which will play an important role later in the Trilogy.

*And finally, more footage of the battle at Amon Hen. This is not particularly bloody footage, but its addition will likely result in this cut of the film receiving an R-rating.

So that's the extended version. This same 4-disc DVD edition will also be available in a Collector's Gift Set, which will include the National Geographic: Beyond the Movie - The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring DVD (containing 2 previously unreleased featurettes and a photo gallery), a set of exclusive Decipher game cards and a pair of bookends sculpted by WETA artists to look like the Argonath, all in packaging designed by production artist Alan Lee.

All of the information above was revealed during an elaborate multi-media presentation, followed by a number of speeches by New Line executives. On hand were several members of the cast and crew, including John Rhys-Davies (Gimli), Orlando Bloom (Legolas Greenleaf), Billy Boyd (Pippin), Dominic Monaghan (Merry), hair designer Peter Owen, costume designer Ngila Dickson and Oscar-winning visual effects/make-up supervisor Richard Taylor (with his new golden statue in hand - and yes, it IS heavier than you'd think). The event was bookended by an elaborate reception and buffet dinner. But the highlight of the evening was a special video greeting from director Peter Jackson (absent due to his tight post-production schedule on both the DVDs and the next film), who talked about his work on the discs and introduced a special treat - the public premiere of the preview for The Two Towers, which you can see in theaters attached to the end of Fellowship starting this Friday. And I can tell you, this alone was worth my hour-long drive up to the studio. The next film looks simply amazing.

So there you have it - New Line's Lord of the Rings DVD plans in a nutshell. We'll have the artwork for the special extended DVD and the collector's gift set as soon as they're available. In the meantime, here's a look (see link) at the menu screens for the theatrical edition DVDs. Enjoy!

Bill Hunt, Editor
The Digital Bits

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