By Craig Hubert | Not all is well in Middle Earth. The AP reported yesterday that the production company behind “The Hobbit,” Peter Jackson’s return to the world of Tolkien, is to be blamed for the death of 27 animals that were used in the film. These animals, which included chickens, horses, goats, and sheep, did not die during filming but rather at the farm where they were being held, which was, reportedly, “filled with bluffs, sinkholes and other ‘death traps.’ ” PETA is already gearing up to protest the film, and claim they found out about the deaths from an on-set “whistleblower.” For what it’s worth, a spokesman for Jackson is already claiming a conspiracy, telling an AP reporter that he questions the timing of the allegations with the premiere only a few weeks away. After the story broke, Jackson stepped forward from behind his spokesman and released a statement himself, denying the allegations: “Over 55 percent of all shots using animals in The Hobbit are in fact computer generated; this includes horses, ponies, rabbits, hedgehogs, birds, deer, elk, mice, wild boars and wolves.” Echoing his spokesman’s conspiracy theory, he claimed that the wranglers who are making these statements were released from the film over a year ago.
While we highly doubt PETA and a bunch of animal wranglers are behind a major plot to stifle the box office potential of “The Hobbit,” there is a lot of pressure on Jackson and his team for the film to be a huge financial success. The film will be released less than two years after MGM filled for bankruptcy, and they are banking on the film, along with the success of “Skyfall,” to finally lift them out of their financial hole. It will need to be quite a big moneymaker too, since they have to give part of the film’s profits to Warner Brothers, who co-financed the film.
Speaking of Warner Brothers, the film’s success means just as much to them. It was announced this morning that the Tolkien estate, along with publisher Harper Collins, are planning on suing the studio for $80 million, in relation to money owed from “online slot machines and other digital merchandising.” Yes, there is a Tolkien slot machine somewhere in the world. This is the second lawsuit brought on by the Tolkien estate – they settled with New Line, the producers of the first trilogy (who merged with Warner Brothers in 2008), three years ago for over $150 million. One giant lawsuit to rule them all.
Image: Peter Jackson/Dave Hogan/Getty Images