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In-depth look at the creation of Gollum, The Goblin King, and Azog from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Feb. 21, 2013by:
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Next month you'll be able to experience THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY from the comfort of your own home when it hits blu-ray/DVD/digital release and to help warm you up to the hours of special features that will populate the disc(s) we have three special effects featurettes that are actually really cool.  Hero Complex sat down with WETA visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, who discussed the creation (and recreation) of the CGI characters Gollum, The Goblin King, and Azog, three key characters in the new film.

For Gollum, veteran mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis once again returned to the role he made so famous in the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, in a pivotal 9-minute scene that arguably sets the events of LORD OF THE RINGS in motion.  Gollum looked great in those films and was tremendous in THE HOBBIT as well, which Letteri felt kicked off well.

It was really unusual to be able to do a character piece like that, a nine-minute dialogue scene between a CG character and a very good actor. There’s a level of detail that’s beyond what we were able to do 10 years ago.”

For The Goblin King, voiced and mo-capped by Aussie actor Barry Humphries, the process was a little more...disgusting.  The WETA team poured through medical journal images of herpes, boils, gangrene, tumors and rashes to give the diseased and morbidly obese character the most menacing attributes without going over the top. Letteri elaborates,

He’s a giant, evil goblin.  It was all about making him as disgusting as possible, and fine tuning the performance to give you the sense of the weight, the massiveness of him.”

Lastly, one of my favorite characters from the new film, Azog, the Pale Orc leader with a vendetta against Thorin, was originally cast as an actor in prosthetics, but director Peter Jackson later decided to make him a mo-cap character.  I know some may disagree, but in this instance I think it was a great choice, as Azog really came across as a menacing villain that looked brilliant and frightening throughout.

Pretty cool shit, eh?  I am fascinated by the process of merging these CGI characters with live action and Peter Jackson and WETA have done such a great job, earning a much-deserved Oscar nomination for their work at this year's Academy Awards.  I enjoyed the film much more than I anticipated and can't wait to see it again, let alone the next chapter.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY hits Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital Download on March 19, 2013.

Extra Tidbit: Do you think that there is a time for CGI characters or are you vehemently against them?
Source: Hero Complex

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11:09AM on 02/22/2013
It's funny that the voice over mentions that they spent less time on Azog, because I thought that was incredibly apparent in the final product. The trolls, Great Goblin, and Gollum were spot on, but every time Azog was on screen I couldn't help but feel that something about him was off. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that he was CG when every other orc was a guy in makeup, so it's kinda frustrating to see that he was originally going to be practical but was changed at the last minute.
It's funny that the voice over mentions that they spent less time on Azog, because I thought that was incredibly apparent in the final product. The trolls, Great Goblin, and Gollum were spot on, but every time Azog was on screen I couldn't help but feel that something about him was off. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that he was CG when every other orc was a guy in makeup, so it's kinda frustrating to see that he was originally going to be practical but was changed at the last minute.
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1:41AM on 02/22/2013
I prefer practical effects myself, however, I find that motion-capture is the most amazing thing CGI can do.
I am terribly tempted to purchase that blu-ray, but I need to hold out for (hopefully) extended trilogy box set.
I prefer practical effects myself, however, I find that motion-capture is the most amazing thing CGI can do.
I am terribly tempted to purchase that blu-ray, but I need to hold out for (hopefully) extended trilogy box set.
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9:38PM on 02/21/2013

One of the Weak Links...

Azog was one of the weak links of this film and detracted from it.

Gollum was excellent and was one of the best characters and had one of the best scenes. The Goblin King, while a little too cartoony for my tastes, still was a good character and portrayed by Barry Humphries w/perfection.
Azog was one of the weak links of this film and detracted from it.

Gollum was excellent and was one of the best characters and had one of the best scenes. The Goblin King, while a little too cartoony for my tastes, still was a good character and portrayed by Barry Humphries w/perfection.
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9:32PM on 02/21/2013
The whole Blu Ray cover says "Oh Sh*t! We're on the wrong mountain." Hehe.
The whole Blu Ray cover says "Oh Sh*t! We're on the wrong mountain." Hehe.
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9:01PM on 02/21/2013
Obviously for characters like Gollum and the Goblin king, CGI is necessary and I have no problem with it. However, I think the Azog character would have been better suited as a guy in a costume/make-up rather than CGI. I thought the orcs and urak-hai in Lord of the Rings looked fantastic, and that was 10 years ago.
Obviously for characters like Gollum and the Goblin king, CGI is necessary and I have no problem with it. However, I think the Azog character would have been better suited as a guy in a costume/make-up rather than CGI. I thought the orcs and urak-hai in Lord of the Rings looked fantastic, and that was 10 years ago.
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3:57PM on 02/21/2013
I really wish the Orcs and Azog spoke English like in the LOTR trilogy. Sometimes the orcish (almost klingon like) dialogue and reading the subtitles made what they said far more cheesy.
I really wish the Orcs and Azog spoke English like in the LOTR trilogy. Sometimes the orcish (almost klingon like) dialogue and reading the subtitles made what they said far more cheesy.
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3:56PM on 02/21/2013
Double
Double
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+4
3:53PM on 02/21/2013

WETA continues to rock

Didn't totally love The Hobbit like I really wanted to, but I have nothing but admiration for some of these CG characters. The motion capture/CG work in the film is stunning - Gollum in particular looks amazing, with a level of detail well beyond what they were able to do in Rings. I would like to see a piece on the troll scene too.
Didn't totally love The Hobbit like I really wanted to, but I have nothing but admiration for some of these CG characters. The motion capture/CG work in the film is stunning - Gollum in particular looks amazing, with a level of detail well beyond what they were able to do in Rings. I would like to see a piece on the troll scene too.
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