Imagine walking down the grassy streets of Hobbiton while sipping a mug of ale and watching Gandalf come winding up track toward you. Well, you may be able to take this walk soon, and you won't have to go to New Zealand to do it. Hot on the heels of the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, a new rumor perpetuated by behindthethrills.com suggests that Universal Studios might be able to make all out Middle-earth dreams a reality.
According to a user on Orlando United's Theme Park forum:
Universal asked Warner Bros. to approach the Tolkien family since the Tolkien's trust WB with the success of the LOTR series. WB described how Universal was willing to work with JK Rowling and how the 2 of them (WB and JK) held Universal's feet to the fire to uphold Rowling's vision of the IP. And I believe that the Tolkien's may have actually talked to JK Rowling. This was before Universal said a word to the Tolkien's. So after WB stoked the fire, Universal entered the picture with an impressive plan. As of now there is a lot of hammering out to go, but Universal has gotten a lot farther than Disney ever did.
So what all that essentially means is that after the success of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios has turned it's attention to Middle-earth.
With the news that the Tolkien estate has in fact spoken with J.K. Rowling about the idea, we can begin to see the formings of a really cool concept. J.K. appears pretty happy with what Universal Studios did with Potter, so hopefully she passed on a good word to the Tolkien folks, and they'll be giving the green light sooner than later.
The world of Middle-earth is so rich in flavor, visuals, and people that it would make the perfect theme park. Imagine taking a stroll through the Rivendell gift-shop where your girlfriend can get a manicure from some Elves with cheap fake ears. While she's distracted you head to Mount Doom and take the plunge on a rollercoaster into the lava below. Water-lava, but still. It's neat.
One slight worry that crossed my mind after reading the news was the Tolkien family's notorious reputation for fiercly guarding their property against exploitation. Just last month the family brought a claim to Warner Brothers against the studio's use of Middle Earth characters on slot machines and other devices used for gambling. You can check out the whole story here, but suffice to say it seems that the Tolkien's won't sign off unless the park's wishes are true to the spirit of Middle-earth. This is a good thing, but this can still mean huge delays.
They must be though right? What else was Tolkien doing when he was writing the books other than imagining himself riding an eagle into the mouth of Smaug the dragon screaming, "FOR GONDOR!"?
Stay tuned folks, we may just climb the Misty Mountains together yet!