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LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
AHA wants to clarify that AHA did not issue this statement, AWINZ is not an AHA-approved Humane Partner and AHA does not have information that can support that the disclaimer is correct or incorrect. To earn an AHA end credit, Production must demonstrate a level of humane treatment that is far stricter than all US federal, state and local animal welfare laws and regulations. Based on the review of various documents and reports, AHA does not believe any intentional cruelty occurred, however, we have a few questions
Per existing documentation, the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, filmed in New Zealand, began purchasing animals for the films in early1999. Production made contact with a newly formed local New Zealand humane organization, AWINZ, to supervise animal action from August 30, 2000. AHA understands that AWINZ supervised some of the animal action, however, AHA does not have sufficient documentation to meet the required standards for AHA to endorse the validity of the end credit. Although AHA guidelines are readily available, it takes significant training and expertise to implement them.
When large numbers of animals are used by a production, it is not unusual for questions and rumors to surface. AHA requested and received an investigative report from AWINZ and the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). Although the report was helpful, AHA still lacked sufficient information to support the use of an end credit on the film. On set supervision appears to have been conducted primarily by wranglers and veterinarians contracted by production and sufficient documentation is lacking to attest to the humane or inhumane treatment of animals throughout the entire production. The investigation into the allegations did not satisfy the requirements necessary for an AHA assurance that “no animal was harmed”. For this reason, AHA cannot support the end credit on the film.
Although production has cooperated and continues to cooperate in answering AHA’s questions regarding the animal action in the film, AHA still has some concerns regarding the care given the animals during production based on reports we have received and is therefore rating the film Questionable. Unlike AHA’s Unacceptable rating, in which documented proof exists to support that significant Guideline violations or cruelty occurred, the Questionable rating indicates that AHA lacks the proof to condone or condemn production’s treatment of animal actors, but has enough information to raise questions as to the level of care. (See Remaining Questions at the end of the review.)
Production has also been extremely cooperative in supplying AHA with a screening of the film and information regarding how the animal scenes were accomplished in the first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring. The following explanations of how animal action was accomplished come from production documentation.
In the Prologue there is a scene where Islidur, who has won The Ring in battle from the evil Sauron, is ambushed and dragged off his horse and onto the ground by an Orc. This is to illustrate that The Ring has a power of its own. For this scene a stuntman and the actor’s stunt double performed the action. The Orc leapt from a scaffold rig beside the static horse and double. The horse, named Oden, was held by its bridle by an off screen wrangler. Eventually, The Ring falls into the hands of Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm), a Hobbit.
In the Hobbit Shire:
Once the story begins, there is a scene where the young Hobbit, Frodo (Elijah Wood), rides into the Hobbit Shire with Gandalf (Ian McKellen) the wizard at the reins. As they pass a Hobbit household where the children run to greet Gandalf, he sets off a display of fireworks from the back of the cart to delight his audience. For this scene, the fireworks were completely computer generated.
There are several cuts where we see the Shire readying for Bilbo’s birthday party. The livestock was handled by the head wrangler. One of the sequences shows a hobbit pulling at the leash of a pig to prompt it to move. The collar on the pig appears to be made of metal but was actually constructed of a soft leather. The stubborn pig was a rescue that enjoyed being on set and getting to wallow in real mud.
The happy Hobbitton Pig named Daisy was actually a pig that was being raised for slaughter when production chose her for this role. Newly exposed to dirt, air, the woods, other natural elements and the generous treats fed by the children in the cast, Daisy rooted her way into the hearts of the cast and crew. Production chose to purchase Daisy and adopt her out to a farm with the written understanding that she was to live out her natural life as a pet without fear of slaughter.
Another scene in the Shire features a dog on a chain that is pulling and barking. The dog was supplied by a professional trainer/animal psychologist who cued the dog to bark on command. Per production, the pulling was not a strain on the dog.
The Black Riders – Wraiths
Bilbo finally relinquishes The Ring to Frodo for safe keeping. However, The Ring is coveted by the Black Riders known as Ring Wraiths who are in the service of the evil Sauron. They ride horses that wear elaborate tack and face armor and gallop fearlessly through thick forest locations.
The tack for the horses was made of leather and soft foam backing to prevent any irritation. All of the armor was specially fit for the horses with 4 or 5 layers of padding under the saddles. Over several months, horses and riders trained with these special harnesses and the actors’ elaborate costumes so that the animals would be familiar with the tack by the time shooting began. The hooded riders rehearsed with the horses both with and without their hoods so that the horses would be accustomed to the faceless riders.
In one scene it appears as if one of the Wraith horses has a nail in its hoof that is bleeding and covered with mud. The effect was achieved with a prosthetic hoof, fake nail and makeup to give the appearance of a muddy and bloody hoof. Any weapons that the Wraiths carry when on horseback were fabricated by the props department out of rubber or some other soft material.
Arwen and the Wraiths:
For the chase and heavy riding scenes production reported that the paths were scouted and graded in pre-production to insure that the horses would have secure footing and a choreographed path of travel. Branches were trimmed, debris cleared and rabbit holes filled. The corridor through the trees was color coded for each horse and the intricate pattern of riding was carefully designed. Each horse and rider walked the path in rehearsals with the camera vehicle. The speed at which the horses ran was gradually increased from a walk to a cantor with each take. As the horses became very camera conscious and learned their individual patterns and timing they built confidence to run the pattern at full gallop. The terrain was walked on foot and checked between takes for any uneven footing.
Horses appear to rear and spin as the Wraiths pursue Arwen (Liv Tyler) and jump obstacles in the chase sequence. The horses, Bob, Chico and Zee were trained Polo Cross, Cross Country and Dressage horses. All the rearing horses were trained for at least six months in pre-production prior to performing any of the rearing sequences. The jumping horses were purchased for their jumping abilities. According to production, in total there were 5 rearing horses, 20-25 confident jumping horses, 3 falling horses at a gallop and 5 that would lie down and stay down on cue.
One dramatic part of the chase looks particularly risky in that there are many tree branches appearing between the camera and the riders. In fact some of the branches look to graze the cheek of Arwen as she races ahead of the Wraiths. For this scene, the camera vehicle was fitted with tree branch rigging while the camera angle in conjunction with the placement of the riders provides the illusion that the horses are weaving through dense trees.
Arwen was doubled by an experienced New Zealand equestrian named Jane Abbott who was in control of the horse for the galloping and rearing sequences. Arwen’s horse, Asfaloth, was played by three horses. A 13 year old grey Andalusian named Florian was purchased for the film and pre-trained as a performing horse and two other horses named Hero and Odie were doubles. Florian was the main hero horse used for most of the close ups and stunt work. Ms. Abbott adopted Florian when filming ended.
Hero was used for much of the faster work and Odie was used when Liv Tyler was seen astride a horse. Since the actress was not as experienced a rider as her double, Tyler was able to concentrate on her acting in the chase scenes by actually riding a horse barrel rig that was mounted on a tracking vehicle. The barrel was covered with horse hide and mane that the production purchased from a tanner, dressed with a saddle and secured on shock mounts to allow for movement. The tree branches that appear to graze her face were actually made of foam.
The chase culminates in the Wraiths being swept away by a tidal wave conjured by Arwen. Although it appears as if horses are overwhelmed and knocked off their footing, the entire sequence was computer generated (CGI) wizardry. The real horse waded into a streambed that production reported as being checked prior to filming for any underwater obstacles.
Hobbits and Wraiths Slipping Away:
Frodo and his friends barely embark on their quest to bring The Ring to its destiny, when they are pursued by the Wraiths who are determined to steal it. As the Hobbit heroes leap onto a boat at the end of a dock, one of the Wraiths gallops across the dock and comes to a dramatic sliding stop. The horse’s hooves appear to slide forward and apart as the rider reins it to a stop on the wooden platform.
For this scene the horse, Zee, was trained for the sliding stop also known as a rodeo stop. Production notes that the animal wore suitable shoes for the stunt. The water in the pond was actually knee deep. During filming, Zee slipped while turning and fell off the dock. According to production, a vet treated the horse with supporting therapies such as anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics and noted that the horse did not sustain any injuries. The horse was able to get up and walk into its trailer reportedly without problem and was rested for the rest of the night. Per the production, the horse was in normal spirits by the following day.
When the heroes arrive at the Prancing Pony Inn where they expect to meet Gandalf, their relief is short lived. The Wraiths storm the gate, crashing in and galloping through. Although it appears as if the horses successfully pummel the heavy wooded barrier until it falls and they charge over it, this sequence was achieved using an elaborate series of composited effects. A combination of blue screen, controlled stunt falls, mechanically controlled door and CGI Wraith horse and rider were seamlessly combined for the final effect.
Strider, Hobbits and Bill:
Other livestock appears in the scene as the Hobbits enter the courtyard of the Prancing Pony Inn. Although it appears as if the animals are standing in corals in the rain, production noted that the rain was a practical effect and the animals were protected by a canvas overhead.
There is also a ferret that is being held by a patron of the inn. The animal was owned by a local New Zealand trainer who placed the animal on the shoulder of the actor along with some food that the rodent enjoyed eating. Per production, the owner/trainer cared for the animal throughout filming.
Although Frodo and his friends escape the Wraiths again, Gandalf never arrives at the Prancing Pony Inn. Instead they find a friend and protector in Strider, aka Aragon (Viggo Mortensen). Aragons’s horse, Bill the Pony, provides a strong back for their supplies as they forge ahead toward Mordor. Bill is played by a unique cast including an equine named Shane.
To create the look of the overloaded pack supplies that Bill carries, the props department designed lightweight foam and Dacron elements. The saddle was supported by breastplates and lined with soft calf skin. According to production, the horse did not suffer any discomfort in this costume.
As the band crosses th
Bill the Pony that is seen in the deep snow was known to production as a pantopony. This was a completely fake synthetic pony costume that was manned by two professional human dancers. Production supplied photos of the actors in the costume. Shane did not have to suffer being in the snow or performing precarious climbs.
Since the mountains proved an unfortunate route, the Fellowship chooses an alternate route to Mordor, the home of Sauron where The Ring was forged and the only place it can be destroyed. They choose to travel underground via the Mines. Bill the Pony accompanies them as they walk along the rocky edge of a pond under the sheer face of a mountainside looking for the entrance to the Mines. Although this appears to be a very precarious location, movie magic was again employed. This was actually filmed on a manufactured set that included a fake pond, fake mountains and a combination of matte paintings, miniatures and blue screen. According to production, Bill had no trouble getting in nor getting out.
Craftfully Guided Images:
There are several scenes that employ computer generated images to create creatures that interact with the characters. Gandalf is visited by a moth-like creature that was mostly CGI. For a brief close up shot, a real moth was supplied by an Entemologist from Auckland University. The production delayed shooting the scene until the moth required had hatched and production reported that the moth was safely released after filming.
A huge flock of black birds approach the heroes and later fly through the cave of Saruman the White (Christopher Lee), Gandalf’s former mentor who has been overtaken by the evil forces of Sauron. The birds were completely computer generated.
At the entrance to the Mines, a menacing creature that is a cross between a giant octopus and a squid attacks the Fellowship. This too was a CGI creature.
Since AHA is internationally known for its oversight of animals in filmed media, it was not unusual for AHA to be contacted regarding the treatment of animal actors. AHA endeavors to meet the public’s demand for information regarding animals in all filmed media. Although production has cooperated in answering AHA’s questions regarding the animal action in the film, AHA has some remaining concerns regarding the care given the animals during production. AHA is continuing to investigate concerns regarding the care given the animals during production of this first film and also of films two and three. Concerns include the following:
“Questions regarding the safe use of animals in international productions can be avoided and AHA hopes that producers will choose to consult with AHA and accept a high standard of care for animal actors no matter where they choose to film in the future,” commented Karen Goschen, Vice President of the Western Regional Office of AHA and Director of the Film and TV Unit.
AHA has often traveled to foreign locations to oversee the use of animals in US films. AHA also has an International Humane Partnership Program to benefit US productions in other countries by having the animal action monitored per the US standards as outlined in AHA’s Guidelines of the Safe Use of Animals in Filmed Media.
AHA has earned the respect and commitment of the US entertainment industry and US audiences in requiring the highest standard of care for animals used in entertainment in order to earn the coveted “no animal was harmed” end credit disclaimer.
AHA takes the disclaimer and how it is issued seriously. It is being used without a level of accountability that AHA requires on Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring. We will not allow the credibility of other appropriate end credits to be devalued by misuse, nor the credibility of the films that have truly earned the AHA end credit disclaimer.
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