- On the Usefulness of Patience
- On the Atmosphere at the HobbitCon
- Actors’ Q&A Panels
- A Couple of Words on the MOC: Mark Ferguson
- Luke Evans (Bard)
- John Bell (Bain)
- Sylvester McCoy (Radagast)
- Lawrence Makoare (Bolg)
- Ken Stott & Graham McTavish (Balin & Dwalin)
- Adam Brown, Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Stephen Hunter (Ori, Nori, Dori, Bombur)
- John Callen & Peter Hambleton (Oin & Gloin)
- Jeffrey Thomas (Thror)
- William Kircher (Bifur)
- Final Words
- Photo Gallery, Part 1: Atmosphere & Cosplay
- Photo Gallery, Part 2: The Actors
- Photo Gallery, Part 3: Even More Actors
I do remember the very first HobbitCon. When FedCon GmbH, the organizing company, announced a new convention during the RingCon 2012 dedicated exclusively to “The Hobbit”, with the participation of 11 dwarves from Thorin’s Company (although two of them cancelled later), I didn’t know what to think about it. That was even before the first movie from PJ’s second trilogy was released, and the dwarf actors were only known to us from the director’s video blogs. And in fact, the first HobbitCon proved to be a commercial failure, though it had a very pleasant and homely atmosphere.
Luckily, the organizers didn’t give up, and the second HobbitCon fared much better than the first one. And now, after the third HobbitCon (christened by Mark Ferguson “HobbitCon DREI”, which is German for “three”) has passed, you can really tell that there was barely room to swing a cat. If the first HobbitCon had just 800 visitors during the weekend, the third one had 5500 guests from over 27 countries! The Maritim hotel in Bonn was bursting, and the amount of Fili & Kili cosplay couples was staggering.
Speaking objectively, the HobbitCon is a unique event in the whole world. International conventions usually work with several mixed genres, there are many different fandoms present at a convention, with each fandom represented by just one or two actors. These are giant commercial vehicles, with an airplane hangar-like atmosphere. The HobbitCon is very different. You do not need to stay in a line overnight to get into a Q&A panel hall. You can be partying in a bar and suddenly find yourself on the dance floor together with Graham McTavish, Jed Brophy or even Luke Evans. Of course it is not for free – but still, three days of positive emotions, homely atmosphere and the feeling that the movie actors have become your friends, are worth it.
Somehow HobbitCon is actually better than the good old days which are still treasured by the RingCon attendees of old. Even at its best, when RingCon was a purely Lord of the Rings convention, the invited actors didn’t have much to do with each other, mostly being from the category “third orc from the right”. At the HobbitCon however, right from the beginning there was this central core of actors who got to assemble together: Thorin’s Company of Dwarves. For the actors it is really a thrill: to get together, to party, to remember old days, and to do some mischief to each other. And although each year there is basically the same group of guests (with minor changes, as Dean O’Gorman has cancelled this year because of filming commitments) , they still get the attendees to buy their autographs, take pictures, laugh at their “comedy show” and dance with them in the bar. If we attempted an analogy, it is as if seven of the nine members of the Fellowship were coming to the RingCon every year.
This time around, there were seven members of the Fellowship nine dwarves from Thorin’s Company present: Graham McTavish (Dwalin), Ken Stott (Balin), Mark Hadlow (Dori), Jed Brophy (Nori), Adam Brown (Ori), Peter Hambleton (Gloin), John Callen (Oin), William Kircher (Bifur) and Stephen Hunter (Bombur). Also, the magnificent Sylvester McCoy (Radagast) has returned after having missed HobbitCon 2. Also, there was a newcomer, Jeffrey Thomas who played Thror in the prologue of “The Hobbit”. After seven years of absence there was a glorious return ofRingCon veteran Lawrence Makoare (Bolg) who is remembered in all the bars of Bonn and Fulda. The youngest actor present was the 17-years-old John Bell who played Bain, son of Bard. And, last but not least, the organizing company made a bold move just before the convention by announcing Luke Evans (Bard the Bowman), the most high-profile and expensive actor ever at HobbitCon.
It is a tradition for HobbitCon to take place at the Easter weekend, from Saturday until Monday. Saturday morning, unsuspecting visitors of the Maritim hotel in Bonn were already puzzled by a gigantic line for registration and entry. Although the opening ceremony does not take place until the evening, the convention program starts at noon – and a crowd of Orcs, Elves and Fili-Kilis was patiently waiting for a ticket and a wristband which guarantee admission. However, the queue was fast, and the halls of Maritim got crowded with guests ready to show off their costumes. Saturday is the best day to photograph cosplay costumes: everybody is refreshed, the autograph sessions are not due until tomorrow, everybody is in awe of the enormity of the event (if they are there for the first time), or just enjoying the familiar atmosphere (if they have been here before). In fact, few things change over time. The photo ops are always in the same room next to the German Tolkien Society room; the information booth is always between the two merchandize halls; and the merchandize sellers can usually be found at the same spots as last year.
Still, there were some surprises. The hall which used to contain backgrounds for the photo ops as well as the dwarf and hobbit camps was transformed to a Haunted House room named “Curse of Mirkwood”. The entrance was free, but there was always an impressive line: the visitors were admitted in very small groups to maintain the atmosphere. The room was dressed up like a dark foggy maze with cobwebs, groping rubber hands, gigantic spiders with fiery eyes and orcs who were jumping at you out of the fog. At the end there was a throne, where those who were brave enough to pass could take a picture. Very nice.
On the queues: the one for the autograph session on Sunday was the most massive by far. Usually, the admission is by ticket numbers; however, the organizers sold so many “silver tickets” with a priority entry that the actual priority queue got really huge and was moving very slowly. Still, on Monday the situation was rectified, and there was plenty of chance for everyone to get their autographs. Also, it is way more fun to walk around the halls and watch the visitor’s beautiful cosplay costumes instead of standing in a queue for several hours.
There was plenty of high quality cosplay. The amount of young beautiful girls with beards has multiplied even compared to HobbitCon 2. Younger girls usually went for Fili and Kili costumes, being the more handsome dwarves; still, many other dwarves were represented as well. After Fili and Kili the most popular dwarves were Bofurs and Thorins, but there were also more original characters like Balin, Dwalin and even Bombur.
Thranduils and Tauriels were also plenty. There also were several scary red-bearded Dains. Many visitors brought several costumes along for the weekend so they could dress differently every day. For example, a very cool dwarf with two lanterns on his head (the one who found the Arkenstone) has become a very impressive Thror the next day. By the way, one of the few dwarves actually played by a male was an armor-clad Thorin Oakenshield from Russia.
Also, there was this remarkable Uruk-hai who was scaring the bartenders during the night party, when he got behind the bar counter:
There was also a Costume Contest moderated by Nessi from FedCon and judged, among others, by dwarf actors from “The Hobbit”. Because of many participants (34 single and group contestants) there were no big performances allowed: costumes were presented just for 1-2 minutes. Most of the contestants were really good (although the amount of “Fili & Kili” couples was way over the top). At the end, the jury decided in a kingly way: the first prize for the best group presentation went to the Three Kings Under The Mountain: Thorin, Thrain and the aforementioned Thror. And the first single contestant prize went to a girl who transformed herself into a great Thorin in a very impressive regal armor. The other participants can be found in our photo gallery.
But as our staff could not clone itself, we were usually sitting at the actors’ Q&A panels, described on the next pages. Still, there was a lot to do besides the panels. As always, there were many lecturers from the German Tolkien Society (DTG) who did lectures on many interesting topics, like “Middle-Ages and Middle-Earth”, “From Pryftan to Shmaug” and “Silmarillion for Dummies”. Due to many international attendees, many of the lectures were in English. There were many workshops as well: a dancing workshop, Dragon Pearl Braiding workshop, Stuntman workshop… still, the most popular workshop turned out to be the Choir: when it went on stage during the closing ceremony, the singers barely had enough room. However, the performance was just mesmerizing: a potpourri of Elvish themes by Howard Shore slowly transitioned to “Into the West” by Annie Lennox – a really emotional moment.
Next: Actors’ Q&A Panels…