One of the most successful and influential franchises of all time is yet to be purchased by large companies like Sony and Universal. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy based on author J.R.R. Tolkien’s written novels is hailed by fans and critics alike as one of the greatest fantasy epics, and the six Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films grossed over $5.8 billion worldwide.
Since Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars, Marvel, ESPN, and 20th Century Fox, what else is on the table for purchasing? The Lord of the Rings has an enormous fanbase with untapped potential that could be developed into Disney Parks and entertainment. However, is that a good idea?
While there are zero (I repeat zero) rumors or claims coming from any source (nor Disney) that say The Walt Disney Company should or will purchase the rights of The Lord of the Rings from the Tolkien Estate, here’s some “what if” ideas if the mouse did wear “The One Ring to Rule Them All.”
Lord of the Franchises
While a reboot of The Lord of the Rings films would be a crime against director/writer Peter Jackson’s 10-year accumulation of work and would cause a war between Mickey Mouse and Middle-Earth fans, Disney could very well create a Lord of the Rings-inspired land as they did with George Lucas’ Star Wars and James Cameron’s Avatar, or produce future films further explaining Middle-Earth.
Bargaining with J.R.R. Tolkien’s Estate over intellectual property rights would be a big challenge. Considering Star Wars and Marvel cost upwards of $4 billion, Tolkien’s work would most likely sell in the same ballpark. The classic characters of Frodo Baggins, Gandalf, and Aragorn would not be given over quickly, as many fans would probably reject the idea of a mainstream company owning the rights to such a pure creative force.
However, this wouldn’t be impossible. After all, Bob Iger convinced both Steve Jobs and George Lucas to trust Disney with the care of Pixar and Lucasfilm, undoubtedly two of the most influential companies of all time. Amazon is currently producing a Lord of the Rings series for Prime Video that’s costing upwards of $1 billion, and The Lord of the Rings: Gollum video game is in the works for the new Xbox and Playstation gaming consoles.
However, Disney is offering The Lord of the Rings trilogy on Hulu. This could the first step to a long journey, much like the Fellowship’s journey to destroy the Ring.
Remember, Disney created Pandora – The World of Avatar before even ultimately owning the film’s rights (they acquired the rights after purchasing 20th Century Fox for over $71 billion). So, it’s not entirely out of the question for The Walt Disney Company owning the rights to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth.
Universal vs. Disney
Before we get carried away, old rumors of Universal Studios adding a Lord of the Rings-inspired land to their Orlando, Florida theme parks have resurfaced. While the planning phase of Universal phasing in a Lord of the Rings-themed area, well-respected journalist Josh Young of Theme Park University announced that he heard a Lord of the Rings attraction was eyed for the outdated Toon Lagoon at Islands of Adventure in Universal Orlando.
Young states that Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park was the first potential home for a Lord of the Rings land, but now some believe it will find it’s way over to the outdated Toon Lagoon. It’s been speculated that the earliest a Lord of the Rings attraction or whole land opening in Universal Orlando would be 2025 after Epic Universe officially opens. This aligns with Disney finishing their multi-phase revamp of EPCOT in Walt Disney World.
Much like the two Wizarding World of Harry Potter lands in Universal Orlando, the Lord of the Rings land could feature themed entertainment, retail shopping, and guest interactions. On top of that, a rumored magnetic system attraction, much like Shanghai Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, would be featured as the flagship attraction of the land.
Since non of these rumors have been claimed true by Universal Studios or the Tolkien Estate, it’s still a possibility that Disney could have time to jump on Lord of the Rings and strikes a contract with the Tolkien Estate to own the theme park rights of the franchise, much like they did with 20th Century Fox and Avatar.
The Shire-Inspired Land
If Disney did buy The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit rights, it would be a no-brainer to create a Shire land in one of their numerous Disney Parks. Imagine a land as immersive as Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that featured Hobbit homes and vast, green pastures that featured little-Hobbit shops, houses, and inhabitants.
After all, the films’ production studio built a sustainable, real-life Shire in New Zealand after filming The Hobbit trilogy finished, so it’s not impossible. Fans of the franchise can visit Middle-Earth to this day, and the same could be in Walt Disney World, for example.
Walt Disney Imagineering would completely submerse guests into a fantastical Middle-Earth. Gandalf the Grey could walk around The Shire, as well as Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, much like Rey, Kylo Ren, and Chewbacca do in Galaxy’s Edge. Nightly festivals could occur in the center of town, and the Green Dragon Inn, a friendly pub, like the Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, would be a part of the land.
A cart could feature Gandalf’s wackiest, most magical inventions, while other shops offered Hobbit made crafts like the Marketplace in Galaxy’s Edge does with various traders from the Outer Rim of Star Wars. Fans could bring home their One Ring or There and Back Again book.
Two attractions could be featured in The Shire. Perhaps one telling of the destruction of the One Ring, while the other attraction features guests helping Bilbo Baggins steal the Ring from a massive and destructive Smaug the Dragon.
By night, the land would be warmly lit from candles, lanterns, and fireworks. People’s mental health would skyrocket as they can escape into nature while being in a Disney Park!
Though The Lord of the Rings may not be widely accepted as Star Wars or Marvel Studios, Disney could help transform the franchise into loveable experiences featured in their theme parks. A whole world of opportunity awaits in Tolkien’s pages and Peter Jackson’s films, and a real-life experience of the stories would be out of this world.
Again, Disney has not ever said this would happen. But we’d love to see this dream become a reality!
Should Disney Buy The Lord of the Rings one day? Let us know in the comments below!