"This is really enjoyable, it reminds me of why we're doing it all," beamed a delighted Sir Peter Jackson at the conclusion of today's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug worldwide fan event.
He was chuffed. As were the rest of the world's most hardcore of J. R. R. Tolkien fans with what they'd just experienced. Actor Martin Freeman pronounced it the "ultimate Hobbit fan event".
Today's preview was an unprecedented media event, showing off all sorts of Hobbit goodies to select cinemas around the world with cast and crew in attendance, all streamed live over the internet. Well, not all of it was streamed - those who made it along to the cinema were given an extra special preview of the upcoming second Hobbit film.
Inside Wellington's Embassy Theatre, Sir Peter and actor Jed Brophy answered questions from fans in the audience and on Twitter, crossing live to cinemas in Los Angeles, New York and London where other cast members joined in.
"Is anyone here in costume?" Sir Peter asked the crowd shortly after saying hello.
"I'm in mine, it's The Hobbit director costume."
There was a sense of mirth to a lot of the day. The latest behind-the-scenes video blog, the first bit of footage we saw today, featured a number of hilarious bloopers and outtakes. Sir Ian McKellen cursing as Gandalf got the greatest laughs.
But, what got the biggest cheer? Unsurprisingly, at this point, the very brief appearance of Benedict Cumberbatch, who inspires such intense fandom that I suspect can only come from dark magic.
Anderson Cooper, who was hosting the New York leg of the event, also garnered a lot of laughs for being inspired by Sir Peter's famous bare feet to take off his own shoes.
"Keep going!" one enthusiastic fan could be heard yelling before him, trying to get more of Cooper's clothing off. It didn't work.
As fans began to ask questions of Sir Peter and the actors, including Andy Serkis, Evangeline Lilly, Orlando Bloom and Richard Armitage, the real magic of today's event became apparent. Having a fan in New York or London ask a question and have it answered instantly by one of the stars in Wellington or Los Angeles was really special to witness first-hand, and an awesome display of the power of modern technology.
And oh how the crowd roared with delight when Armitage delivered his favourite line in his steely Thorin voice: "If this should end in fire, then we will all burn together".
After the first batch of questions were answered, the second piece of footage was shown off - a sneak peek at one of the deleted scenes from An Unexpected Journey that will appear in the Blu-ray release.
Sir Peter explained the scene was a way of showing the Dwarves attitude toward the Elves. In it, the oafish, fun-loving Dwarves sing 'Man in the Moon', a sort of pub song, while tossing food about, standing on tables and other such shenanigans, all as the dignified and highly unimpressed Elves look on.
It's a fun scene, but after the plate-washing singing scene that was left in the theatrical cut, was definitely one that didn't hurt the film much by being excised. My favourite parts of it were the brilliant reaction shots of Gandalf and Bilbo.
We were the first people in the world to hear Ed Sheeran's new song 'I See Fire', which will play over the end credits of The Desolation of Smaug. It was set to a video mostly made up of Sheeran recording it, with Sir Peter's daughter Katie filming him doing so on her iPhone at one point. She was the person that put her dad on to Sheeran in the first place, and has clearly made him a fan.
After another question and answer session, Sir Peter bid farewell to the audience tuned in via the livestream and introduced the most exciting footage of the day as a special treat to those there in person - a whopping 20 minutes of unseen footage from The Desolation of Smaug.
Sir Peter went to great lengths asking us all not to film any of that sneak peek, nor to spoil what we saw for fans who weren't able to. So I can't say much about it, but I will say this: Martin Freeman's nuances are incredible.
And Smaug is just as awesome as I'd hoped, although I didn't see much more of him than we have in trailers.
There was then a final round of fan questions for Sir Peter and Brophy, this time without crossing back and forth to the other cities around the world. Sir Peter gave very long, in-depth answers to each question, clearly very happy to be there showing off his latest work to his biggest fans.
"To come out of that dark hole and get to sit here and get some of the movie played with real human beings, it's a fantastic experience. So thank you very much," said Sir Peter.
"Now, I've got to go and finish it!"
And like that, the filmmaker disappeared through a curtain and away to thunderous applause.
Brophy kept the crowd entertained for a few minutes more and just before we all marched out of the cinema and back into the world, he led us, at a fan's request, in a rendition of the Dwarven song 'The Misty Mountains Cold'.
It was a fittingly emotional end to what was a very successful few hours of Tolkien fan nirvana.
source: newshub archive