You love creating your creatures and obviously The Hobbit offers some great opportunities. There’s the dragon Smaug, the spiders of Mirkwood, the Wargs, Beorn the bear-man…
The way I phrased it to Weta, I said we would keep the DNA in the same gene pool as the Rings trilogy, but that we would generate a different type of character. For example, in the trilogy most of the creatures are brutish or inarticulate.
In The Hobbit, the creatures speak: Smaug has beautiful lines of dialogue; the Great Goblin has beautiful lines of dialogue; many creatures do. So we had to design them with a different approach because you are not just designing things that are scary.
I also wanted some of the monsters in The Hobbit to be majestic.
I wanted the Wargs to have a certain beauty so that you don't have a massively clear definition: what is beautiful is good and what is ugly is not. Some of the monsters are absolutely gorgeous.
Smaug won’t be like the dragons in Reign Of Fire, say. Was it a big challenge to communicate his character?
I think one of the designs I’m the proudest of is Smaug. Obviously he took the longest.
It’s actually still active: we’re finishing his colour palette and a little bit of the texture. But the bulk of the design took about a year, solid. It’s because of the unique features of the dragon.
Early in production I came up with a very strong idea that would separate Smaug from every other dragon ever made. The problem was implementing that idea. But I think we’ve nailed it.