Review–New Weta book highlights concept art behind The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Hobbit Chronicles Smaug Art and Design cover

The latest installment in Weta Workshop’s hardcover series focusing on the art and design of The Hobbit movies provides the most-in-depth look yet at the developmental stages of bringing J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantastical world to the big screen.  Through hundreds of pencil sketches, detailed accounts of the thoughts behind decisions, painted concept art and costume development, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles–Art & Design provides a comprehensive account of the mastery in bringing ideas to life.

The structure of the book follows our heroes’ journey through the film, in chapters like “Queer Lodgings” (Beorn the Skin-Changer’s house), “Flies & Spiders,” “The Woodland Realm” (the elves), “A Ruined form of Life” (the Orcs), and “Inside Information” (all about Smaug).  Each chapter provides a focused look at the unique worldbuilding for each disparate part of the film, from set design to backstory to costumes.  Many chapters offer better looks at details that were only glimpsed briefly in the film, like the city of Dale in its heyday, seen onscreen only in flashback.  It’s an opportunity for those parts of the filmmaking–given just as much thought and work as anything in the movie–to be seen and admired in their full glory.


A chapter on the Elves of Mirkwood showcases the costumes for King Thranduil, Legolas, and Tauriel, as well as the woodland realm where the dwarves are imprisoned during the film.  There’s a special focus on the wine cellars where the dwarves make their dramatic barrel escape.  Much time is given to the development of Tauriel, a new character created for the movie. Comments from Evangeline Lily (Tauriel) provide insight into her character: “Tauriel had to embody the grace of Galadriel and Arwen, while representing the fighting stealth and power of Legolas and Elrond.”

The most stunning pages of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles–Art & Design reveal the development of the Lake-town sets, the intricate detail that went into each room, each viewpoint from wide-angle to inside Bard’s place.


The design of the book itself is up the high standards of the past volumes in the Chronicles series by Weta, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Chronicles–Art and Design and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles–Creatures & Characters.  Like those volumes, this new book features an embossed leather-like cover and beautiful end pages.  An insert features a pull-out, quad-folded print of the portrait of Stephen Fry’s Master of Lake-town, as seen in the film.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles–Art & Design is available directly from Weta at their website here.  An autographed edition signed by four of the Weta creators including writer and Weta artist and designer Dan Falconer is already sold out, but may be available in the aftermarket.  We hope that after the next three volumes (Cloaks and Daggers for The Desolation of Smaug, and two volumes from next year’s finale in the trilogy, There and Back Again) are released, Weta returns to The Lord of the Rings series to release a similar series of books, since those films did not get a similar set of stunning volumes.

C.J. Bunce

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