As if it weren't painful enough for 'Hobbit' fans to hear news of their favorite film project still stuck in limbo, Comic-Con had more pain in store for them on Thursday.
Guillermo del Toro, the director who had prepared to direct 'The Hobbit' for the better part of a year and recently dropped out, was announced as the director of a new Disney franchise, "The Haunted Mansion."
But that was just the latest blow they endured at a panel that was was largely a group mourning experience.
For the uninitiated, "The Hobbit" is a massive franchise waiting to happen, with the blessing of both "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson and the studio that made it, Warner Brothers.
But half of the film rights are owned by MGM, which remains in financial peril, weighed down by debt and dangling in limbo while it remains on the bloc for sale.
The fans are here hoping for news of a start date. Alas, instead they were tantalized by news of a project that's all set to go – but has no green light anywhere in sight.
The webmaster of the well-sourced TheOneRing.Net confirmed that there is much to be hopeful about: the film has two approved scripts, sets are being built in New Zealand. It has a cast — Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Andy Serkis returns as Gollum, Hugo Weaving as Elrond.
"They're really ready to go," said webmaster Clifford Broadway. "They're chomping at the bit. There's a lot at stake here."
But still no greenlight.
And there won't be, since MGM remains deeply unresolved. The panelists were not soft on MGM. The powerpoint presentation looked like this. Slide: "MGM has been woefully mismanaged" "Complete disorganization." That kind of thing. "
After spending months in New Zealand preparing, Del Toro is definitively gone. But At the experts from TheOneRing.Net – Chris Pirata and Broadway – said they felt certain that if the got a greenlight, Peter Jackson would step in and direct.
"We predict if The Hobbit does get greenlit, we feel confident Peter Jackson will be director," said Pirata. "That's a gut feeling, and an unconfirmed rumor."
The problem of course is that Ian McKellen is unlikely to wait indefinitely, and neither will the rest of the cast.
But if it gets going, it will likely hit theaters in 2012.
The crowd filed out, prayerfully.