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Overview

If you’re new to the His Dark Materials trilogy, think you may have missed something important, or perhaps have just been sleeping a great deal these past months; chances are you could use an update on what’s been going on. From where The Golden Compass movie began, through merchandise, video games, and Philip Pullman we’re bringing you the fullest compilation of all facets of His Dark Materials. If you want to see how The Golden Compass has made its progress from the mind of Philip Pullman into a major motion picture investment by New Line Cinema, this is for you.


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The Golden Compass Movie

Over eleven years ago The Golden Compass made its first jump to becoming a movie. Scholastic Entertainment, at the encouragement of Deborah Forte, purchased the rights for His Dark Materials after reading a manuscript copy of Northern Lights (U.K. title for The Golden Compass). The movie idea went into a resting period while Philip Pullman caught up, releasing The Golden Compass (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2001) to complete the His Dark Materials trilogy.

After its success with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and confidence bolstered by the popular Harry Potter series, in February of 2002, New Line Cinema created a partnership with Scholastic, seeking another blockbuster trilogy under its belt (5-Feb-07). New Line’s enthusiasm for the project was quick to grow and after Pullman turned down the offer, British playwright Tom Stoppard was attached to the project as screenplay writer. A period of uncertainty came up in the rippling fan community as directors stepped forward to announce their interest in the project. Some of the directors reported to be in the running were Sam Mendes, Brett Ratner, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam, and Ridley Scott. The fan community was quite surprised then when New Line announced its choice: Chris Weitz, previous experience including American Pie, Antz, and About a Boy (May 25, 2004). Responses varied but after the Bridge to the Stars fansite caught an interview with Weitz, controversy arose (21 Sept, 04). While fans reacted angrily toward Weitz’s proposed taming of religion, a brief mention on his part became quickly exaggerated throughout news reporting as a total demolition of any religious criticism in the story (8-Dec-04). Tom Stoppard’s script was dropped in favor of Weitz creating his own adaptation, something the director was more comfortable with. However, Weitz was unable to gain comfort overall on the project and in December, stepped down from his position as director (15-Dec-04). In June of 2005, a giant Iorek Byrnison figure made its first appearance at the New York Licensing Fair, and confirmed that The Golden Compass project had not fallen by the way side (21-Jun-05). In August, Anand Tucker was announced as the new director for The Golden Compass (5-Aug-05). Weitz’s adaptation was to remain, and Tucker (director credits: Hilary and Jackie, Shopgirl) quickly went into production, but resigned from the project on May 8, 2006 due to creative differences. Weitz came back on the project and immediately picked up the pace even further.

In early March, further proof that the movie actually, honestly, would sometime happen came as imdb.com began listing The Golden Compass as a title. Open auditions were announced for the role of Lyra (16-Mar-06). Auditions were held in Cambridge on April 4, Kendel April 6, Oxford April 11, and Exeter April 14. Over 10,000 girls auditioned for the lead role and in late June, New Line announced its choiceDakota Blue Richards, a young and previously inexperienced 12-year-old from England whose “lyratic” nature was complimented by both Pullman and Weitz (29-Jun-07).

Ian McShane was the next of the casting rumours to begin circulating (8-Jul-06). On the VFX front, Cinesite was contacted early in production to handle a portion of the effects for dæmons (27-Jul-06). August saw Nicole Kidman confirmed in the role of Mrs. Coulter – the very actress Pullman had imagined as he drew up the icily metallic beauty (2-Aug-06). Eva Green was cast in the role of witch queen Serafina Pekkala and Adam Godley confirmed for the voice of Pantalaimon. A short time later, Kidman’s opposing lead of Lord Asriel was filled by Bond actor Daniel Craig, dissipating early rumours of Paul Bettany in the role (18-Aug-06).

Sept 4, 2006 was the official start date of filming at Shepperton studios in London. Excitement and agitation quickly piled up as small reports filtered in of filming in various locations, extras for the children at Bolvangar. Largely puzzling, but nonetheless fun photos of lampposts and signage appeared around the internet. This was all at a time when reports of stuffed toys were even exciting in the production of The Golden Compass (5-Sep-06).

Images and information took some time to surface from the production. The first photos appeared: images of Nicole Kidman in costume (3-Oct-06). These images were quickly followed by a few notices of the larger props, namely the Gyptian narrowboats (6-Oct-06). A CBBC Newsround series of photographs brought the fans on-set with the Gyptians (15-Oct-06). And some of the dæmon stand-in prop photos came online (16-Oct-05). The long-awaited image reveal came at the end of October when the first confirmed image of Dakota Blue Richards, as Lyra, appeared (30-Oct-06).

By the end of November, The Golden Compass had gained composer Alexandre Desplat for the original musical score (28-Nov-06). A fan compilation places some of Desplat's previous musical talents to images of The Golden Compass. Excitement increased with the reality as fans were treated to the rumour that Kidman’s filming, and therefore scenes of the film’s ending, finished in early December (2-Dec-06).

On December 7, 2006, a full year in advance of the movie release, New Line launched the official movie website: goldencompassmovie.com. Fans didn’t need the year, and less than twenty-four hours later had unlocked the seven secret combinations to the alethiometer. Despite my best efforts and thousands of attempts, this was in no thanks to me. Along with a working alethiometer, the website offered information on the story, and a few initial cast images. The website revealed Iofur Raknison’s name changed to Rangar Sturlusson, voiced by Ian McShane, and the attempted murder Of Lord Asriel transferred to Fra Pavel rather than the Master of Jordan College. Cast information on Eva Green’s character Serafina Pekkala and Sam Elliot’s character Lee Scoresby remained inaccessible but through reverse-engineering the first days of the launch.

The week of December 10, New Line began distributing a handsome brochure to certain parties, some of these parties apparently being “ebay.” Dakota Blue Richards gave her first interview on set at Shepperton Studios after unbundling from layers of Northern-wear (17-Dec-06). Early January, fans got another treat as New Line hired Hossein Amini to begin penning the first draft of a possible adaptation of The Subtle Knife (5-Jan-07).

January’s excitement came as many media and fansites were invited to Shepperton Studios for a day on the set of The Golden Compass. Our admin updated us from there with notes of the day’s events (23-Jan-07). An article on a visit from the Paymaster General brought new photos of Shepperton’s vast green screens and northerly landscapes (29-Jan-07). Access Hollywood visited the set as well, releasing new stills for the online community (4-Feb-07). And Ruth Meyers, costume designer, was found in an interview with CanMag the same day that CHUD.com released their review of the January set visit to Shepperton Studios (5-Feb-07).

More interviews focused in on The Golden Compass as Eva Green sat with Empire and gave some information on her role in movie (9-Feb-07). Dennis Gassner, production designer, gave an interview with About.com in which he emphasized the role of symbols in Lyra’s world (11-Feb-07). The same day saw Corgi discussing a partnership with New Line in movie merchandise production (11-Feb-07). The following day Corgi revealed a display of first-look merchandise for The Golden Compass (12-Feb-07). The images reveal, aside from a few spelling issues on the initial prototypes, that Tony Costa’s dæmon has been changed to a warthog. This is likely due to a blunder in the initial text of Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) which left both Ma Costa and her son, Tony, with the same form of dæmon.

On March 14, 2007, HisDarkMaterials.org presented its video of the set visit to The Golden Compass at Shepperton Studios. Where else will you get the chance to see your site admin strapped up and flying with a witch-contraption? The video also reveals numerous set areas and costumes.

A magazine scan at Elbakin.net from the French magazine Studio brought a new image of Jim Carter as Gyptian leader Lord John Faa (22-Mar-07). New Line also released the Sizzle Reel this month, offering fans the first look into the full world of The Golden Compass movie: complete with existing green screens, and incomplete visual effects (25-Mar-07). This video later serves as an amazing comparison point where people can view the progression of fully animated components, like Iorek Byrnison, from a monochromatic unfinished computer structure to a fully intimidating armoured bear.

April started out with some exclusive photos and video from one of the set workers of The Golden Compass (1-Apr-07). The official blog appeared from New Line with extras like featured photos and an A to Z of Lyra’s world (4-Apr-07). The blog was overhauled quickly to include more photos as well as a link directly from the official site (8-Apr-07). In late April New Line launched the “meet your dæmon” feature – an instant hit, a quiz for all visitors to the official website (24-Apr-07). Reshoots took place in April, and a further two weeks of filming commenced (26-Apr-07).

The Cannes Film Festival took place in May from the 16 to 27, with events related to The Golden Compass taking place on May 20, 21, and 22. On May 20, a ten minute reel of unfinished footage was presented at a press screening. Here, staff members discovered the extra scene in The Golden Compass concerned Lord Asriel’s capture by the armoured bears. May 21 was the most important day for New Line as a number of the main cast lined up for a photo call: Sam Elliot, Eva Green, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig with Director Chris Weitz and producers Bill Cararro, Robert Shaye, Deborah Forte, Andrew Miano and Michael Lynne. The day was rounded out with a press conference and a roundtable session. The third day of The Golden Compass events at Cannes held host to a panel session for TV interview with the main cast. An afternoon lunch brought together members of the production, including Deborah Forte, Dakota Blue Richards, and Sam Elliot. The evening of May 22, HisDarkMaterials.org was able to attend the red carpet party celebrating New Line Cinema’s 40th birthday and The Golden Compass.

Outside of Cannes, news arose that Freddie Highmore had replaced Adam Godley as the voice of Pantalaimon (21-May-07). The official teaser trailer first became available for fans the same day the cast lined up at the Cannes Film Festival (21-May-07).

Dakota Blue Richards gave another interview, this time with Newsround, on her similarities to Lyra and why she auditioned for the role (24-May-07). May 25 saw the official teaser trailer first appearing on the big screen, alongside the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Or rather, I should add that the trailer appeared to only be available to those not viewing POTC3 just for the teaser trailer, as a number of our members ended up holding our breath without purpose! I gave myself a migraine in unrequited anticipation, but came to amends as The Golden Compass teaser trailer appeared later alongside New Line’s Hairspray.

New photos appeared on the official New Line website as more footage rolled in the pipeline and the official blog became linked to goldencompassmovie.com by way of “about this film” (27-May-07). JoBlo.com posted information on their January set visit to Shepperton Studios and included an extra photo of a Ragnar Sturlusson ice sculpture.

In late June, a second series of reshoots began in Oxford (26-Jun-07). During this time, Craig, intent in his character of Lord Asriel accidentally toppled one of the cameramen from his cart, causing some broken bones in the process (13-Jul-07). Need for safety may have prevented the actors from filming in the genuine arctic, but actor concentration can perhaps be as unsafe as the teeth of a snow leopard.

The second teaser trailer became available on June 14. Shortly thereafter a fan treat came out as complete production notes from Chris Weitz became available for both view and download (16-Jul-07). After personally being thrilled to see one glorious flying jaw in the second teaser trailer, the US MPAA further padded support to an “untamed” North and rated The Golden Compass PG-13 (23-Jul-07).

Comic-Con saw a great deal of excitement as its 2007 convention unrolled. The Golden Compass movie booth appeared with displays of character costumes, props, and video monitors with a five-minute extended preview (28-Jul-07).

Further video excitement came as an initially unidentifiable pre-production video leaked to the public (15-Aug-07). The video was nearly a half-hour long and used stand in actors, image stills, and music to develop a pre-production working version of The Golden Compass. After New Line revealed that the video came from previously attached director, Anand Tucker, the video was removed. Images can still be seen online in the photograms section. Also in August, Entertainment Weekly published a lovely three pages of costumed characters and a brief synopsis of the movie (15-Aug-07).

September brought news from Japan as the official site for The Golden Compass (Japan) appeared (15-Sep-07). There is an accompanying website on which Chris Weitz appears with an invitation to audition to find the Japanese Lyra. The site also brought a new trailer with previously unheard music (perhaps the first of the actual Desplat score) and two short new scenes: one a close-up of Pantalaimon and the other Lyra pointing at a map to Svalbard.

On September 16, character animator Arslan Elver reported in his blog that Framestore CFC had finished with the VFX work on The Golden Compass. Framestore CFC had worked in production of the panserbjørne and Elver seemed very enthusiastic about the project. However, because of the overall massive amount of post-production work The Golden Compass will not be viewable-finished until after October 26. Although the film’s release date is set, it is yet uncertain when the post-production will be finalized by.

Excitement began charging around the yet-upcoming New York Film Festival as stories filtered through that The Golden Compass would somehow feature in there. New Line confirmed the event as it announced the official release of the trailer for The Golden Compass on October 9, 2007. The trailer would appear to the public alongside an event at the New York Film Festival: a trailer release party, which will be attended by members of the cast as well as a lucky selection of fans. To celebrate the event further, New Line released nine pairs of tickets for the event to three His Dark Materials websites, including the official blog, HisDarkMaterials.org, and Bridge to the Stars(26-Sep-07). Winners were announced and attended the event on October 9.

September ended with a new video appearing on Yahoo!movies: a featurette on dæmons from the San Diego Comic-con (28-Sept-07).

A rumour originated on QuesteOscureMaterie.it as one of its members, an Italian VFX technician working in London, posted information in the forums that Kathy Bates was voicing the role of Hester, Christopher Lee appeared in the film as a member of the Magisterium, Ian McKellan had taken over the role as Iorek Byrnison in place of Nonso Anozie, and the ending to the movie was shuffled (22-Sept-07). An article on the trailer debut from Comingsoon.net as well as an interview with Ian McShane (voice of Ragnar Sturlusson) soon gave backing to the rumour with mostly the same information (4-Oct-07). Four new stills from the film appeared from a poster at imdb.com, further whetting fan's appetite for more amidst the rising rumours (5-Oct-07). Starlog magazine also featured The Golden Compass in their October issue.

All manner of exciting video became available the day before the official theatrical trailer release. SEGA provided two new videos from behind-the-scenes of The Golden Compas video game: one featuring Dakota Blue Richards and the other featuring Freddie Highmore. IGN.com also debuted what appears to be a portion of the official theatrical trailer, or what fans would call the third and final teaser trailer before the real thing. The trailer confirms McKellan's replacing of Nonso Anozie in the role of Iorek Byrnison as well as displaying some new spy-fly scenes and new impeccably finished armour for Iorek Byrnison (8-Oct-07).

On the day of the official theatrical trailer release, director Chris Weitz addressed the fans through HisDarkMaterials.org as he confirmed a number of rumours to be true (9-Oct-07). The Golden Compass film will see the last three chapters of the book moved into the film rendering of The Subtle Knife if that project comes to fruition. This was a decision of the film's producers, but is supported by Weitz and Pullman. However, these late changes could drastically affect New Line's marketing of The Golden Compass as many printed guides with The Golden Compass ending summary and images of Iorek in previously-rendered armour are obsolete. Actress Kristin Scott Thomas was also confirmed in the vocal role of Lord Asriel's dæmon, Stelmaria (9-Oct-07).

On the same day the Catholic League launched a boycott of The Golden Compass timing it accordingly for media outlets to have their choice in film footage to run with the story (9-Oct-07). An interview produced comments from director Chris Weitz commenting on the replacement of Nonso Anozie as one of the darkest days in the film's production (9-Oct-07). The official trailer for The Golden Compass was made publicly viewable online at 8:30 EST on October 9, 2007 as Sam Elliot hosted a party at the New York Film Festival and the trailer played over the big screens at the Rockefeller Ice rink. After the initial debut, the trailer repeated over heads of ice skaters until the party's end. A number of contest winners as well as staff members from HisDarkMaterials.org were present. Images of the Gala red carpet as well as the trailer debut event can be found in the photograms gallery. The Official Quizbook was distributed as a giveaway at the event, scans of which can be found in the photograms gallery. A video of the event gives us host Sam Elliot at the microphone and ends with the premiere event itself as witnessed in the undoubtedly-charged ice skating rink.

Official final posters for The Golden Compass were previewed on Cinematical.com, one highlighting the fight between the armoured bears, the other highlighting the leading cast (10-Oct-07). Following the trailer release and the hype behind Weitz's statement, Philip Pullman made his own statement to the fans (11-Oct-07).

October's list of events also brought HisDarkMaterials.org a visit to Rhythm & Hues studio in Los Angeles, California (Oct-15-07). Rhythm & Hues worked primarily on the dæmons in The Golden Compass, as well as the spy-flys, and Dust. The visit to Rhythm & Hues included a presentation and demonstrated both final sequences of dæmon performances and the "how-to" behind making the dæmons. Images from the event can be found in the photograms gallery.

October 19th, 2007 marked Philip Pullman's 61st Birthday. With help from Cittàgazze.com and HDM.co.il, two past interviews with Pullman from the French and Israeli fansites were posted as English transcripts (Oct-19-07). The December 2007 issue of Empire magazine, the largest issue to date, features The Golden Compass on its front cover with the inside article titled: "The Movie that will Reinvent Fantasy" (Oct-23-07). Numerous other magazines quickly followed suite as late October featured The Golden Compass on the cover of FILM magazine, a supplementary Empire magazine, and a gorgeous series of scans from the French magazine Cinélive. More images became available with the German, French, and Spanish posters for The Golden Compass.

More video for the fans was available as another featurette appeared online. Entitled "Flying with Witches," it features Eva Green discussing her role in learning wire work for the character Serafina Pekkala (Oct-26-07). QuesteOscureMaterie.it also posted a number of scans from the tie-in book "The World of The Golden Compass" (Oct-29-07). Some of the scans highlighted images from the now-displaced ending of The Golden Compass.

After the Catholic League's boycott announcement, what followed was a hoard of media coverage concerning first the anti-religious and then the not-anti-religious enough adaptation of The Golden Compass. "Kidman's" next big film was targeted by the New York Post to be a flop, an opinion overturned in another publication after New Line introduced thirty minutes of the film. One reviewer, calling the film "Golden" additionally adds that the British band Coldplay may somehow feature into The Golden Compass soundtrack (Oct-29-07).

At the start of November, New Line and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) launched an awareness campaign on Global Warming, adding a website featuring clips of real polar bears and panserbjørne set to a voice over by actress Dakota Blue Richards (Nov-1-07). Small bumper TV advertisements began appearing during popular U.S. television programs: football games, House, and Grey's Anatomy. The TV "indents" vary, one featuring the narration "Whoever holds the last golden compass holds the fate of the universe in their hands." and another featuring a more "rock" soundtrack (Nov-4-07).

Chris Weitz spoke to the LA Times on bringing The Golden Compass to the silver screen (Nov-6-07). Other members of The Golden Compass project gained recognition as well as costume designer Ruth Meyers is slated to receive an award for her work (Nov-7-07). The article on her award includes some science behind the costumes of The Golden Compass, and provides a character design sketches and fabric swatches for Mrs. Coulter, John Faa, Lyra, Ma Costa, and Serafina Pekkala.

An insightful article by Variety magazine reported on the extensive marketing budget and partnerships for The Golden Compass (Nov-7-07). Storyboards for the movie became viewable on IGN and featured the lay of the land for The Master of Jordan College's arrest, a discussion between Serafina Pekkala and Lyra on deck of the Noorderlicht, and Lyra's placement into the dæmon separator (Nov-8-07).

Chris Weitz is still currently busy in London working in editing. All this and still more to look forward to!

Worldwide release dates follow:

  • December 5: Belgium, Finland, France, Spain, United Kingdom, Philippines
  • December 6: Argentina, Germany, Netherlands
  • December 7: Denmark, Norway, Russia, Turkey, USA
  • December 13: Slovenia
  • December 14: Bulgaria, Estonia, Italy
  • December 20: Hong Kong
  • December 25: Brazil
  • December 26: Australia, Iceland
  • January 16, 2008: Iceland
  • March 1, 2008: Japan


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Rumour

Perhaps one of the most exciting build-ups in the production of The Golden Compass has been in the rumour mill. Seemingly, with every millimeter of fact come twelve meters of rumour. I’ve chosen to pick out the most interesting rumours throughout the production, ones which come from seemingly-credible sources rather than hastily announced ravings or predictions.

In an interview with a French magazine, Eva Green attached actors Kevin Bacon, Eric Bana, and John Hurt to The Golden Compass movie (19-Nov-07). Only recently Kevin Bacon denounced the rumour, but it is still unclear where the original association came to Green from (7-Sep-07). With the release of the official trailer on May 21, we clearly see actor Derek Jacobi in a role in The Golden Compass, yet he is as of now un-credited throughout New Line and official source collateral (near minute 1:23). Conversely, actor Christopher Lee is credited on his official website with a role in The Golden Compass, but remains unattached to any particular character (near 29-Jul-07). Fan thoughts range from a cameo appearance, to the still unannounced character of Lord Boreal, to lending talent for one of the vocal roles of the dæmons (Kaisa or the unspeaking golden monkey). Information from QuesteOscureMaterie.it confirms Christopher Lee's presence in the films and adds that his role is a cameo as a member of the Magisterium (8-Oct-07).

My own favorite rumour has no official sources, but much intrigue and possible crediting. One possible source of this rumour is a very early video from the set of The Golden Compass: a low-quality video apparently taken from inside a trailer as feet walk past, and then oddly enough, a stray cat. I like to refer to this overall as the “Schrödinger’s cat rumour,” for no particular reason other than it includes multiple worlds and a cat.

It may well be the creation of fan minds alone, but the rumour holds that The Golden Compass movie will open, much as Will’s own story into the adventure, with a cat finding its way through a window into Lyra’s world. Could this then be the same cat which is startled by Pantalaimon in the trailer, prompting the dæmon to turn to Lyra: “That’s odd; she acted as though she’d never seen a person’s dæmon before.”

I think this appeals to me because not only is this a laughingly brilliant opening for fans of the His Dark Materials trilogy to enjoy where the similarities of Lyra’s and Will’s stories don’t begin from a wardrobe and a window, rather tied to a cat: a creature renowned for being both curious and a troublemaker of scientific multiple worlds theories. But, this is also a brilliant way to introduce dæmons to the un-read among the audience. Pantalaimon shifts form, obviously comes from another world, speaks to Lyra, adds that he is a dæmon, and a dæmon is a person’s. It’s just as if the film spill’s the words from Pullman’s head that began it all: “Lyra and her dæmon…”

I love this rumour.


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Merchandising

On the merchandising front we’ve got three main categories: video games, companion novels, and everything else.

Video Games

The video games of The Golden Compass are being developed by Shiny Entertainment through a New Line agreement with SEGA (27-Sep-06). SEGA officially announced the partnership with notice of a wide release on multiple platforms (27-Feb-07). The first video game trailer released with only a few scenes of game play interspersed with interviews from game developers, concept art, and unfinished footage from The Golden Compass movie (7-Jul-07). The next trailer added a few more scenes from game play, but was still largely movie material (28-Aug-07). An interview with Daz Berg, lead designer on The Golden Compass game, brought light to the challenges of developing a game to appeal to movie fans, book fans, and fans of games (30-Aug-07). An interview with the minds behind the Nintendo DS version of The Golden Compass game (Dave Richard, game designer, and Philippe Gaude, Game Director) focused on highlights of that platform’s version, as well as exciting features to the overall game brought in by the dæmon-human partnership (4-Sep-07). Available game play footage concentrated on many Northern elements of the story – including the panserbjørne, and gave demonstration to the collaborative efforts of Lyra and Pantalaimon in surpassing obstacles (20-Sept-07).

On October 17th, HisDarkMaterials.org was invited to a presentation for The Golden Compass Video game at FrankPR in London. The visit gave fans a report of the event, as well as many new images from the official game. A second look at game play footage focused on using Pantalaimon's ermine shape to help Lyra cross a bridge of ice (Oct-29-07).

Across the platforms, The Golden Compass video game is set for release on November 30, 2007.

Available Platforms:

Numerous game stills have been released since the announcement of the game and can be found in the photogram image gallery section.


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Companion Novels

The popularity of the His Dark Materials trilogy has expanded hugely, especially since production began on The Golden Compass movie. Logic follows then, that as with New Line’s blockbuster Lord of The Rings, His Dark Materials would also see a series of books as companion novels to the movies.

Scholastic, Pullman’s US publisher, signed to create companion novels for the movie just as the production began (21-Oct-06). From that point, many different authors have been hard at work creating companion novels from simple guides, to quiz books, to explorations of the movie production.

Books and release dates follow:



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Figures, Toys, and Games

New Line partnered with Corgi in creation of figures and some other merchandise for The Golden Compass (11-Feb-07). The first view of Corgi’s products revealed a set of plans from the company in production of the line. In their goals for The Golden Compass, they listed creation of detailed action figures, deluxe action figures, battling bears, vehicle and Svalbard playsets, and a digital “dæmon” companion (12-Feb-07). The first view images brought these designs to light, albeit with a smattering of spelling issues and a smiling golden monkey dæmon in tow. Included in this partnership is Master Replicas, a company known by reputation for highly-detailed movie replica props. Although only possible images of merchandise production have been released at this time, it can be assumed Master Replicas will be in production, at very least and judging by their previous accomplishments, of some exquisite replicas of the alethiometer.

Aside from the figurine line in plastic, another line of more doll-like character figurines is in production. Two confirmed characters are Lord Asriel and Lyra.

The Golden Compass, as per movie standards, also has a number of posters available for view and purchase. The official teaser poster promoted a scene of Lyra and Iorek (4-May-07). The official movie posters came in various forms sectioned off to highlight one of the main actors: Sam Elliot and Eva Green, Nicole Kidman, Dakota Blue Richards, and Daniel Craig or the full group image. These were viewable as early as July 13, 2007 and began appearing in movie theaters around that time.

In other various merchandise departments, Top Trump Cards is in charge of creating a card game based on The Golden Compass movie. The game will use many familiar characters and their traits in development of a strategic and exciting multiplayer card game. Release is set for the card game in November, 2007. Rix is in production of The Golden Compass dominoes and dice games. Inkworks is creating the premium trading cards for The Golden Compass. A board game image has also appeared. Not much has been released for details, but the German version of the game has a full page of detailed instructions. PEZ is also on the order for The Golden Compass. Yes, you will be able to get those tasty sugary candies after tipping back the head of the golden monkey who can apparently, at times be surprisingly sweet. Other PEZ dispensers feature Ragnar Sturlusson (Iofur Raknison), Iorek Byrnison, and Pantalaimon. Another sweet confectioner, Mr Lucky Bags, is in production of The Golden Compass sweets bags.

New images brought dating near October 5, 2007 add more variety into the mix of The Golden Compass items. Images of The Golden Compass playing cards depict a king Iorek Byrnison, as well as a decorative housing box. A new calendar image also promotes Iorek and a jigsaw puzzle features various characters.

A few plain, but fun images of The Golden Compass "wearables" have also appeared: a tee shirt, a cap, and a handle bag, all gold print logo on black background.

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The Noble Collection launched two note-worthy merchandise products for The Golden Compass: high-quality replicas of the spy-fly and alethiometer (Nov-7-07). The products will not be available for shipping until April 30th, 2008.

The Butterfly Tattoo

The Golden Compass isn’t the only movie being adapted from a Pullman book. The Dutch company Dynamic Enterprises optioned the rights to Pullman’s The Butterfly Tattoo (17-Jan-06). The company saw immediate positive response as they opened public shares for purchase in the movie and sold three-quarters of the shares in record time (5-March-06). Pre-production began in March of 2006, with extensions of invitation to assist for numerous Pullman websites. The director of the film is Phil Hawkins, previously the only British contestant of Steven Spielberg’s “On the Lot” television series.

As filming began in Oxford for the movie, Oxford bands were invited to battle it out for the important first scene of the movie (24-Aug-07). The winner of the contest was the band A Silent Film, who performed live on September 20th for filming. Filming ended at the end of September with a projected summer 2008 release for the movie.


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Pullman

Of course, if you thought our great Oxford mind behind the trilogy was off sitting forlornly on a bench somewhere throughout this process your view is quite off. Despite Pullman’s initial quoting that he would happily “take the money and run” (in response to having to once again rework the entire trilogy in a new format – he does have previous experience with play writing), and even though he did pass up the opportunity to write the screen play himself (a task first for Tom Stoppard, and later adapted by writer/director Weitz himself), Pullman has had an interesting role in involvement with and beyond The Golden Compass movie.

Throughout the years Pullman has often been outspoken, but not unsupported, in his beliefs. This enthusiasm has translated into his interest in many projects surrounding both his home of Oxford and his passion for English and literature. Pullman became involved in a fight to save the Castle Mill Boatyard in Oxford. Pullman also became one of a number of authors to raise questions over the quality of education in the school system. He joined the review board for the National Theatre (original adaptation of His Dark Materials) in mid-February (17-Feb-07).

Pullman’s dedication to the city of Oxford eventually earned him the rare Freedom of Oxford Award (12-Jan-07). In June, Pullman earned another wonderful honor for His Dark Materials as The Golden Compass became the “Carnegie of Carnegie’s” – the best of the Carnegie Medal winners in the past 85 years (21-Jun-07).

Pullman visited the set at Shepperton Studios and in Oxford himself numerous times, using the visits as subjects in his website messages. Pullman also viewed the audition tapes for Lyra and from them chose two girls most similar to Lyra. One of those two ended up donning fur coats, working with a number of talented actors and actresses, and speaking with a stuffed green doll she addressed as Pantalaimon. Pullman is also present in some of the video footage from on set at The Golden Compass – sometimes speaking with Chris Weitz, then with Daniel Craig or Nicole Kidman.

As a surprise to fans, in interviews with the French and Israeli fansites, Philip Pullman revealed a new book in the His Dark Materials universe: Once Upon a Time in the North, a short story similar to Lyra’s Oxford which explores the past of Lee Scoresby and Iorek Byrnison.


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Still More to Come

In short, His Dark Materials is far from over, and December is only bringing a part of the excitement of His Dark Materials. If you’re looking to start filling out dates on your calendar, here is, in brief, what to look forward to:

  • November 27, 2007: The Golden Compass premiere in London
  • December 4, 2007: His Dark Materials video games across multiple platforms
  • December 5, 2007: UK release date for The Golden Compass
  • December 7, 2007: General release date for The Golden Compass
  • Spring: Companion novel: Once Upon a Time in the North
  • Yet to come: The Book of Dust
  • Yet to be confirmed: Movie adaptation: The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass

Take everything together, add in the efforts of thousands of brilliant and talented people along the way, and we’ll still only see the briefest glimpse into everything that the His Dark Materials franchise has become. All the excitement, all the new publicity, and yet with The Golden Compass movie, we’re still only just beginning our journey into that other world. I’m willing to bet, and sure to hope it’s a world we’ll be seeing more of for years to come: a world where all those things like hard work and creativity and intelligence and talent come together in just the right way and with just the right passion to mean something greater in our world. Because for us, there ain’t no elsewhere, and there’s no better time than now.


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