It seems like getting the Hobbit movies done continues to be far more difficult than it should be, given how many people want to see them (and how big the resulting box-office money would be). After numerous delays (summed up nicely in Wikipedia), it seemed like the movies were finally on track until TheOneRing.Net dropped this bombshell:
Guillermo Del Toro announced today that he is no longer directing the two movies based on J.R.R Tolkien's "The Hobbit", but will continue to co-write the screenplays. Out of respect to the legions of loyal Tolkien fans, both Guillermo and Peter Jackson wanted to break the news to The One Ring first. They are both committed to protecting The Hobbit and will do everything in their power to ensure the films are everything that the fans want them to be.
Del Toro told the site:
"In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming "The Hobbit," I am faced with the hardest decision of my life", says Guillermo. "After nearly two years of living, breathing and designing a world as rich as Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures. I remain grateful to Peter, Fran and Philippa Boyens, New Line and Warner Brothers and to all my crew in New Zealand. I've been privileged to work in one of the greatest countries on earth with some of the best people ever in our craft and my life will be forever changed. The blessings have been plenty, but the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. Both as a co-writer and as a director, I wlsh the production nothing but the very best of luck and I will be first in line to see the finished product. I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director".
Jackson also weighed and talked about how Del Toro would be missed but added "New Line and Warner Bros will sit down with us this week, to ensure a smooth and uneventful transition, as we secure a new director for the Hobbit. We do not anticipate any delay or disruption to ongoing pre-production work."
The movies are allegedly still on track for December 2012 and 2013 releases.