Even as The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey dominated the worldwide box office, director Peter Jackson and his Weta Digital team were struck by tragic news. Visual-effects producer Eileen Moran, 60, and sound editor Mike Hopkins, 53, who both worked on Weta projects such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong, passed away last month within weeks of each other.

Moran, a New Yorker whose F/X reel includes everything from the famous Budweiser frogs to big-screen triumphs like Avatar and Fight Club, and who is credited as a co-producer on The Hobbit, died of cancer Dec. 2 in Wellington, New Zealand. She is survived by her two children.

Hopkins, a New Zealand native who won Oscars for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and King Kong, died Dec. 30 in a rafting accident after his vessel capsized in a flooding river near his hometown of Greytown. (His wife, Nicci, who was also aboard, was rescued.) ”Under [Hopkins’] guidance, New Zealand became recognised as one of the leading hubs of post-production sound in the world. Beyond that Mike was a very genuine, caring, and warm-hearted guy,” Jackson said in a statement. ”He will be terribly missed.”

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
  • Movie
  • 170 minutes