Are you ready to head back to the Shire? Director Peter Jackson has just released the very first images from the upcoming two-part "Lord of the Rings" prequel "The Hobbit". EW.com has all three photos posted, but take a look at our old friend Gandalf the Grey (Sir Ian McKellan) puffin' the pipe weed below:

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"He's in fantastic form," Peter Jackson told EW in reference to McKellen. "In a way, his role in The Hobbit has more technical difficulties than Lord of the Rings did, because he has scenes with 14 smaller characters — obviously the dwarves and the hobbit are shorter... I remember saying to him, 'Look, this isn't Waiting for Godot or King Lear. This is The Hobbit. This is the real thing.'

 McKellan's not the only "LOTR" veteran returning for the prequels; Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, Andy "Gollum" Serkis, Christopher Lee, Ian Holm (the elderly Bilbo) and even Elijah Wood are reprising their roles. Newcomers like Evageline Lily ("Lost") and Dame Edna seem to be added to the cast everyday.

Martin Freeman (the U.K. "Office") is playing the younger Bilbo, the title character from J.R.R. Tolkien's book.

Part one, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," opens nationwide Dec. 14, 2012.