HONG KONG (AP) — One of Peter Jackson's frequent collaborators says the "Lord of the Rings" director passed the torch to Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro to give the trilogy's two-part prequel, "The Hobbit," a fresh look.

After the huge success of the "Rings" series, Jackson is now working on adapting the J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy novel that takes place before the trilogy. But this time the Oscar-winning New Zealand filmmaker is producing and working on the script, relinquishing directing duties to Del Toro, whose credits include "Pan's Labyrinth" and the two "Hellboy" movies.

Longtime Jackson collaborator, art designer Richard Taylor, says he thinks his friend gave up the director's chair "probably because he's spent so long in Middle Earth ... and probably felt a director such as Guillermo could bring something passionate and unique and original and new to the content for the sake of the fans," referring to the imaginary world where the novels are set.

"It's an absolute delight to be working with Guillermo Del Toro. We've all enjoyed his craft as seen in 'Pan's Labyrinth' and the 'Hellboy' movies. His unique aesthetic and storytelling style brings a lovely aesthetic to the world and one we're enjoying being part of," Taylor told The Associated Press on Monday in Hong Kong, where he is attending a digital entertainment conference at the technology park Cyberport.

The Weta Workshop president said his team has started designing the landscape and characters in "The Hobbit," but that he was unclear when shooting on the New Line Cinema production will start in New Zealand.

"We're just patiently waiting for it to begin. It's been in early development for a while. I'm sure it will get going some time soon," Taylor said.

He said he will stick to a consistent look for the main characters that appear in both the "Rings" series and "The Hobbit."

Taylor, who also won Oscars for his work on the "Rings" series, said he doesn't know if "The Hobbit" will be released in 3-D, but said the Weta team will take advantage of technological advancements since the first trilogy.

"Like any film, there will be an effort to utilize the tools that are available to us today to achieve visual images that will excite and intrigue an audience as we did try 10 years ago."

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