Despite MGM’s financial conundrum, the departure of Guillermo del Toroacting union protests, director Peter Jackson’s perforated stomach ulcer, and virtually every other conceivable pre-production delay possible having occurred, The Hobbit is at last prepped to begin production in New Zealand this spring.

Principal photography on the 3D, two-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s preqeul to his epic Lord of the Rings trilogy is officially set to commence in six weeks time, beginning March 21st.

Production company 3Foot7 Ltd. announced the start date for shooting to begin on The Hobbit, saying that “[it] has been chosen following practical considerations of the filming schedule requirements, actor availability, and the NZ seasons. Shooting will take place at Stone Street Studios in Miramar and on location around New Zealand.” Jackson also made an official comment (or, rather, the understatement of the year), announcing that “despite some delays we are fully back on track and very excited to get started.”

Familiar faces appearing in the fantasy realm of Middle-Earth include that of Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood as Legolas and Frodo Baggins, respectively; Andy Serkis and Ian McKellen as Gollum and Gandalf the Grey; Cate Blanchett as the Lady Galadriel; and (barring any health problems) Christopher Lee as Saruman.

Newcomers include Martin Freeman as the hesitant adventure-seeker Bilbo Baggins and the likes of Adam Brown, John Callen, Mark Hadlow, Peter Hambleton, Stephen Hunter, Rob Kazinsky, Graham McTavish, and James Nesbitt as “the Company of Dwarves.” These gents are led by one Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the deadly dragon Smaug, guardian of a most impressive treasure.

Jackson and his crew have spent a few years tweaking The Hobbit scripts, perfecting the look and design of the tale’s fantastical beasts and settings, and mentally preparing to actually make these films. Now they’re armed with a production budget estimated to be upwards of $500 million (to be covered by Warner Bros.) and will use cutting-edge 3D camera technology to realize Tolkein’s source material on the big screen.

Given the numerous production woes and massive cost of the project, it’s more than a bit ironic that The Hobbit, as a story, is far less epic, sprawling, and demanding in scope than the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Here’s hoping the final product proves to be more than worth all the trouble.

The Hobbit: Part 1 is expected to reach theaters by December 2012, followed by Part 2 in December 2013.

For more movie and TV news, follow us on Twitter @screenrant and @feynmanguy.

Source: 3Foot7Ltd. (via Coming Soon)