Movie News

The Winner of the Grand Flaming Marshmallow Balrog Contest!!!

Published at: Feb. 2, 2003, 4:27 a.m. CST by staff

"Your BALROG confection will be judged on presentation - sculpting and just how well it burns."

Harry here... I had no idea what I was in for by creating a Flaming Marshmallow Balrog Contest to win one of SideShow/Weta's Balrog Statues! I have learned so much about the art of Marshmallow Sculpting, setting it aflame and then photographing it.

There were 78 entries into the Marshmallow Balrog contest - Entrants from Austin to New York to Canada to California to Iowa & Illinois to Sweden to Finland to England to France and places all in between. From individuals to group efforts to even community efforts. Ages ran from 5 years old to 53 years old (eldest admitted age!). Efforts from males and females... all with the hopes of getting that fabulous BALROG statue.

I'm going to show you the 5 finalist and my pick for the winner. I WISH that we had runner-up prizes, and there's a part of me hoping that SideShow/Weta will come through with something for these additional efforts, simply because... Well, I have been in agony trying to decide which deserved to win. The stories behind making these things are truly touching, but... Nowhere in the contest, did I make allowances for the story of how it came to be, but rather "Presentation - Sculpting - Just How Well It Burns!"

In the final decision - it came down to the best sculpted flaming Balrog caught on film. That rectangle of blazing frothy sugary confection. And that made the choosing the ultimate winner easier, if not still ultimately aggravating. The decision was reached in consol with Father Geek and myself.

At number 5 came Dale Hwang from Flemington, New Jersey. His Marshmallow Balrog was 15" tall with a wingspan of about 4 feet. He made a wire frame covered with home made marshmallow piped on while tepid, which he learned to make from a recipe on Foodtv.Com called "Indoor Smores". He colored his Marshmallow Balrog with powdered pigments and overall - the sculpture is exceptional. The best sculpted full body Balrog we got. However, he never really did get it to flame particularly well, and the photos taken are notably non-dramatic. So one of the 3 criteria met wonderfully, but points off for the other two.

Number 4 came from Rome, New York and belonged to Brian Kucharek. I have no idea of actual dimensions for the beast, but he looks like he's probably around the 15" range. Here his dramatic flames are excellent. The picture is dramatic, but the sculpting leaves a bit to be desired. Very nice work.

Number 3 came all the way from Sweden and the funny as hell sculpting talents of Henric Bolin. Here - Henric presents a wonderful scene with not only a Marshmallow Balrog, but a Marshmallow Gandalf with Cookie Hat and Chypa Chups Staff. There's something utterly hilarious about the Candy Cane Horns that just makes me giggle completely. They had a better flame shot, but in that photo so much of the detail was lost that you couldn't fully appreciate the comedy of the "lighter" shot. The comedy aspect of this picture really nearly made it the winner of the contest.

At Number 2 came a rather remarkable story and creation. This 5 ft tall, humanoid size Balrog was the creation of the Tolkien Society of East Rochester High School. Here's their letter the sent:

Harry ?

Here's our entry in the Balrog contest. I'm the faculty advisor for our Tolkien Society here at East Rochester High School, and a regular visitor to your site. When I first read about the contest I laughed out loud and thought "who would be crazy enough to do this"? Then I thought a little longer and said "well, we could be crazy enough to do this". The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a lot of fun, so I called a meeting & the kids were way into it. That was 3 weeks ago, and they've been working on it ever since. I started the club last year & we've had a lot of fun, including two trips to Toronto for the LOTR exhibits up there.

After lots of brainstorming, trial and error, we wound up with a 5-foot-tall Balrog constructed of chicken wire & tin foil, covered in marshmallows (large & small) and marshmallow fluff. His eyes are butterscotch candies. We used an entire roll of chicken wire, several rolls of foil, 11 tubs of Fluff (note: microwaving one minute makes it nice & fluid and easy to spread, two minutes makes it explode all over everything and smell really foul), 38 bags of marshmallows and the efforts of a dozen students and 2 adults. I took pictures of the whole process, which you can see at The Official East Rochester High School Tolkien Society Website!

At the last minute, our superintendent got in on it and insisted that the fire department be present for the torching, so we decided to make an event out of it & invite the school. We wound up with about 75 kids, a dozen teachers and 5 firemen to witness our madness. It was a blast!! I already had the Sideshow Gandalf the Grey, so we decided to include him in the photos. We used a little forced perspective to make him more proportional. Since it has snowed every day in January, we figured we'd try to replicate the mountaintop fight setting. At some point I'll Photoshop out the neighborhood in the background?

I hope we win ? the kids worked really hard at this, but in any case we had a lot of fun. Thanks for the great opportunity & nutty ideas. Now what will we have to do to win that Ringwraith? Pass the marshmallows?

A great story. A community effort. And if you check out their website you'll see pure Americana at work. The site of Firemen turning the hose on a flaming 5ft tall Balrog made of Marshmallow while the entire school looks on... Well, there is something magic there. Their photo was very nice. Unlike the other images we've seen thus far... the flames are proportionate to the creature, the use of forced perspective is very nice... But had this shot taken place at night... for Dramatic lighting, it might very well have won. The effort is to be applauded, and if I had 2 awards, this would get the second one. And I hope they go all out for the Ring Wraith Statue on Steed that will be the next fabulous contest!

So... Who was the winner?

A fellow known to his Elementary students as Mr Jones. An elementary school art teacher in Far North Austin, Texas. He nailed it. His name is Gordon Jones and the sculpture he made of this creature of shadow and fire and marshmallow... is something to behold. The picture is so nice, I actually have it as my desktop at the moment.

Instead of trying to capture a statue size Balrog - or even a full body Balrog, he knew that the medium of marshmallow and the volatile nature of fire meant that he should concentrate on the head and neck of the Balrog. At nearly 5 ft in length and 3 ft across, this head looks massive. He created a chicken wire armature which he filled with hundreds of wadded newspaper balls. He then used a variety of different sized Marshmallows and paying attention to the segmented nature, used them to create patterns not unlike those found in the original CGI Balrog. He then had a melted vat of marshmallow stew which he used to create a smoother skin atop the marshmallows, to give it that correct look.

With the glowing eyes and glowing mouth, and the Balrog burning from within, the main of fire raging in correct proportion to the head, the dramatic lighting. This is a photo that denotes a high skill of sculpting, a wonderment of presentation and it burns from within like that Maea of the ancient world of Morgoth. Oh... you want to see it? and hear from Gordon himself? Here you go...


Here are some pictures of the molten treat from Moria that I baked. The bust is approximately 4 1/2 feet long by 3 feet wide. It is made from chicken wire, or "poultry netting" as it is now known in certain circles, stuffed with newspaper balls and covered with various sizes of marshmallows.

As an added bonus, I was able to melt a vat of marshmallow stew to to better baste my Balrog for added flavor. Spray paint created the illusion of an ashen complexion. I was quite excited by just how flammable my concoction was. It ignited with the first match. I actually thought that I might need lighter fluid, but I did not. Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the visual dessert that I am serving to you. Thanks for watching.

Mr. Jones

And now... Here's the MALROG!!!

It will take me a few days to go through the Zanti Ants stories before choosing a winner, there's a lot of them. Till the next contest... Adieu...

P.S. Here's Some Additional Shots of Mr Jones' BALROG!!! Enjoy...

Readers Talkback

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  • Feb. 2, 2003, 4:41 a.m. CST

    If you stare really hard at Number 2, it sorta looks like Bullwi

    by TheFoywonder

    Personally, I think Number 3 is the best. Just very amusing. On the other hand, the one that won is downright creepy.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 4:44 a.m. CST

    They are all winners.

    by GaSmAn

    Number 4 wins it though.Its the best wallpaper i ever had.Thanks Henric.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 4:49 a.m. CST

    This is the best thing AICN has ever done.

    by Andy Travis

    And I think I mean that in a good way.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 4:54 a.m. CST

    That's actually not that bad...

    by elwen

    Still, I kind of prefer the one made by the High School kids, oh and the one with the marshmellow Gandalf is funny as hell.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 5:01 a.m. CST

    they ALL should win!! WOW!!!! This is GREAT!!!

    by quamb

    AICN should do more things fun/stupid/exciting things like this!

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 5:16 a.m. CST

    That definitly deserved the top spot.

    by vroom socko

    Jesus, that thing is seriously creepy.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 6:46 a.m. CST

    Sweet Jesus, that's amazing!!

    by Cash Bailey

    BTW, can any of you believe that TRUE LIES is on TV here in Australia at this very moment? I figured that that movie would never be shown again, anywhere.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 7:38 a.m. CST

    just amazing!!!

    by Matt

    hell i was never expecting to see such cool MALROGS from MORGOTH! just great, i'm thinking of doing my own Malrog with a bunch of friends, it doesn't matter if the contest is over now, but this looks like lot of fun doing such things... The last Malrog is creepy as hell, and sure deserved to win. But i also like the Malrog made from the High School Class, and Number 3 is looks a lil' like a Harryhausen-Stop-Motion-Malrog - funny as hell! @ Harry is there any possibility to watch all the pictures from the 78 entries. Maybe you can also put them online? I'm lookin' forward to the Ringwraith Contest :)

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 7:43 a.m. CST


    by AliceInWonderlnd

    I'm glad I didn't compete. I would have been utterly humiliated. Jesus, those were amazing! I think it could be a new dawn for flaming marshmallow sculpture. I think the next competition should be for a complete blazing marshmallow Atlanta, a la "Gone With The Wind".

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 8:37 a.m. CST

    My favorite is the FUNNY one from Sweden...still laughing...

    by Cinemajerk

    Very funny contest all around. I can see how the one that won...actually won for dramatic effect...but for my money the one from Sweden is the most memorable,,,its the one I'd put on MY desktop.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 9:07 a.m. CST

    Good Form, Harry !

    by Grand Digital

    Nice competition, awesome entries. And for all those people who hate CG so much, maybe here we have an alternative for future special effects. I for one would very much like to see a Green-Jello Hulk, for example.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 9:42 a.m. CST


    by drjones

    those sculptures are all just sooooo amazing awesome hilarious and crazy... great job!! :D

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 9:42 a.m. CST

    I had forgot what a bunch of tools are fans of AICN

    by Edward Rooney

    but hey, whatever floats your boat.

  • Damn - ALL those sculpts are AWESOME ! Congratualtions to you all.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 10:17 a.m. CST

    There should be 5 awards given

    by Cinemajerk

    1) #5 should get the award for BEST wingspan construction. No other entry comes close. 2) #4 should get BEST overall full body flame effect. 3) #3 should just flat out WIN BEST laugh out loud entry. Overall its my favorite because its just so silly. The careful staging only adds to the comic effect. 4) #2 should win BEST effort. The whole production seemed like a town project and was very touching in a small town sort of way. Would make a nice little documentary. 5) #1 should win coolest closeup. congrats to all on a most absurd contest

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 10:27 a.m. CST

    They ARE all winners

    by The Handsome 12th Doctor

    It's corny to say but it's true. The one that did win was the right choice in the end, for looking so damned creepy. But will somebody please give the school one a prize too. They deserve it for the fantastic team effort involved, and (if you check out their website) the fact that they seemed to have fun doing it too. That's the spirit to have in something like this. And not only that but that false perspective photo is outstanding. Look at their site to see how tall Gandalf really is compared to the Malrog. Great work all round.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:06 a.m. CST

    the SWEDE's WERE ROBBED!!!

    by MartianManhunter

    THE SWEDE SHOULD HAVE WON FROM THAT GANDLAF DEPICTION ALONE!!!! AN OUTRAGE!!!!!!! signed, The stay puffed MArshmellow man -thanks for reading this! mm

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:06 a.m. CST

    my friend and i tried this....

    by drudgejr

    we made a foot tall balrog molded around one of those big toy soldiers they used to put out. before spraying it with lighter fluid i danced around it like mr. blonde in resevior dogs, then we lit it on fire and through it on the tyson grill. it was pretty cool, to bad MY FRIEND COULDN'T GET THE PICTURES TO LOAD ON HIS COMPUTER

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:12 a.m. CST


    by imageburn13

    ALL WRONG! We need more FLAME, more SMOKE! this is a creature of the deep, weapons are no good here, by jeebus! no all kidding aside, great job folks, their all good!

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:15 a.m. CST


    by Doc Cock

    YAWN...............Wake me up at my stop would ya!!!! What ever next, you guys need to get out more?

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:26 a.m. CST

    Damn, that last one...damn.

    by Nordling

    I halfway thought of doing this but there's no way I could have competed with these entrys. and that last one...that's almost a shame to burn. You sure that's not Photoshopped? Anyway, it was beautiful.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Possible runner-up prize?

    by the flashlight

    Hey Harry - I feel kinda bad for the high school club that came in second - maybe you could provide some kind of consolation prize, like maybe complimentary tickets to the next butt-numb-a-thon, or maybe some LOTR promotional material that comes your way? It seems a shame to not reward them with anything after 3 weeks of work. Anyway, great contest, enjoyed looking at the pictures.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 1:33 p.m. CST

    Who else gets the feeling that Harry set up this contest just so

    by NeofromtheMatrix

    I think he did.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 2 p.m. CST

    Actually looks better than WETA's Balrog

    by Moriarity Report

    I'll say again how much I loved the Gollum CGI, but the rest of the character CGI from LOTR has been just your typical CGI garbage. No thanks. Like that guy says, I'll take calymation over that. Or Marshmellow-mation, or whatever. These actually look like someone was having fun with them; the way special effects used to look. Good job fellas.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 2:50 p.m. CST

    This could be the coolest thing ever on AICN.


    This rocks so damn hard. Congratulations, Gordon!

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 3 p.m. CST

    #5 here with flame envy.

    by djinnj

    I'd like to just say. OH MY GOD!!!! The winner's is fantastic and I bow to his greatness. The one from Sweden made me laugh almost as hard as when I read about the contest. And I too think that #2 should get some sort of runner's up recognition. Oh. And, not that Harry would know from my email. But I'm not a 'he' but a 'she' (32 if it matters). Now, off to finish decorating my One Ring Cake (and wait for details on the ringwraith contest...).

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 4:41 p.m. CST

    WTF IS This!?!

    by Skanky_Tony

    LOL...this is funny as hell! Who in the world thought of this contest? I agree with the winner, very cool! BTW, Harry...thanks so much for letting the white dress raise high enough so that we may all see your Tina Turner legs :)

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 5:32 p.m. CST

    What a great contest

    by mulvaney

    Congratulation to the winner but still the high school effort should get some kind of award. Can't beleive the quality of these good job.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 6:05 p.m. CST

    re: this contest

    by AngryAsshole


  • Feb. 2, 2003, 6:20 p.m. CST

    Hah..good job all around

    by K|LLDOZER

    My father is a ceramicist/sculptor type, and now we're thinking how the effects of burnt marshmellow scars would appear once you fire the clay that had some attached. every chemical reaction produces a slightly different color once the glazes hue in. love that last sculpture, truly a work of bad this contest didn't let them preserve it.

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 7:13 p.m. CST

    WETA should hire Gordon Jones!!!

    by bmsatter

    Congrats to all entries, they are WAY better than I ever expected. As for Mr. Jones' entry...UNBELIEVABLE! If I didn't know any better, I would've thought that was a photograph from the film. The internal burning and the flaming eyes are perfect! Way to go! You are a master!

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 7:47 p.m. CST

    Henric Bolin:

    by DocPazuzu

    Klart b

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 8 p.m. CST


    by Dyscopimp

    ok, that bust of the balrog is totally sick, but to see some of the other crap they put in the top five really pissed me off, took me 3 days and 3 tries to pull off mine, u be the judge (im expecting to get flame for this but ill just take it since im pissed) check out my balrog at

  • Feb. 2, 2003, 11:22 p.m. CST

    Excellent work, except Balrogs DON'T have wings...

    by Conan_the_Humble

    only joking... Nice work guys and it's 'Maiar' Harry, not Maea. Cheers.

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 12:37 a.m. CST

    kick ass

    by Gutter-Glitter

    All of the entries kicked ass. I think the freaky fanpeople contests need to be a regular feature of visiting AICN. Think about it,The Nightcrawler look alike contest,The Terminator cookie sculpture contest, or the Matrix Ubergeek trivia challenge would all be fun.

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 4:32 a.m. CST

    Great Idea..I hope this contest thing stays!

    by TallScott

    ALthough im not sure if catching something on fire and taking a picture of it is a safe thing to do..But my inner child says COOL FIRE!! IM SO IN! Lets se more contests please now that i know this is for real..DUH! Im a dummy..after seeing this NOW im getting ideas for a flame smothered marshmellow Borlog DAMMIT..Well theres alwasy next time i hope

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 6 a.m. CST

    well done

    by vicious_bastard

    I'm a bit disappointed that no-one seriously injured themselves while playing with fire like Harry told them to. The next competition should involve playing on the railroad tracks and drinking bleach I reckon.

  • I think number 5 should have been bumped up a little. The lack of flame is a bit underwhelming, but the beast itself looks fantastic. I wholeheartedly agree about number 1 though, that is one of coolest things i've ever seen on this website.

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 12:40 p.m. CST

    Mine was the worst submission...

    by Blacket-Man

    All I did was, take an old spawn figure, dipped it in Marshmellow fluff, doused it in way to much lighter fluid and took as many pictures I could before my house went up in flames. My entry may have sucked, but it sure was helluv fun. I cannot wait for the next contest. Thanx Harry.

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 3:27 p.m. CST

    All Fantastic! Wonder if any other entrants came up with my idea

    by Pallando Blue

    Not having a digital camera I didn't go past the conceptual-design phase, BUT. My approach would have been to (1) make a giant ball of compressed/adhered marshmallows (several such balls, could take many attempts), (2) go out to a local lake or pond at pitch-black starless/moonless night, (3) light the fecker and (4) somehow launch it as high and as far as possible. (5) Capture it at just the right point in its descent, and voila! Balrog and Gandalf locked in mortal combat! What can I say, I'm lazy and decidely non-craft-y. Or at least, I'm crafty of a different sort. ;) But anyway, ALL those up there, KUDOS! Excellent! Bravo y Brava!

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 9:15 p.m. CST


    by Caerdwyn

    All great entries. VERY surprising to see someone from Flemington NJ, my hometown.

  • Feb. 3, 2003, 11:13 p.m. CST

    Not Fair

    by RingwraithsRule

    How come they won't let us set fire to marshmallow Balrogs at my school?!

  • Feb. 4, 2003, 9:30 a.m. CST

    Thank you all for your support!!!

    by bregan

    Thank you Harry for such a fun contest, and thank you all for your support of our Balrog entry (the HS group) - we had a great time & are very psyched about our #2 ranking (we bow low to Gordon's achievement). I am especially thrilled to report that Mr. Clay Harper, Tolkien Projects Director for Houghton Mifflin has generously offered to provide "consolation" prizes to the kids. I'm withholding the details for the moment so we can surprise the kids, but let me say, it's FABULOUS!!!! "There is some good in the world, Mr. Frodo..." -Sam Nam

  • Feb. 4, 2003, 3:10 p.m. CST


    by Go Dr. X

    That Swedish one is going on my desktop immediately.

  • Feb. 5, 2003, 12:12 a.m. CST

    Order hosed already ???

    by Skyway Moaters

  • Feb. 6, 2003, 2:52 a.m. CST

    I'm still lurking around the TB's,

    by Conan_the_Humble

    Since we've apparently decided to abandoned our hosed (compared to this which started hosed?) TB. Not sure which one to frequent however, maybe Elanor needs to make an executive decision and choose one as she did awhile back? Cheers.

  • Feb. 13, 2003, 10:55 p.m. CST


    by mooshka

    i go to the high school that got 2nd place. i watched the little monster dude go up in flames, and it was very amusing. though i'm not into the whole "tolkien society" thing, i thought it was pretty cool that they did it. it was kind of silly that so many of us were standing in the cold, watching a marshmallow sculpture getting melted down, though. :o)

  • July 28, 2004, 8:56 p.m. CST

    Tops WETA's CGI!

    by Fugazi32

    Only joking! :P What about Gollum next?