CATEGORIES Features
This past weekend, news broke that Guillermo del Toro, the visionary mastermind behind 'Pan's Labyrinth' and the 'Hellboy' series, had backed out of directing 'The Hobbit,' citing production delays.

Fans have been anxiously awaiting a faithful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to his epic 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy for years. While del Toro will remain onboard -- as a co-screenwriter -- the search for a new director must be undertaken by the film's producer, Peter Jackson.

Del Toro seemed to be a perfect fit; he matches Jackson's enthusiasm for the fantastic and, like the New Zealand-born director, he brings a unique creative flair to each of his projects. As Jackson has no plans to direct it himself, finding a director with the same kind of heart -- and the willingness to live in Middle Earth for a three year production term -- will be a tough challenge. Moviefone has put together a list of directors we think are up to the task. This past weekend, news broke that Guillermo del Toro, the visionary mastermind behind 'Pan's Labyrinth' and the 'Hellboy' series, had backed out of directing 'The Hobbit,' citing production delays.

Fans have been anxiously awaiting a faithful adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's prequel to his epic 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy for years. While del Toro will remain onboard -- as a co-screenwriter -- the search for a new director must be undertaken by the film's producer, Peter Jackson.

Del Toro seemed to be a perfect fit; he matches Jackson's enthusiasm for the fantastic and, like the New Zealand-born director, he brings a unique creative flair to each of his projects. As Jackson has no plans to direct it himself, finding a director with the same kind of heart -- and the willingness to live in Middle Earth for a three year production term -- will be a tough challenge. Moviefone has put together a list of directors we think are up to the task.

Sam Raimi
Like Peter Jackson, Raimi got his start in low-budget, innovative horror flicks. And like Peter Jackson, he pulled off the near-unthinkable job of adapting a beloved geek property -- in his case 'Spider-Man' -- and turned it into a film juggernaut. In 2007, Raimi told EW that he would take on the job of directing 'The Hobbit,' if it was offered to him. He knows fantasy, he knows action, and he doesn't crack under pressure.

Tim Burton
You can never deny the man whose name is synonymous with modern fantasy films. Burton would absolutely bring his trademark macabre style to the first appearance of Gollum, and the menacing Smaug the dragon. He would also most likely bring his regular cast of actors onboard as well, meaning we could see Johnny Depp as a younger Gandalf, or even as Bard the Bowman. Coming off of the massive 'Alice in Wonderland,' which has quickly become one of the biggest-grossing movies of all time, has given Burton even more creative carte blanche.

Kathryn Bigelow
Let's not forget that Jackson earned an Academy Award for his directing talents on 'Return of the King.' And the toast of prestige filmmaking at the moment is Bigelow. Her work on 'The Hurt Locker' has shown her to be quite adept at documenting a band of warriors caught in the escalating heat of battle. And you shouldn't ignore her past genre work like 'Near Dark' and 'Strange Days,' as excellent showcases of creative action.

Steven Spielberg
Because he's Steven freakin' Spielberg. Beyond the simple fact that he is the godfather of popcorn adventures, the man is currently working closely with Peter Jackson on adapting the French comic 'Tintin' to the big screen. Currently in post-production, that project has given Spielberg his first involvement in Jackson's Weta Digital effects company. Jackson and Spielberg is a match made in nerd-heaven.

Terry Gilliam
One of the most singular directors of the last 30 years, Gilliam is noted for his dazzling work on films like 'Brazil' and 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.' While he is just as famous for the difficulty many of his projects have faced, if you've ever seen 'Time Bandits,' you know Gilliam is no stranger to diminutive heroes.

Brad Bird
Quite frankly, the man has never done anything wrong. 'The Iron Giant' and 'Ratatouille' are wonderful displays of storytelling and 'The Incredibles' is one of the best group adventure stories ever committed to celluloid. He might be slightly busy at the moment, getting ready to direct 'Mission Impossible IV,' his first live-action film, but it's just another example of his technical versatility.

Andrew Adamson
Adamson is not as well known as some of the other directors on this list, but you'll realize how qualified he is with one look at his directing credits: 'Shrek,' 'Shrek 2,' 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,' and 'Prince Caspian.' The man is more than familiar with sweeping adventure in magical worlds. And furthermore, he is a New Zealand-native, so signing onto 'The Hobbit' wouldn't even require a move to the other side of the world.

Neill Blomkamp
Having just broke through with 'District 9,' Blomkamp has become one of the most exciting new voices in fantasy and science fiction. Jackson has been a huge fan of Blomkamp's work, having produced 'District 9' and hiring Blomkamp to direct the big-screen adaptation of the 'Halo' video-game franchise. Jackson clearly trusts the young director and his talented abilities.

Chris Sanders & Dean DeBois
The directing duo are behind the surprise hit of the year: DreamWorks' 'How to Train Your Dragon.' Audiences have flocked to their colorful and heart-warming medieval adventure, and the two have shown a remarkable display of dedication to character and story, no matter how big their movie projects may get.

Alfonso Cuaron
With Guillermo del Toro, they make up two-thirds of the Cha Cha Cha Films production company. One of the most innovative directors working in any country, the man is responsible for lavish adaptations of works like 'Great Expectations' and 'A Little Princess.' It was his work on the 'Harry Potter' series that earned him a whole new group of fans, when his 'The Prisoner of Azkaban' went on to become one of the most well-received installments -- and some say the best -- of the beloved series