UPDATE: Del Toro confirms The Hobbit delay, quits project altogether
From Coming Soon: Today at a press conference for Splice, the upcoming sci-fi thriller he co-produced, Guillermo Del Toro fielded questions about The Hobbit. The news isn't good: The eagerly-anticipated prequel to The Lord Of The Rings is apparently trapped in limbo for the time being, due mainly to MGM's financial woes. Says Del Toro, "It's not greenlit… We've been caught in a very tangled negotiation... There cannot be any start dates until the MGM situation gets resolved. They do hold a considerable portion of the rights."
Also, rumors about the film being shot in 3-D are unfounded at this point, with Del Toro stating that that possibility has come up only once in meetings. Still, Del Toro sounded confident, saying that MGM may sell off some of the rights to the film to keep it moving forward, adding, "We have designed all the creatures. We've designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned battles sequences.... We are very, very prepared for when it is finally triggered."
UPDATE: Three days after confirming some of The Hobbit's production delays, Guillermo Del Toro has officially quit the two-film project. As AP reports, the director told a Lord Of The Rings fansite, "In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming The Hobbit, I am faced with the hardest decision of my life. After nearly two years of living, breathing, and designing a world as rich as Tolkien's Middle Earth, I must, with great regret, take leave from helming these wonderful pictures."
According to executive producer and TLOTR director Peter Jackson, the search for a replacement on The Hobbit will begin immediately, and Del Toro will remain on board as a co-screenwriter. Adds Jackson, "We feel very sad to see Guillermo leave The Hobbit... The bottom line is that Guillermo just didn't feel he could commit six years to living in New Zealand, exclusively making these films, when his original commitment was for three years. Guillermo is one of the most remarkable creative spirits I've ever encountered and it has been a complete joy working with him."