Finally!  After countless delays and production issues, production has begun on the two 3D “Lord of the Rings” prequels in New Zealand.

The cast of Peter Jackson‘s two new epic films had its first script read-through at Jackson’s Stone Studios on Thursday, sitting inside the set of Bilbo Baggins’ house.

Ian McKellen has blogged that having Jackson and co-screenwriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens inviting feedback on the script “is as close to bliss as an actor can get.”

New Line and MGM are co-producing these two new Tolkien movies, which are rumors to be called “The Hobbit: There and Back Again” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, with financing from Warner Bros.

The new plot synopsis is as follows:

“The Hobbit” follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins, who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor, which was long ago conquered by the dragon Smaug. Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey, Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakensheild. Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers.

Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever … Gollum.

Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.

The two new Hobbit films are due to be released in late 2012 and 2013.