Guillermo del Toro To Direct Hobbit

It’s finally official folks, Director Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”) has signed to direct New Line and MGM’s “The Hobbit” and its sequel.

According to Variety, the announcement came came Thursday afternoon from executive producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, New Line president Toby Emmerich, and newly named MGM chief Mary Parent.

Del Toro’s will move to New Zealand for the next four years to work with Jackson and his Wingnut and Weta production teams.

He’ll also direct the two films back to back with the sequel dealing with the 60-year period between “The Hobbit” and 2001’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring”.

The studios have not given a start date on production and don’t yet have a script. It’s widely expected that the “LOTR” scripting team of Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens will collaborate with Del Toro.

The general thought is that they will start shooting next year and release the films in late 2011 and 2012.