In some ways, everything has changed, and in others, nothing has. The small chunk of farmland is still a working farm, but it is also one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist attractions and some of the most famous countrysides in the world.
The Hobbiton Movie Set in Newzealand is attracting over 350,000 visitors per year. It was an ‘Unexpected Journey’ that makes this set a famous Hobbiton.
In 1998 Peter Jackson was searching for locations for his biggest-ever movie project, New Line Cinema’s three-part film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The project would require more than 150 locations and a wide variety of spectacular landscapes to bring the epic story of the brave little Hobbits to the screen. Jackson scoured New Zealand’s North and South islands to find the perfect matches for the mythical Middle-earth.
Russell Alexander, General manager of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours and unofficial ‘lord of the Shire’ – would be the first to admit life has taken on a whole new landscape. “When they reached the location, it was immediately clear to them that they had found the perfect spot. The concept artists that were with the team just sat down on the grass and started drawing, placing Hobbit holes in the landscape.”
An army of workers – set builders, landscapers, and a thatcher or two – spent nine months on the farm during 1999 preparing the film set. After The Lord of the Rings Trilogy filming finished, the original set was dismantled but the setting developed into a popular tourist attraction. The fact that these significant artifacts leftover from filming commanded such an audience is a testament to the universal pull of these incredibly popular films.
The set was rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit Trilogy – this time in permanent materials, complete with Hobbit holes, gardens, bridge, and mill, and is now operated by the Alexander family in partnership with Sir Peter Jackson. In 2012, with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the Green Dragon Inn, the perfect pit stop for a pint-sized Hobbit, featured in The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies, was recreated on the site.
Here is what the stars of the film series had to say about making Middle-earth come to life in New Zealand-
Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) “This is the Middle-earth I had always pictured. How can New Zealand not bewitch anyone who visits?”
Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug and the Necromancer) “I had about a week off and I went down to Queenstown and had a fantastic time. I went sky diving, I went paragliding, I went down a luge and the Shotover Jet around the rapids and, I mean I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie so I kind of loved the great outdoors.”
Luke Evans (Bard) “A few of us – me, Jimmy Nesbitt, Dean O’Gorman – hired a house in Marlborough and went wine tasting. It was an absolutely glorious, amazing way to spend a weekend. Tasting the exquisite wine was absolutely wonderful. That’s a really great place to visit.”
New Zealand’s best Middle-earth experiences:
Tour the Official Hobbit Brewery | Hamilton – Waikato
Hobbits love their beer, so take a tour of Good George Brewery in Frankton, Hamilton. This brewer is the exclusive supplier of the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton and produces a special range of ‘Southfarthing’ ales, ciders, and ginger beers. Since pouring their first draught at the Green Dragon Inn, Good George has supplied more than 1 million liters of beer for visitors to enjoy, and in May 2021 launched their Southfarthing Celebration Ale to mark the occasion.
See the World’s Biggest Gollum | Wellington
Only in Wellington would you find a 13-meter Gollum in the heart of an international airport terminal. Located on Level 1 of the Main Terminal, the sculpture, which is suspended from the roof, shows the emaciated physique and momentary expression of glee on the face of Gollum, submerged and reaching for his favourite meal of ‘juicy sweet fishes’. The Gollum creation was designed and facilitated by Richard Taylor and Weta’s workshop supervisor Rob Gillies to create an unforgettable experience at Wellington Airport.
Accompanying Gollum is another installation showing Gandalf atop one of two Great Eagles. These impressive sculptures weigh in at one tonne each with a wingspan of 15 meters.
Jens Hansen Contemporary Gold and Silversmith – Creators of the “One Ring” | Nelson
Meet Halfdan Hansen, the son of Jens Hansen who made the rings used in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Trilogies at his jewellery store. His father Jens died in late 1999 before he was able to see his creation immortalised on screen. His sons have continued his legacy and their involvement with Peter Jackson as the “Creators of The One Ring” featuring in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. They sell replicas in store, as well as other stunning jewellery pieces.
More than a decade on, the Hobbiton Movie Set has become a must-see tourist activity, attracts visitors around the globe, and demonstrates the increasing popularity of the set and interest in The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.
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