20 Things to Know About New Zealand’s Hobbiton; Over 60 Images from the Film Set Turned Tourist Attraction

     January 3, 2015

hobbiton-new-zealand-slice

The Lord of the Rings films are some of my favorite of all time.  Peter Jackson and his team crafted a stunning trilogy of films that made me fall in love with Middle Earth and the work of J. R. R. Tolkien.  (I was late to the party).  While some take issue with the length of the films, I’m not one of them.  I’ve watched the extended cuts more times than I can count and would welcome even longer editions so you could imagine my excitement when Warner Bros. invited me to the set of The Hobbit when the production was filming in New Zealand a few years ago.  Besides getting to learn about the production (which you can read about here) and participate in great on-set interviews with the cast, I was able to fulfill another dream: I got to visit Hobbiton.

hobbiton-new-zealandFor those unaware, Hobbiton is a real place.  When Jackson was scouting New Zealand to find places to film The Lord of the Rings, he spotted the Alexander Farm during an aerial search of the North Island and thought it would be a perfect location for Hobbiton.  After some negotiations and a lot of work, the farm was transformed.

Almost immediately after the premiere of The Fellowship of the RingRussell Alexander, general manager of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, began showing people around.  However, since the set was never designed to last, it was a pale imitation of its current set-up.  The main reason is when Jackson decided to make The Hobbit movies, Alexander and Jackson partnered up to build a new version of Hobbiton using permanent materials designed to last and taking into account the locations popularity with tourists.  Now when you visit the location, everything looks real and you wonder if you opened a Hobbit hole, what might be lurking inside.

As you can imagine, when I got to visit Hobbiton it was fantastic not only because everything feels real, but also because no matter what direction you look in, there are no tall buildings, roads, or power lines.  You don’t see anything but green hills and tall trees.  The skyline is just white clouds floating by.

hobbiton-new-zealandThe reason for this is due to Hobbiton being located in the middle of New Zealand and off the beaten path.  As you approach the location, you’re in the middle of farmland and you’d never know this is where Peter Jackson and his team brought Middle Earth to life.

As a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies, I cannot recommend visiting Hobbiton enough.  You’ll feel transported into another time and place and as soon as the tour ends, you’ll want to start it again.

A huge thank you to everyone in New Zealand that made the trip possible and to everyone at Hobbiton for showing me around.

For more on Hobbiton, here’s 20 things to know followed by sixty pictures.  You can also visit the official website here.

Note: I visited Hobbiton when they were still building The Green Dragon Inn

  • Site construction started in March 1999 and filming commenced in December that year, continuing for three months.
  • The New Zealand Army was contracted to build 1.5 km of road into the site and the initial set development. They brought diggers, bulldozers, loaders, trucks, rollers, graders and other heavy machinery to the site.
  • The original set was built with temporary materials like 7mm ply and styrofoam.  When filming ended on the LOTR trilogy, the set was largely deconstructed and only when they started filming The Hobbit trilogy did they use more permanent materials.  The new version of Hobbiton took two years to build and they expect it to last a very long time.
  • Barberry hedges and trees were brought in and gardens were nurtured throughout winter.
  • hobbiton-new-zealandThirty-seven hobbit holes were created with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene.
  • The Mill and double arch bridge were built out of scaffolding, ply and polystyrene, then glued and painted.
  • Thatch on the pub and mill roofs was cut from rushes around the Alexander farm.
  • The oak tree overlooking Bag End was cut down and brought in from near Matamata.  Each branch was numbered and chopped, then transported and bolted together on top of Bag End (weighing 26 tons).
  • Artificial leaves were imported from Taiwan and individually wired onto the dead tree.
  • Generators were brought in to run the base camp and filming equipment.  Logistics of power, water and sewerage all had to be considered.
  • Catering was organized for up to 400 people a day, with three two-course meals required for all of the cast and crew.
  • The set was rebuilt in 2011 for the feature films The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.  It is now a permanent attraction complete with hobbit holes, gardens, bridge, Mill and The Green Dragon Inn where they serve New Zealand brewed ale.
  • Over the past two years they’ve served more than 150,000 liters of Hobbit Southfarthing and over 20,000 beef and ale pies.
  • hobbiton-new-zealandThe script required plum trees laden with plums but to get the right scale plum, trees were planted in one of the orchards and then plastic plums were wired on.
  • The lake where the mill is situated was created in 1946 by the farm owner so he could go duck shooting.
  • The area is now attracting its own wildlife, including swans and eels in the lake. The ducks that live there are not shot.
  • Hobbiton Movie Set has its own resident cat – Pickles lives on the set and is looked after by the gardeners.
  • When you stand at Bag End and look down on the Party Field you look East. However, when Gandalf and Bilbo look down on the party preparations in Fellowship of the Ring the sun is setting.
  • Bag End is the only hobbit hole with an interior (in the entranceway) – all the other hobbit holes are blank inside.
  • They’ve had 21 proposals of marriage on set since tours began.
  • Since opening over 250,000 people have visited the set.

click on any picture for high res

The first few pics are from outside Hobbiton and the gift shop

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