I was never a fan of Lord of The Rings (LOTR fans please don’t hate me. Let me explain!), but coming to New Zealand meant I had to watch the trilogy. I had even more reasons to watch The Hobbit trilogy, since we were paying the Hobbiton Movie Set a visit during our road trip in the North of New Zealand during my graduation road trip in May 2016.
Throughout our road trip in the North and South, we would pull out Lord of The Rings to watch the moment we had downtime. I remember most fondly of the times we huddled together in the campervan, away from the harsh May cold, to watch Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit.
Watching The Hobbit before our actual visit to the Movie Set is highly recommended. Why bother paying to tour the Movie Set if you don’t know a clue about The Hobbit? Watching The Hobbit triology set the excitement for visiting the actual site, and we could better appreciate the hard work that went behind creating the movie set.
In September 1998, Sir Peter Jackson ‘discovered’ the Alexander farm during an aerial search for suitable film sites. Site construction started in March 1999. Filming The Lord of the Rings Trilogy commenced in 1999 and lasted for 3 months.
When the site was rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy in 2009, these structures were built out of permanent materials. The oak tree that overlooks Bag End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata. Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired on the tree. The rest of the tree was made out of steel and silicon.
39 Hobbit holes were created. The Mill and double arch bridge were built out of scaffolding, ply and polystyrene. Thatch for the roofs of The Green Dragon and The Mill were cut from rushes around the Alexander farm. Painstaking efforts have been made to recreate the entire setting of this Hobbit town, including the cups, the seats and the fireplace. Even the staff have uniforms which resemble Hobbits!
The entire reconstruction process took 2 years, yet filming The Hobbit Trilogy began in October 2011 and took only 12 days. Imagine the crazy labour that went into creating this perfect town! At its peak, 400 people were on site, including Sir Peter Jackson, Gandalf, Frodo, Sam, Bilbo Baggins and young Bilbo Baggins.
Whilst going through the walking tour, I could imagine snippets of the movie being filmed there and then. The Hobbiton Movie Set is a glorious place to be in, with its lush green grass, perfectly manicured gardens and the Hobbit holes interspersed between. Almost 100 gardeners are on site to care for the plants each day!
The one thing I have concluded from the tour was that the amount of time, effort and money put in to creating this “town” far exceeds what we imagine from watching the movie. What may be filmed for 1 second may have taken months and hundreds of people to help build. Today, the set is maintained to keep the magic of The Shire alive, and to bring in tourists (or fans) of The Lord of the Rings.
The Hobbiton tour includes walking through the Party Tree, the Party Field, Bilbo Baggins’ hobbit, Bag End, the Watermill and finally finishing at The Green Dragon (which is a cafe!), where a complimentary cider, all handcrafted and exclusive to Hobbiton Movie Set, will be served!
Tour prices start from NZD79.
Hobbiton Movie Set 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3400, New Zealand
While I still am not a LOTR convert, at least I finished watching the LOTR trilogy (whilst dozing off here and there). I can conclude that I still prefer watching The Hobbit!
What’s your favourite kind of movie?