Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Journey Through Middle Earth (Bonus)

In this section, I'll show you visits I made to scenic Lord of the Rings film locations around New Zealand.Well aren't you lucky! For Christmas, you get a whole new bonus post about my travels around New Zealand to Lord of the Rings sites. Thought it would end at the third one, didn't you, like the triology? Well NOPE because, like the movies, there's always bonus footage. This post is about my trip to the only remaining set still standing from the movies, the set of Hobbiton in Matamata, New Zealand.

The reason this set is still standing is an interesting story. They were going to take down the sets and destroy them (as per their contract with New Line Cinema), but during that time there were these huge torrential rain that halted de-construction. So the owners of the farm asked if they could wait. And during that time, they came up with the idea of turning into a tourist attraction! They petitioned the production company and the rest is history. And so, 17 of the original 37 hobbit holes remain, including Bag-End.

Let's dive right in, shall we?

Driving into the farm where they filmed Hobbiton, you're on this gravel road that Peter Jackson had to commission the New Zealand Army to build. On the left, you see a fence...but not just any fence.
Near the end where that tiny fence is, that's where Frodo moseys up to Gandalf and says, "You're late!"
Gandalf, of course, replies, "A wizard is never late Frodo Baggins. Nor is he early. He arrives precisely when he means to."
Apparently, it took them 3 hours just to get down there with all the equipment and stuff.

Next, you come up the road and you really get the sense that you're Gandalf and you're riding into Hobbiton at the beginning of the movies on that cart. Except there are no kids shouting for fireworks. And you're on foot. And you're not really Gandalf.
"Ha! But I shall pass!"

Over there (the fenced off area) is this little path where there are two stone walls on each side. I'm pretty sure that's where Gandalf rides in on his cart.

I took this picture so you could notice the big wooden boards in the background on the hill. Look closely, they're there.
This is where the new hobbit holes are going to be put up for the Hobbit movie (filmed in two parts). Peter Jackson wants to recreate everything as it was and even add some more hobbit-related stuff for the new movies!

This is a picture of an apple tree. They've already begun to plant the gardens and the trees for the movies. For the LOTR movies, they started planting in December 1999, before they even started filming!
The guide had an interesting anecdote about these trees in particular. There's this one paragraph in Return of the King where Tolkien describes little hobbits as having enjoyed the shade of the plum trees and the sweetness of their fruit. This one little innocuous line was enough for Peter Jackson to adamantly ensure that plum trees were in his Hobbiton.
The reason they're planting apple trees is because New Zealand plum trees are too tall for Hobbits (how could hobbits pick the fruit if the trees were too tall?). So, Peter Jackson has them plant apple trees (which are the right height) and puts plum tree leaves and fake plums on it. All by hand. So now you know the secret!

Next, we get to the party tree! This was the big tree and field where they held Bilbo's hundred-and-eleventh birthday! So, naturally, I did a jig:
I also wanted to through in some modern dancing in there too:
"Hobbits got them apple-bottom jeans, feet with the fur..."

Next, here's a shot with most of the hobbit holes that are still set up. That slanted fence that goes up the hill is the road up to Bag-End.
That little hobbit-hole with the chimney in the foreground? Why that's the hole where none other than Samwise Gamgee and his old Gaffer lived before Sam went off with Frodo.

Next, we'll look at the big lake. Now, one of the main reasons that Peter Jackson picked this farm was because it had a big tree right beside a lake. That, and the lush rolling hills and sparse trees made it a perfect place for Hobbiton. The street that the farm is on, Buckland street, is even the name of a region in the Shire!
If you look on the right of the photo, there's a little piece of the lake that looks like it goes into a river. That's where they constructed that bridge that Gandalf rides over in the movies.

Here's a picture of our lovely septuagenarian guide Eric (we were supposed to call him Gandalf) describe how they made all of the stones used in the Hobbiton set. Styrofoam. Kind of takes the magic away doesn't it?
"This here, dear kiddies, is a magic styrofoam block."

Do you see the little red post, far off in the distance, right behind the sheep? That's where they filmed the scene where Sam says, "If I take one more step it'll be the farthest away from home I've ever been."

This is where the hobbit hole at the very end of Return of the King used to be. At the very very end of the movies, where Sam sees off the ringbearers and then goes home to his house and you see Rosie, his wife, and then his daughter comes running up the steps. Yeah it used to be here.
"I can really see the scene...No, wait, that's a garden hose."

The tour ends with a visit to Bag-End. It's the only hobbit hole that was actually built to last. You can actually go in (the room is regular-sized) and stand around. Of course, it doesn't look anything like the movies, as that set was filmed in Wellington.
The doors and all of the windows and stuff are sitting locked up in a studio in Wellington.

Look, I'm taller than a hobbit! They're shorter than me!
"And their feet are hairy and gross too! Haha suckers!"

Here's me looking out Bilbo's window.

This is the window where Gandalf looks out his window and finds Sam eavesdropping on their conversation about the One Ring.
"I ain't been droppin' no eaves Mister Gandalf! I swear!"

Lastly, here's the view where they filmed that scene where Gandalf and Bilbo are smoking on Bilbo's doorstep (there's also a picture of the scene in the foreground).
"Whatever Gandalf, your smoke-ship doesn't impress me. I made a cloud with my smoke. Top that. It's a cumulonimbus!"

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