For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit the Hobbiton set (like me!), you know how magical it is to wander among the well-tended gardens and Hobbit-home facades, to rest in the shade of the magnificent party tree, and to enjoy a pint at the Green Dragon Inn. However, as most of us are aware, the Hobbiton set is surrounded by a 560 hectare (approximately 1,400 acre) working sheep and cattle farm owned and operated by the Alexander family.
Stuff.co.nz recently recounted a bit of the history of the Hobbiton and how Hobbit holes and sheep continue to coexist nicely in a quiet corner of the New Zealand countryside:
“Right alongside the tourism business is their sheep and beef operation, on probably the country’s most-visited farm. While not many of the tourists see the whole farm, the stock is still very much in the public eye, meaning Craig [Alexander] has to be strategic in where he farms stock because of the occasional gate left open by an unsuspecting tourist. Hobbiton is also ring-fenced with paddocks for stock on either side. “If we’re driving a mob of 1500-2000 ewes down the main track and there is a [tourist] bus going through that can be pretty frustrating.”
While the farm is family-owned and operated, Hobbiton is a 50/50 partnership between the family and Peter Jackson. “Today, the tourism venture has about 70 permanent staff and twice that number over the busy summer season. It’s given the Matamata district a huge boost in earnings and the region is now thriving.”
Not surprising to Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movie fans, lifestyle and travel blog, BLT, has named Hobbiton as one of its top 16 movie locations to visit. From the blog: “The gardens and crops surrounding the homely Hobbiton featured in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series were actually planted a year before the filming of the first movie. Hobbiton was built and designed with the fictional landscape described by J.R.R. Tolken in the books and the set still stands today. In fact, people travel from all over the world to take a two-hour tour of the set. Hobbiton, although originally just a movie set, is now a permanent tourist attraction.”
Other locations mentioned in the blog include Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England (Harry Potter; Downton Abby), The Hawaiian island of Kauai (Jurassic Park; Raiders of the Lost Arc) and California’s Redwood National Park (Star War’s Forest Moon of Endor). While all of them would be fun to visit, we’re partial to Hobbiton not the least of which is because it’s not just a building or a landscape to look at. As the article mentions, it’s a permanent tourist attraction in beautiful New Zealand, offering excellent guided tours, a store and a pub! What’s not to love?
Check out Hobbiton and the other top 15 movie locations to visit here, and let us know which ones you’d most like to see (after Hobbiton, of course).
A group, that displays one man with 500+ Facebook friends, has started a GoFundMe page to build a 1 to 1 scale replica “of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films.”
For American readers, if my pounds to dollars calculator is working right, that is about $2.8 billion, an ambitious amount to raise on IndieGoGo, or really any crowd funding site, or really, by any method. Still, the project would be a dream to visit and would create an economy all its own and would provide years of good media material as the world watched its progress.
“We aim to create both residential and commercial properties, allowing for sustainable growth and a high quality of life,” Jonathan Wilson says on his intro page. He also breaks down the cost, a little bit, to say, “The vast majority of this expense will cover building costs – £15m for land, £188m for labour and £1.4bn for material.”
Tourism New Zealand, 3 foot 7 productions, Warner Bros., and others bring you ‘The Book of New Zealand’ exhibit. This is an invitation only event being hosted out at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. It combines set locations, images of real world New Zealand, and a little movie magic to bring to life much of what makes New Zealand the perfect location for all things ‘Middle-earth’. Here are a few images from the event and a video of the opening greeting, please enjoy.
The Shire. Rivendell. Lothlórien. Helm’s Deep. Minas Tirith. If ever you found yourself admiring the design and scope of these remarkable sets and locations – among so many others from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – then you have been well aware of the amazing work of Grant Major. Serving as Production Designer on all three films, he was responsible for the look of everything you saw on-screen. (more…)
Welcome to the latest “Getting to know” – questions that need answering. It’s based on the old Getting to know you threads that I occasionally post on the message boards here on TORn, so those familiar with them will know that the questions can be a little crazy and the answers even crazier.
This month we’re asking questions of self-described Online guy at Weta Workshop and all round top bloke, Magnus Hjert.
Note:A photo gallery follows the text and videos, click for larger versions.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
NEW ZEALAND — During the world premiere of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” New Zealand wisely took the opportunity to show journalists from around the world (and Australia) a lot of the amazing things its island nation has to offer. TheOneRing.net was part of one of the tours and rather than regurgitate all the footage, photos and writing we gathered at once, exactly when all the other journalism outlets of the world did, we thought it would be great to disperse it and share it over the course of 2013 in the lead up to “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.”
After all, Tourism New Zealand’s motto is “New Zealand is Middle-earth” and this is true in so many ways and for much longer than just the weeks after the debut of the film. For example, above is the video made for TORn by fellow filmmaker Dan McBride who shot and edited the video tour you probably have already watched. We, and a gaggle of other media, toured the Hobbiton Movie Set and witnessed Prime Minister John Key open the new Green Dragon building accompanied by a bunch of actors who reminded us a whole lot of a company of Dwarves. (Incidentally, we had just talked to him the day before so when he showed up again, we wondered why we were being followed and what we had done wrong.)
The video speaks for itself but this remarkable property is, as far as I know, unique in all the world for its ability to transport visitors inside a book, or a movie for that matter. Being there doesn’t feel like walking on a set, rather it feels like immersion. It looks, smells, sounds and feels like one imagines Hobbiton would if you could take a magic wardrobe to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. The Hobbit holes scattered about are, more or less, as they were for filming of “The Hobbit,” movies. It seems safe to assume we will see more of The Shire in subsequent movies and in the Extended Edition on home video before the end of the year.
At the Green Dragon
Meanwhile, not far from Auckland, sits this unique and amazing tourism experience. The still functioning sheep and cattle farm where the now-permanent movie set is placed, is owned by the Alexander family, as it was when discovered for “The Lord of the Rings,” films. Their television rugby match interrupted by strangers led to parts of the family farm being among the most beloved locations in fantasy film and literature. Now visitors take tours daily, either by booking directly through the farm or through travel agents, tours or cruise ships. There are several options available, including overnight farm stays, private tours and lunch options. Matamata, as authentic a small New Zealand town as you will find, serves as a gateway to the farm, offering transportation daily and had just opened a visitor’s center when we visited.
Hamilton is also near with more accommodations and an airport. Not far from Auckland, 160 kilometers in fact, visitors can easily manage the two hour car ride. It goes without saying that driving through the countryside is spectacular as well. My dream would be to meet with TheOneRing.net staff and friends in The Green Dragon, which can be reserved for private functions. They serve food and drink and I just bet you can guess what size the ale comes in. Weddings have and will happen here. The atmosphere and the finish on the place are just as good as you hope they are. In truth, for movies fans and Tolkien fans, the entire movie set experience is simply magic.
Waitomo Caves Black Water Rafting
Some tourists will hop off the cruise ship or land in Auckland and make the farm their only stop in the region and in my opinion if you made it all the way to New Zealand and don’t see more of the region you are doing it all wrong. The tour also provided us the opportunity to visit the world famous Waitomo caves. They contain the exceptionally cool glow worms and there are different ways to experience it all, including the black water rafting experience that I couldn’t resist. Hamilton serves as a good gateway to both spots and neither is to be missed. In the gallery below I will drop in a few Waitomo photos but it is an entirely different story to be told and if there is any need to explain the importance of caves to Middle-earth, you might be at the wrong website.
The region is full of food and drink, excellent accommodations and plenty more worth-while excursions. We will tackle them all in a future story. But add the farm visit and Waitomo Caves to your bucket lists. They really are wold-class destinations not to be missed but especially not by Tolkienites.
While you are here, please enjoy other videos from the premiere. First, actors talking about rings:
And Red Carpet highlights.
A map of the New Zealand region with Auckland and Matamata.
A detailed map of where The Hobbit Move Set is located near Matamata.
The door of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
Seems like a good place for a party
An average human male (Dan McBride) stands in front of a small Hobbit door.
The mill at Hobbiton Movie Set
Water at Hobbiton Movie set
They may not like boats but Hobbits have docks.
The visitor’s center in Matamata, New Zealand.
Flower at Hobbiton Movie Set
Actors look on at the opening ceremony of the Green Dragon
Still water, a view of Hobbiton Movie Set
For scale, an average sized adult (MrCere) at a Hobbit door.
A Hobbit window at Hobbiton Movie Set
Flowers and door at Hobbiton Movie Set
The interior of the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
By the lake and the mill sits the Green Dragon
The exterior of the Green Dragon
The bar at The Green Dragon
Detail of the carved green dragon in the Green Dragon
Floor plan on the wall of the Green Dragon of the Green Dragon.
Inside the Green Dragon
Door and menu at the Green Dragon
At the Green Dragon
Interior of the Green Dragon
Waitomo Caves black water rafting with glow worms.
Thanks to Ringer David H from Auckland NZ, we have this link to a wonderfully revealing and in-depth PDF from The Department of Welfare and Housing Te Tari Kaupapa Whare. The document is titled: Compliance of barriers to a bridge located on a former film set at 501 Buckland Road, Matamata. You see, the bridge made famous in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit was considered to be not complying with Clause F4 Safety from falling of the Building Code, and and as a result seemed to ultimately be required to make some adjustments to allow public use. However, after a lot of discussion, notes and analysis, you’ll see that Manager Determinations John Gardiner has reversed a previous decision and decided the bridge, in its current form, qualifies for code compliance! Hobbits of Hobbiton rejoice! The bridge will remain open! [PDF]
As we reported earlier, today is The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit day at Comic-Con 2012 (aka #HobbitCon) and LEGO® was kind enough to send us this exclusive image of a brand new ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘ Playset! The set is called ‘An Unexpected Gathering’ and features Bag End with six mini-figures. As you can see in the image above, we have Bofur holding an axe, Bombur with a sausage and knife, Dwalin wielding a really large weapon and knife, Balin with chalice, Gandalf the Grey with walking staff, and Bilbo Baggins. As you can see the set is highly detailed with greenery, vegetables and much more. From the looks of the image we’ll have a nice inside component to play with as well. Stay tuned as we report more from Comic-Con 2012! [Live Coverage]
How do you put together a grand tour of The Shire? Where do you take Ringer fans who want to see the REAL Middle-earth? Be sure to catch our innovative *LIVE WEBCAST* TORn TUESDAY — In a few minutes our delightful friends from the LOTR filming locations tour company “Red Carpet Tours” will be on via Skype from New Zealand! You can be part of the show and bring your questions to Vic & Julie James, who are busy preparing our wonderful HOBBIT MOVIE PREMIERE TOUR in late November 2012, alongside the premiere events in Wellington! You should join us in NZ too! Come join host Clifford Broadway *live* via Stickam (account “theoneringnet”) using your own Skype login or come join us via our Live Event Page with our unique Barliman’s chat embedded in the show! Tune into our webcast at 5:00pm PDT (that’s Los Angeles time folks), and just click to our Live Event page.
‘…There are Orcs, very many of them,’ he (Gandalf) said. `And some are large and evil: black Uruks of Mordor. For the moment they are hanging back, but there is something else there. A great cave-troll, I think, or more than one. There is no hope of escape that way…’
I think back on my relatively young life and can fondly recall a few events that I would consider highlights: My marriage to my beautiful wife; the birth of our daughter; TheOneRing.net Oscar Parties from 2002-2004; Finding my dream job with Sideshow; and that time I got to see 26 minutes of The Fellowship of the Ring at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001. As you can read in my original report, I was blown away by the revelation of Peter Jackson’s vision of The Lord of the Rings on the big screen, especially when it came to the infamous Mines of Moria. Sure it was different from the books, but visual execution seemed to transmit my own visions of Middle-earth and put them on the big screen. So many years later, it is now my privilege to relive some of that sequence through the ‘Mines of Moria’ LEGO® Set, now available at most retailers.
As a preface to my review, I need to remind you all that I am not a LEGO® Set expert. My first experience with LEGO® Sets in many years was building the ‘Shelob Attacks‘ set I reviewed last month. So if I get some terminology wrong, please don’t hold it against me :P.
There are a few obvious differences between the ‘Shelob Attacks’ LEGO® Set and ‘The Mines of Moria.’ First, and most obvious, is that the set is much larger and more complex. Whether it is the ‘action’ elements in the gate and right side piece, or it is adding the detailing stickers just in the right place, you will find this set takes anywhere from 3-4 hours to piece together. Let me say…that is not a bad thing! I’m quickly finding myself addicted to the enjoyment and plain old fun of LEGO® Sets again! (After the break I’ve got 84 pictures of the set!)
…the most loathly shape that he had ever beheld…Most like a spider she was, but huger than the great hunting beasts…Great horns she had, and behind her short stalk-like neck was her huge swollen body, a vast bloated bag, swaying and sagging between her legs; its great bulk was black, blotched with livid marks, but the belly underneath was pale and luminous and gave forth a stench. Her legs were bent, with great knobbed joints high above her back, and hairs that stuck out like steel spines, and at each leg’s end there was a claw…
For every Tolkien fan, the name leaps from the pages (and screen) of Middle-earth to invade a commonly held fear in our everyday life – the fear of an impossibly large, eight-legged, creepy-crawly finding us in the dark. *shiver* According to Wikipedia, it is estimated that 55% of women and 18% of men are Arachnophobic. You can count me among those with a mild fear of spiders, which basically means I have to ‘act’ the role of father/husband when it comes disposing of them. I can’t very well unleash a high-pitched scream and run away now can I…
So when I first saw the ‘Shelob Attacks’ LEGO® Set at the 2012 Toy Fare, I have to admit…I was a bit creeped out. Yes, its LEGO® blocks, but the piece is still surprisingly life-like. In fact, one of the reporters getting the sneak peek at this set could not go within 5 feet of the display. Yes, he was that Arachnophobic!
Before we get to the meat of this review, I will warn you ahead of time, that I am in no way a LEGO® Set expert. To be honest, I haven’t touched the popular construction toys for possibly 10 years, so I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to the licensed themed sets. However, I can tell you, within 1 minute of opening the box, the wonderful memories of LEGO® set building came swooping back.
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