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Archive for July, 2005

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Twelve

Ringer Celebriel just returned from an LOTR locations tour in New Zealand, this is her Day Twelve and final report: Rivendell is my very favorite location in both books and film, so I couldn’t leave Middle Earth without seeing it. It is on the Red Carpet Tour agenda, but the day we went to Stansborough, Fernside, Martinborough, Harcourt Park, and Winstone Aggregates’ Dry Creek Quarry, I think we were running behind schedule and had to get to the airport for our flight to Christchurch. Not a problem, I went there on my own after returning to Wellington from Queenstown. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Twelve

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Twelve
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Day 12
Start: Wellington
Finish: San Francisco

Film Sites Visited: Rivendell, Anduin, Rohan

Other: Final thoughts and suggestions

Rivendell

Rivendell is my very favorite location in both books and film, so I couldn’t leave Middle Earth without seeing it. It is on the Red Carpet Tour agenda, but the day we went to Stansborough, Fernside, Martinborough, Harcourt Park, and Winstone Aggregates’ Dry Creek Quarry, I think we were running behind schedule and had to get to the airport for our flight to Christchurch. Not a problem, I went there on my own after returning to Wellington from Queenstown.

The Rivendell sets were located in Kaitoke Regional Park north of Upper Hutt, about an hour north of Wellington by car. There are also a number of day tours from Wellington that go there – check tourism.net.nz for a list. (if this link does not go direcly to it, you may have to navigate through from tourism.net/nz/wellington or type in by hand). I met a group from Flat Earth Tours while I was there, and the guide very kindly shared his set map and explained exactly where the sets and support tents had been.

There are signs to get to the location, and a large sign explaining where everything was. A set map is very handy though, or use Ian Brodie’s GPS coordinates in the location guide.

Standing in front of the informational sign, directly to the left you see the tree where the Orlando Bloom publicity stills were taken, of Legolas holding his bow and notching an arrow. Right behind you as you face the information sign was the porch for the Council of Elrond. On your way out at the end of the circular path, in the open area, on your left were the dressing rooms, and on the right, Frodo’s bedroom.

It is well worth taking the time to go to Rivendell and to linger there. Even though the sets are gone, the park itself, a beautiful temperate rainforest, is Rivendell come to life. I was there in the early morning, and as the sun rose and the forest warmed, the light patterns changed and I could see steam rising as dew evaporated. It’s quiet yet alive, and it feels safe and protected by Elrond’s power. The leaves rustle in the wind and you can hear the river. It’s easy to imagine there are elves nearby.

Heading back to Wellington from Kaitoke I stopped to see two Hutt River locations near Upper Hutt, the shore where Aragorn landed after going off the cliff and was revived by Brego, and yet another spot where elven boats sailed the Anduin (in the gallery but not easy to recognize).

Final thoughts

As Sir Ian McKellen said, “Middle Earth is a real place, and it’s New Zealand.” It’s not only possible to go there, it’s possible for YOU to go there, whatever your age or wherever you live.

There are lots of options: you can do a Lord of the Rings organized tour as I did, go totally on your own, or go partly on your own and partly with local day tours. Each has tradeoffs.

Looking back, for me one key reason for going with a specialty tour like Red Carpet was their passion for and knowledge of the trilogy, the fact that they had actually worked with the Alexander family in Matamata and encouraged them not to proceed with the removal of the rest of the Hobbiton set. So in a way, they actually helped save the Shire. Others were the opportunity to meet and talk with people actually involved with the production and whose lives and work had been changed by it, and the sense of fellowship that seems to be created, almost by magic, on each tour.

“You will come as strangers to a distant land and part as a fellowship of companions who have shared a unique experience, exploring the length and breadth of the country that became Middle Earth.” So predicts the Red Carpet website (redcarpet-tours.com), yet that was my experience and that of many people I’ve heard from. The number of people repeating the tour a second, or even a third, time, and the “reunion” tours speak powerfully to that. You can’t decide to sleep late one morning or wait ‘til the light is just perfect for your shot, but that’s part of the trade-offs.

You need never feel strange about being a Ringer in New Zealand. New Zealanders are proud of their country’s accomplishment and recognize the trilogy’s influence on decisions to visit. Bruce Lahood, Vice President for USA & Canada at Tourism New Zealand, notes, “The Lord of the Rings and other successful recent films have helped position New Zealand on the world stage as a unique destination inspired by our diverse landscape, unique culture and the creativity of our people.”

Figures from the Ministry of Tourism for the two years ending in March 2005 suggest that over 21,000 visitors were directly motivated (only or main reason) by The Lord of the Rings, and they spent over $100 million dollars on their visits, or more than $26 for each of New Zealand’s 3.8 million residents.

Not surprisingly, more than 75% of those influenced by the trilogy were inspired by the landscape of Middle Earth. Richard Taylor, who largely responsible for the inhabited Middle Earth we see on screen, has described it: “There is still an innocence within the landscape, an untouched blessed feel…this environment that feels as though mankind has not yet visited it.”

Each person has different experiences and brings back different memories. My fellowship mate Robin summed it up well: “Do you remember the scenes on the Anduin, each member of the fellowship drifting in his own sea of thought and impression? The days on the bus were like that, for me. We traveled together, but we were each insulated by our own experiences, every sense wide open, gathering in, holding onto the moments, stringing them together like pearls.”

Indeed, as in the trilogy itself, the journey is about fellowship and about memory. I’ll always have the map of our journey and my location guide, signed by Ian Brodie and decorated by Daniel Reeve, my bits of charcoal from Poolburn, my photos and stories, my memories of our weather goddess Suzanne, who blew away the fog at Edoras and brought us blue skies at Hobbiton, and our “Sam,” Robin, ready with her elven rope, her pencils, her bits of chocolate, her right answers for the trivia contests, and many others.

Fellowship mate Christie will always remember Edoras: “The whole trip was magical, but especially so on that day we climbed the mountain in the mists. Part of the magic was the mists themselves, clinging to the hillsides and mountains as we journeyed from Christchurch out into the Southern Alps. Then hiking the high country sheep pastures and fording the cold wild mountain streams in order to reach Mt. Sunday….”

And for Carmen it will be about facing challenges: “if I had to choose, I would say that visiting Mt. Ruapehu on the second day is a memory I will always cherish. It was a site that I had to work for more than most given my fear of heights. Every step of the way, I was encouraged and literally given a helping-hand. Seeing what looked like an insurmountable stretch of snow and rocks, I convinced myself that I couldn’t make it. But kind words from another tour member, and yet another helping hand, made me give it a try. I am forever grateful for the kindness of our tour group. It wasn’t the only time during the two weeks that I was propelled along by their generosity and encouragement, but it was the first time I realized what a blessing it was for me to have been on this particular tour.”

What will your memory be?

Websites

Where to go for more information? A search for “Lord of the Rings” and “New Zealand” yields 307,000 hits on Google. Here are some I found interesting that give information and photos of sites, and provide a good introduction to the country:

newzealand.com

travel.discovery.com
An older site, but featuring an interactive tour narrated by Karl Urban

http://www.filmnz.com
This site has interactive version of Daniel Reeve’s map of New Zealand as Middle Earth

Others you might want to visit are:

virtualoceania.net

jasons.co.nz

theonlinetraveller.co.uk

patriotresource.com

Thanks to TORn for running this story, to the many readers who’ve written, to all the special guests who gave of their time, to our knowledgeable and courteous Oceania bus drivers, and especially to all my fellowship mates and the Red Carpet folk.

Namarie!

Questions or feedback? Email me!

Posted in Old Special Reports

Latest RINGERS News

Carlene Cordova, director of ‘Ringers: Lord of the Fans’ writes: Now that we’re a part of the official SONY family we’ll be getting a brand new website! The site should go live shortly before the release of the RINGERS DVD in November 2005. You’ll love the DVD! We’re including lots of deleted scenes, a short behind the scenes piece on how we made RINGERS, and much, much more! Please visit the new SONY teaser RINGERS Teaser site! Sign up for the newsletter while you’re there. Because it’s a new system you will need to re-register for the newsletter and the new message boards when they’re available. Last chance to buy RINGERS merchandise from the Cafe Press store. We’ll be closing it soon and opening a new and improved RINGERS online store with all new merchandise soon! [Sony’s ‘Ringers’ Site] [‘Ringers’ Store]

Posted in Old Main News

Toronto Lord of the Rings Musical News

Some names you know and some you don’t. But if the publicists and the stars have their way, it won’t stay that way for long. Mirvish Productions unveiled the cast of its much vaunted and tremendously complicated upcoming play ‘The Lord of the Rings’ on Monday. The show will incorporate not only singers, dancers and actors, but acrobats and magicians as well, all trying to bring J.R.R. Tolkien’s work to the stage. Those who’ve been lucky enough to make the grade are sure they can make you a true believer. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

New LOTR Game by EA

REDWOOD CITY, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–July 25, 2005–Electronic Arts (Nasdaq:ERTS – News) today announced that it has been granted the rights to develop games based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic literary fiction, The Lord of the Rings. Since 2001, EA has developed games based exclusively on New Line’s Academy Award winning theatrical productions of The Lord of the Rings, as depicted by Peter Jackson. The expansion of the rights allows EA to introduce players to depths of the fiction never before explored in an EA game. The company also revealed today the first details of two new games in the blockbuster The Lord of the Rings series; The Lord of the Rings(TM), The Battle for Middle-earth(TM) II and The Lord of the Rings(TM) Tactics (working title). With the new games, fans will be able to step into a world that looks like the films, but experience characters, environments and battles that have been inspired by the books. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

TV critics celebrate ‘Lost’ world

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – The critics love “Lost.” ABC’s thriller-chiller took two Television Critics Assn. honors Saturday during the TV scribes’ 21st annual ceremony at the Beverly Hilton. “Lost,” the freshman sensation that helped turn around ABC’s fortunes last season, got the TCA nod for new program and achievement. J.J. Abrams, co-creator and executive producer of “Lost,” thanked the crowd effusively in accepting the trophies. “The support you have given ‘Lost,’ we can’t really quantify,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.” [More]

Pre-Order ‘Lost – The Complete First Season’ on Amazon.com today!

Posted in Old Main News

McKellen joins row over Dickens pub

A pub immortalised by Charles Dickens as a centre of hard-drinking iniquity in his novel Our Mutual Friend is at the centre of a row over late-night opening. Police and residents who live near The Grapes, in east London’s Limehouse district, are opposing an application for the pub to stay open until 2am because of fears that it will fuel crime. The dispute, which is before the local authority, has been given added impetus by the pub’s literary credentials and by the number of celebrities who live on its street. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Eleven

Ringer Celebriel just returned from an LOTR locations tour in New Zealand, this is her Day Eleven report: Today was a free day in Queenstown. This allowed us to try a variety of local excursions on our own. Queenstown is a totally unique place. It has a population of about 11,000, a small town really, but it is the adventure capital of New Zealand. The streets are filled day and night with young people, and it seems like every shop in downtown is a place to book an adventure trip of some kind or to buy outdoor clothing or gear, if it’s not a restaurant or café. A new Starbucks was under construction. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Eleven

Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Eleven

Click here for Day 10
Click here for Day 9
Click here for Day 8
Click here for Day 7
Click here for Day 6
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Click here for Day 2
Click here for Day 1

Start: Queenstown
Finish: Queenstown

Sites: Queenstown overview, the Argonath, Gladden Fields, Rohan, journey to Minas Tirith, exit from Paths of the Dead, Corsair Ships

Today was a free day in Queenstown. This allowed us to try a variety of local excursions on our own. Queenstown is a totally unique place. It has a population of about 11,000, a small town really, but it is the adventure capital of New Zealand. The streets are filled day and night with young people, and it seems like every shop in downtown is a place to book an adventure trip of some kind or to buy outdoor clothing or gear, if it’s not a restaurant or café. A new Starbucks was under construction.

Good thing we were focused on visiting Lord of the Rings locations, otherwise how would one choose among bungy jumping, hang-gliding, skiing, snow boarding, jet boating, rafting, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding, trekking, sky diving, hot air ballooning, mountain biking, fishing, and river surfing? And that’s just what’s available in winter. There are also less strenuous pursuits such as visiting the area’s wineries, cheese and dairy operations, or sampling its more than 100 restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs. You can get a good overview of all that Queenstown has to offer at queenstown-nz.co.nz or zqn.co.nz or everythingqueenstown.com

Nomad Safaris Excursion

My morning excursion was with Nomad Safaris, on their Safari of the Rings tour. Nomad Safaris, with 14 vehicles, has the largest fleet of Land Rovers in the Southern Hemisphere and has won numerous New Zealand tourism awards. Each vehicle had a personalized license plate – mine was BILBOS, and driving around we also saw ELROND and ORCS. They have been doing Lord of the Rings safaris for four years, but have been in business for eight years prior to that. David Gatward-Ferguson, the head of Nomad Safaris, has met Peter Jackson.

We covered a lot of ground and a number of sites in our Land Rover. We re-visited Amon Hen and Ithilien outside Queenstown and the Ford of Bruinen in Arrowtown. Nomad Safaris can now drive right up Geary Lane into the Amon Hen site. In Arrowtown, they drive up the Arrow River to the site where the Ringwraiths stopped at the shores of the Ford of Bruinen.

Our guide Fran used to live in Masterton, where Peter Jackson’s new house is located. She has worked as a bus and ambulance driver and a farmer in addition top being a tour guide and safari driver. She’s nearly died three times, in a car accident, by drowning, and by electrocution. Nothing fazes her.

Fran told us an interesting story about the Ford of Bruinen site, where Arwen’s confrontation with the Ringwraiths took place. According to Fran, a section in the river is known as Arwen’s Island. Frodo’s scale double did not want to do this scene, so the 10 year old daughter of a local resident played Frodo. It’s the following scene, where Arwen conjures the flood which swept away the Ringwraiths, that was filmed at Skipper’s Canyon, on the Shotover River outside Arrowtown. We stopped for morning tea on the riverbank, where Fran unpacked a picnic basket of tea, coffee, chocolate, and a selection of cookies.

In Arrowtown, we also visited the Gladden Fields location where Isildur was attacked by orcs and went into the river. The overhanging trees on the path that curve to the left are the best reminder of the attack scene.

We continued to the access road to Coronet Peak Ski Fields lookout, driving up for a view of the Remarkables, which were used for the Misty Mountains, Mordor, and the digital background for Minas Tirith.

One of the safari highpoints was the site of the Pillars of the Argonath. This was filmed near Chard Farm on the road toward Wanaka. Look down from Chard Farm Road, and in the middle distance, where the river widens out slightly, you will see where the elven boats went through the Argonath and where the digital pillars were placed.

From our vantage point we could see across to A.J. Hackett’s original bungy site, the first commercial bungy jump in the world, opened in 1988, on the Karawarau River. We saw someone jump but couldn’t hear them from where we stood. (Orlando Bloom and other cast and crew members jumped from Nevis Highwire, another A.J. Hackett site, which is 440 feet high.)

We returned through Frankton, near the airport, and with stops for views of Queenstown, the Remarkables, and Lake Wakatipu from Goldfield Heights. This is just one of the Safaris of the Rings – there is another half day tour that covers Glenorchy and Paradise, or you can do both in a full day.

The Nomad shop in Queenstown is well worth a visit for its wide range of Lord of the Rings collectibles, including statues, books, jewelry, stamps and coins, and numerous other items. The arrows in the display case were collected at the Ithilien site at 12 Mile Delta, after the battle between Faramir’s rangers and the Haradrim. Learn more about Nomad Safaris at nomadsafaris.co.nz.

Deer Park Heights Excursion

Following a quick lunch break, I set out on my second excursion, to Deer Park Heights.

Deer Park Scenic Tours is currently the only operator able to take buses to DPH, although the park is open to the public. To reach Deer Park Heights, head out of Queenstown toward Frankton to the access road toward Kelvin Heights, crossing the Karawarau River. The tour also stops at Goldfield Heights for photos on the way. Yes, this retraces the way Nomad Safaris returned us to Queenstown.

Deer Park Heights is a nearly 2000 acre working farm which raises red deer. There are many animals in addition to the deer in the park, and we encountered them as we drove through. They include yaks, bison, Romney sheep, goats, small fallow deer and Himalayan thar. Most are quite acclimated to visitors and usually approach the van for food, especially when the food tin is rattled. Deer Park Heights was a film set as long ago as 1986, when the Walt Disney film “The Rescue” was filmed there. The prison set from this film remains at the top of the hill near the East Lookout.

Deer Park Heights is a Lord of the Rings location hunters’ paradise. Ian Brodie calls it “one giant movie set.” A significant number of scenes were filmed here, representing Rohan, travel to Minas Tirith, the exit from the Paths of the Dead, and the view of the Corsair ships, among others, in a relatively small area. The locations are well marked with signposts, and each visitor received an identifying map at the entrance. More info at thedeerpark.co.nz.

At our first stop, at the East Summit Lookout facing the Remarkables, we saw where several publicity shots of Gandalf were taken.

One easily recognizable scene filmed here is that of the Rohan refugees walking past the lake. This is the larger of two tarns (mountain lakes excavated by glaciers) on Deer Park Heights. Also filmed near this tarn were some scenes of Gandalf riding to Minas Tirith in “Fellowship” and again with Pippin in “The Return of the King.” Nearby is the mountain wall where Aragorn exited the Paths of the Dead.

If you’ve seen the Rohan rider publicity photo from The Two Towers, that scene was filmed here as well, identifiable from the small thorny bush in the lower right of the photo. It was near here that Eowyn, Aragorn, and Gimli discussed Dwarvish women, and Gimli’s horse bolted. Gimli fell to the ground at the second, smaller tarn.

The rock where Aragorn sat when Eowyn brought him the bad tasting stew is nearby, somewhat harder to recognize (see gallery). Other Rohan scenes filmed here were the Warg attack and where Legolas vaulted up on his horse The hill from which the wargs attacked slopes to the right, but was reversed in the film. The orcs themselves were filmed against a blue screen in Queenstown, riding barrels. The spot where Aragorn was dragged off the cliff is here as well (though where he landed is up on North Island, near Upper Hutt.)

From the West Summit Lookout we saw the most spectacular and obvious location: Where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli see the corsair ships sailing up the Anduin. This shot was taken looking back towards Queenstown over Lake Wakatipu.

Our guide told us that Peter Jackson owns other land in the Queenstown area, near Arthur’s Point and Gorge Road. Look for a small white house on the left, heading north from Queenstown, with a sheep paddock on the other side of the road. He owns land on both sides of the road. Apparently there is an arrangement whereby the two people presently living there can remain for the rest of their lives.

There are many, many excellent Queenstown area excursions that visit the film locations or combine a locations visit with other activities, covering Queenstown, Arrowtown, Skippers Canyon, Glenorchy, and Paradise. You can visit the sites on horseback, by jet boat, in a canoe, on a mountain bike, by 4-wheel drive, or in a helicopter. The Everything Queenstown website at everythingqueenstown.com has a full page of Lord of the Rings excursions and I am sure there are many more.

Farewell Dinner

Our Red Carpet group tour came to an end with a farewell dinner at the Skyline restaurant atop Bob’s Peak in Queenstown, which we reached by cable car gondola. From the observation deck we viewed Jupiter near occultation with the moon. Learn more about the Skyline complex at: skyline.co.nz/index.cfm.

Questions or feedback? Email me!

Tomorrow: Back to Wellington for Rivendell and Final Thoughts

Posted in Old Special Reports

Pittsburgh LOTR Symphony Report

FredO writes: I’ve attached some photos from the post-concert reception at Heinz Hall from last night’s Lord Of The Rings concert. I am the person standing next to Billy as someone to his left is holding a tee-shirt I gave him. My wife, Sue is the woman in the next picture with Billy. The first photo is of Tom who is holding a copy of “Regional Cookbook For Middle Earth.” Standing next to Tom is the author of the cookbook, Stephanie Simmons. Stephanie worked very hard with the Pittsburgh Symphony to provide a pre-concert benefit dinner. The other photo is of a local Ringer named Bonnie in her Gladriel outfit. She is accompanied by Joe and Jen. [More]

Posted in Old Main News

Pittsburgh LOTR Symphony Report

Pittsburgh LOTR Symphony Report
Click for more images

FredO writes: I’ve attached some photos from the post-concert reception at Heinz Hall from last night’s Lord Of The Rings concert. I am the person standing next to Billy as someone to his left is holding a tee-shirt I gave him. My wife, Sue is the woman in the next picture with Billy. The first photo is of Tom who is holding a copy of “Regional Cookbook For Middle Earth.” Standing next to Tom is the author of the cookbook, Stephanie Simmons. Stephanie worked very hard with the Pittsburgh Symphony to provide a pre-concert benefit dinner. The other photo is of a local Ringer named Bonnie in her Gladriel outfit. She is accompanied by Joe and Jen.

The concert was amazing last night. The orchestra was terrific and the atmosphere in the hall was electric. Billy performed “The Edge Of Night” with warmth and depth and amazing pacing and dynamics. For such a short work that song carries a lot of emotion. Billy’s voice was clear and strong and his performance was incredible. John Mauceri’s conducting was demonstrative as he lead the PSO through Howard Shore’s fantastic score. The whole night was like a big roller coaster ride. The audience insisted on 3 curtain calls and cheered, whistled and yelled.

Billy proved to be a most gracious celebrity at the post-concert reception. He signed programs, magazines, shirts and whatever else anyone brought to him. He received several beautiful gifts including a beautiful painting and a wonderful framed copy of the lyrics to “The Edge Of Night” done in calligraphy. There were people from as far away as Britain at the concert. It was so nice to meet Billy and get the chance to thank him for coming and making the concert so special. I had a tremendous time and blessed to be able to go back tonight and do it all again!

Posted in Old Special Reports

Tolkien Lecture in Houston

Houston, TX — July 23, 2005 — Tolkien expert Michael Martinez will give a special presentation at the Houston Museum of Natural Science on Tuesday, July 26 as part of their Distinguished Lecturer series. “Being Middle-earth: How Fantasy Shapes the Living World” looks at the experience of creating a modern motion picture in a world where millions of fans watch and sometimes participate in the process. The lecture is sponsored by KUHF, 88.7 FM (http://www.kuhf.org/), Houston Public Radio. [More]

Posted in Old Main News