Wednesday, April 9, 2008
A trip to Hobbiton
As many of you know, they filmed the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy entirely in New Zealand. It was another reason I was very excited about visiting this country, to see some of the scenery (although almost anywhere you go here, it looks like a location from the movie).
There are also MANY "Lord of the Rings" tours in each of the major cities around New Zealand. There are tours by bus, train, boat, plane and helicopter. The two things that they all have in common is that they are generally expensive (the more modes of transport and time you invest) and that none of them have any on the sets still intact...so, as I mentioned in the past, you're just seeing lovely scenery and told "This is where blah, blah, blah happened or was built.".
Well...except for ONE. The Hobbiton tour....
And it was supposed to be torn down when filming ended, like all the others.
There were 37 Hobbit holes/homes created (among other Hobbiton town sets built on this location) and 20 of them had already been torn down after filming ended. However, on the day that the rest of them were supposed to be demolished, New Zealand got hit with several days of rain and the crew asked the studio if they could come back in six months to do the rest, because the ground was too wet, unstable for them to use their machinery. Fortunately, for fans of the movie (and the sheep farmer that owns this land), they still remain.
After filming had stopped, the owner started noticing random groups of people who would stop by to ask permission to see the area where the movie had been shot. As surprise visits to his farm started to become a regular thing, he decided to keep the remaining hobbit holes and spent two years negotiating with New Line Cinema to turn the area into a tourist spot. A deal was worked out and 5 years later, people still arrive several times a day, 7 days a week, and are given the grand tour.
Although he owns 1,250 acres of land to work his 12,000 sheep and 300 cattle, it has been said that he makes more money per year on just the tour, than his already very successful farm. I believe it.
When you are driven back about a mile into the land, where the set is located, you can see why Peter Jackson chose this location...it looks untouched by people and beautiful no matter which direction you look.
Although New Zealand is still in the middle of a 12 year drought, it is still pretty green and lovely to stroll around.
The only hobbit hole that you can actually enter is the one, in the movie, where Bilbo Baggins and Frodo lived at the top of the hill. As you can see from the "before" shot above, they are much more....barren now (they weren't allowed to recreate the copyrighted gardens/set-front designs). But, since Peter Jackson needed shots looking out from that one, they built an inside room with space for the camera equipment and small crew to shoot out. So, of course, this is where everyone gets their picture taken (generally peeking out the door or window).
The view from inside out...is pretty nice and it does kind of give you the feeling that you could be in another world.
You can see the "Party Tree" (the area where they shot off the fireworks and had their festival at the opening of the first movie) and the lake behind it. That tree and lake is what ended up making this location THE one.
Since the book described, in great detail, this large tree by the lake in Hobbiton, Peter Jackson was determined to find a location that would be true to that. They had 3 different locations already chosen to use as parts of Hobbiton, but when the location crew found this lake and tree...then noticed the rolling hills behind them....the other sites were scrapped and it was all filmed here.
Oh....and as you probably noticed, there are a lot of sheep around (it being a working sheep farm and all).
They are kept out of the hobbit holes (well, unless someone leaves a gate open or they find a hole in the fence), but are given free access to the rest of the area. So, with 12,000 sheep around...it also means that you're gonna step in a lot of...
You can't avoid it and you're warned about it as you step off the bus at the beginning of the tour...but they have special brushes up by the entrance/exit and after a few minutes, you're all ready to board the bus and head back to the Shire's Rest for your lunch (included in the price, thankfully), a hand-washing and a last chance to buy some souvenirs before hopping back on the bus for home.
To be honest, I almost didn't take take this excursion (it was between this and a 5 hour bus ride up north to a beach area that is supposed to be nice), but in the end...I'm really glad I did.
Because, no matter how often I try to downplay to others and, especially, myself about how much of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy geek I really am...
It was really frickin' cool to be there!