Saturday, March 21, 2015

NZ 2: Middle Earth

I'm sure most of you already know that the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed in New Zealand. And many of you also know that Chris and I are geeks, so of course we had to check out the Middle Earth lore during our visit to New Zealand.
First up, in fact, the very first thing we did when we arrived, was visit Hobbiton. This little "village" was actually built for the Hobbit movies and was used to film the scenes of the Shire. The original Hobbiton was built to be temporary, and they actually burned some of it down for the scene where Frodo imagines the Shire being attacked. The rest the took apart and destroyed. So when it came time for the Hobbit movies, they decided to build a permanent set that people could visit once the movies were complete.
And it was adorable. Seriously so cute. It was neat to see the different sizes "houses" they built, depending on who was standing in front of them. Gandalf stood in front of the tiny houses, the hobbits stood in front of the nearly full-sized ones.
They have five gardeners that keep Hobbiton looking green and lush, but in truth, it was fall in New Zealand, so in the picture below you can see where Hobbiton ends and the real countryside begins.
Our guide told us that the party scene for Bilbo's birthday, which is about three minutes long in the movie, actually took three nights to film. They actually set it up like a party and had all the actors eating and drinking and dancing for three nights in a row. Doesn't sound like a bad gig.
Inside the Green Dragon Inn, we each got a beer that's brewed just for Hobbiton, and ordered a couple beef and ale pies. Yum! 
For some reason Smaug's head was hanging out near the pond in Hobbiton. 
Hobbiton was the only set that still exists in New Zealand. Everything else was either CG or taken down after filming. But a lot of New Zealand's natural features were also used in the movie, such as Mount Ngauruhoe (below), which was used in part to create Mount Doom. 
The Remarkables (the redish mountains in the picture below) were also used in various scenes in the movies. For some of the shots, the mountains were covered in snow, which happens throughout the year. They said last summer the Remarkables were mostly covered in snow!
The Shotover river was used for the scene where Liv Tyler's character is crossing the river with Frodo and she summons the water to wipe out the wraiths.
But since the river was too deep for the horses, they combined the shot with this other nearby river, which is much shallower and the horses could actually cross easily. (We were on a tour that drove through it!)
The river below was used when the fellowship is sailing down that river and they pass by the giant statues of the kings. (Could I be more vague? Probably not). 
The picture below was from our tour guide's photo album. He worked on the films and had some neat behind-the-scenes pictures, including this one of the actors who actually played Pippin. As you can guess, the smaller actor was used for shots where the hobbits stood next to humans or elves, so they appeared very small. 
Besides the actual film locations, just driving along the countryside often reminded us of different scenes from the movies. Much of the country has a very Middle Earth feel to it. Also, the safety video on the Air New Zealand flights was filmed by Peter Jackson, so that's pretty hilarious. You can view that video here. Enjoy "the most epic safety video ever made!"