Ok, admittedly I am not a LOTR/Hobbit fan, and I’m not going to lie that I’ve watched all the movies just for the sake of this journal post. I know a thing or two about it though (Gandalf, hottie/Viggo Mortensen, elf/Elijah Wood… I meant Hobbit. Don’t kill me), I watched some bits and pieces because HBO religiously plays their reruns; but no, I never read the book or watched a full movie, let alone THE WHOLE TRILOGY plus The Hobbits. I would prefer to watch any Tarantino’s movie a hundred times over any other fantasy/sci-fi genres (that includes you, Harry Potter.) Can I be forgiven?
BUT, I was enthralled by the Hobbiton movie set probably just like every die hard fan of the movie. I love everything that I saw (and hear, explained by our wonderful tourguide); and mostly I was amazed particularly on the production aspects on how they built the whole set and how they came up with so many logistic tricks. The whole place itself looks like ethereal magic, even though I couldn’t relate to any scenes depicted in the movie. So let me tell you everything about it here, while it’s still vivid in my mind:
This trip was a part of the unforgettable #AirAsiaXploreNZ Familiarization trip. See Part 1: Wine and Dine at Waiheke Island here.
It was a chilly morning when we departed from Auckland heading to Hamilton countryside by car. After a picturesque two hours drive with endless lush pasture greenfields out of our windows, we finally arrived in Matamata; where Hobbiton, the world’s only living movie set is located at. Immediately after parking our car, we were transferred to the Hobbiton Private Tour van that took us to the Shire entrance, passing beautiful and peaceful sheep hills on the way.
The Hobbiton movie set is HUGE. I am talking about 5,5 hectares huge. This whole land was originally a family run farm, owned by the Alexander family. The guide told us that Peter Jackson’s crew once flew over this land while doing an aerial location scout for Lord of The Rings first trilogy. He took some photos and showed it to Mr. Jackson, who immediately fell in love with it -feeling that it looked exactly like Ancient England. Peter Jackson flew to New Zealand, negotiated and signed the deal with Alexander family… the rest is history.
I’ve looked at several #Hobbiton hashtags on Instagram (because #millenialresearch) and saw that most people take their selfies in front of the Hobbit houses (or holes) round doors. At first I thought, ‘aw it’s going to be a long queue to take a picture.’ Turned out that I didn’t have to worry about that at all! There are enough Hobbit houses for everyone to choose and take photos at, fourty four in total!
The Production crews indeed built all the houses with different scales, according to the scenes and the actors being filmed at. Gandalf stood in front of 60% scale (to make him look taller) and the hobbits were hanging around the 90% scale (to make them look smaller). But unfortunately most houses/holes are just façades, and only one that visitors can enter (there’s really nothing inside.) The houses interior in the movie was shot inside the film studio in Wellington. It still didn’t distract us from the whole experience, though.
The amount of details on the whole set is amazing, it’s like you’re really transported to an idyllic Middle Earth village (or Tolkien’s world, as most like to call it), not just inside a movie set. The whole set was built ‘only’ in two years, but they did an amazing job to make the place look like centuries years old. For instance, they ‘aged’ the wooden fences by weathering the timbers with sawdust and encourage moss growing with vinegar and yogurt mixture. The moss grew in two weeks. That’s some awesome propmaking tips right there that Melvin would love. The oak tree on top of Bag’s End was fully made from fibre with artificial leaves imported from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree -this is the only artificial tree inside the whole set. All of this for some prop that would be onscreen for a mere twenty seconds, yet the whole visual authenticity feels so powerful you can see why they did all of that effort.
Peter Jackson chose this land because of its rolling hills and lush greenfield, and he couldn’t choose a better place. The green meadow, stone walls covered with ivy, dewy grass, crisp fresh air, colorful flowers sprouting everywhere; the hills and garden look so alive and thriving. I didn’t want to leave.
There were drizzles of rain during our whole tour (2 hours) but it didn’t take away the fun. We made a brief stop in Green Dragon village’s inn, which is basically a cute pub house serving delicious cider, ale and ginger beer inside.
We wrapped up our lovely Shire Journey with a lunch feast inside The Party Marquee dining room tent. When I said feast I meant it, the hobbits (or staff… I’m lacking imagination) surely know how to hold a luncheon. We had a delicious, tummy-filling lunch inside the vibrant tent, with colorful lanterns and table decoration adding festive magic to the moment. And oh, they got rice (!) along with delicious meatballs, chicken drumsticks, baked fish, roast beef, pasta, potatoes, salad, sliced cakes and coffee. Am I making you hungry yet?
All in all, the Hobbiton Movie set experience will fascinate you even though you’re not a LOTR fan. But I can tell you one thing for sure, like me after visiting this place, you’ll have some movie marathon on your hands (you know… just to point at the scenes and yelled “I was here!”)
Hobbiton Movie Set Tours
501 Buckland Road, Hinuera, Matamata, Hamilton – Waikato, 3472, New Zealand.
Distance from Matamata = 20km; Hamilton = 43km; Rotorua = 74km; Auckland = 180km