New Zealand is a beautiful country. But being a Tolkien nerd means that there are unique aspects of it that I get to appreciate like the film locations and studios. Over the past few years I’ve been to a number of these locations and have taken loads of pictures. This new article series will serve to share these locations with all of you since I know many of you enjoy the films or at the least appreciate the beauty of these areas.
I figured I’d go through my pictures chronologically, so in this first article I’m featuring pictures from my first trip to New Zealand in July 2010. For my birthday I got to go to the Hobbiton film set in Matamata, New Zealand. I was expecting to see a lush hillside with some white plywood fronts, like this:
You can imagine my excitement when we were picked up by the tour van and handed NDA notices.
Don’t worry, the Confidentiality Agreement is over and I am allowed to post this. At the time Guillermo Del Toro was still in control of The Hobbit and production had merely been “stalled”. So to find out that I would be getting to see the Hobbiton set as it was being built was mind blowing. The set itself is in the middle of a sheep farmer’s land. The countryside is astounding:
Let me just point out that that July is the middle of winter in New Zealand. Coming from Chicago where winter means grey and white snow and dead trees this was amazing. As we drove through the farm’s dirt roads we began to see signs of construction: wood, bags of sand, port-a-potties. Not the prettiest introduction to the Shire, but I didn’t care. The prospect of being able to witness the construction of the set was making my heart pound with excitement.
The tour guide finally parked the van and we got out. She lead us down a muddy trail gouged by tire marks. I could hear the slamming and pounding that signalled construction in the background. And then I saw it. My first glimpse of the Shire. I am not ashamed to admit I was feeling a little emotional at this point.
Some of the white plywood fronts were still in place but now they were labeled with numbers.
Other hobbit holes were in a much more finished state.
Bag End was under intense construction and was missing its signature oak tree above.
And the Green Dragon was only just breaking ground.
After the tour I just couldn’t stop smiling. To visit what was, for all intents and purposes, the Shire was overwhelming. I thought I wouldn’t be able to top it but luckily a few months later I did. In the next part of this series I’ll be showing pictures of the same set a few months later where you can see some great progress on the set.