Day 70 Hobbiton!
Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
92Trip End Dec 25, 2007
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Finding Matamata was no easy job because it is a small farming town, but luckily for us the signs all said Hobbiton
Then our tour guide came, and we were on our way. There were two other couples with us, one from Sydney and one from Germany. We went to the carparks, where the trailers and food courts were, and where Peter Jackson's TV set-up was where he could have constant, instantaneous communication with every other part of the filming. We saw all the main parts of the Shire, including the Party Tree, the lake, Hobbiton, Bag End, etc etc. There is so much crammed in such a small space. The entire Shire set was filmed on 10 acres, which is the largest green set ever used in a movie.
The entire trilogy was set in 178 locations around New Zealand, and all of the Shire was filmed on the Alexander sheep farm
Apparently there was some drama with New Line Cinema along the way, including fights about whether actors and extras were being paid fairly. In 2005 Peter Jackson filed against New Line on behalf of everyone involved, and New Line made a statement publicly that he would never work with them again. This is why The Hobbit has never been made: New Line owns the rights, not Peter. Good news, though: the rights expire in the next few years, and Peter is now working with Dreamworks studios
Liz and I took hundreds of pictures apiece, in trees and near hobbit holes and hugging the party tree. There were even ducks with ducklings in the lake. We learned how the lake was drained to water the corn fields that were planted for the movie, and how the Party Tree almost died so they had to put in a sprinkler system to water it. It's a fascinating tree because of its shape - many people think it was cut just for the movie, but it's been seven years and it has grown just like that ever since. It is very round and symmetrical, unlike most pine trees (pinus radiata, we learned), and is part of the reason PJ (Peter Jackson) chose this spot for the set. The other reason, and the main one at that, is that once over the hill into the set, nothing from the outside world can be seen and no one can see in without coming on to the set. The only man-made thing visible from the Shire was a hay shed, which simply became a tree for the movie. No problem.
Some fun facts for you all: only 17 of the original 37 hobbit holes remain. This is the only location of the 178 where there is still some set left; it was being deconstructed after the movie as were all the others (PJ put it in all of the contracts that all of the areas would be returned to their original state after filming), but it rained so hard partway through the deconstruction that they had to stop. They made arrangements to come back several months later when it was dry to clean it up, but during those several months the Alexanders got so many knocks on their door from people begging to see the set that they realized they would do well to keep it as a tourist attraction
There were 42 chimneys on those 37 houses, now there is only 1 - Sam's, because his house was said to have the tallest chimney and now to keep from obstructing the set he now just has the token chimney. New Line owns and maintains the set and the hobbit holes. New fronts are being put on them, painted white to stand out from the surroundings and make them easy to see even in rainy weather for the sake of unlucky tour groups. For us, though, the weather was beautiful, and the white paint against the oh-so-very-green landscape made for some striking pictures. Unfortunately I would not have been able to act as a hobbit in the movie: calling themselves the "chosen few," these actors were between 4 ˝ and 86 years old and ranged from 4'8'' to 5'2'' in height for women and 4'8'' to 5'6'' for men. I'm finally too tall for something. Great. Go figure.
All of the hobbit holes, even though they were never filmed extensively, had doors and windows that opened and locked, glass in the windows, working letter boxes, planter boxes, and street numbers. Bilbo lives in the biggest house in Hobbiton, Bag End, at the end of Bagshot Row in number 37
There was a group coming in behind us and I realized how nice it was that there was no one on the set when we got there as we were the first group after lunch and it was easy with our small group to get pictures with no one else in them. We were so lucky; as we were leaving and the other group got on the set it started to cloud up and look like rain. We got back just in time for our guide Leslie to pick up her next group and Liz and I had more tea and did our shopping
We grabbed KFC on the way out of town (luncheon - we had them out of order with afternoon tea in the gift shop) and maneuvered the car back out onto the highway. It was another beautiful drive and I wished I didn't have to leave this countryside, but it was a comfort to know I'd be back. The landscape is a lot like it is at home, and being in the country in New Zealand was more like coming home than anything else on this trip has been. I couldn't wait to be back here.
We barely made the drop-off, and almost forgot to fill the tank before we dropped it off. The guy who received the car from us was an American, from California, and I will admit to a bit of relief at hearing his American accent. Interesting. He asked if we needed a cab or anything but we were just going to walk back to Queen Street, so he gave us directions for a short cut (that we ended up not finding) and we headed back. We picked up our laptops and went back out for some internet; I finally had to go to an internet café to get some forms scanned to email to Australearn; I called my parents and Heather and a couple friends one more time, and then we were back on the ship. Just like that. And goodbye, New Zealand. For now.