Central North Island - Thermal Reserve/Hobbiton
Trip Start Feb 20, 2006
55Trip End Ongoing
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Today we visited the Hobbiton village set from the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Our tour started with a drive through the Alexander family's 1250 acre working sheep farm. We had spectacular views of the Kaimai Ranges and of course numerous sheep and cattle. Our tour guide told us that back in 1998; Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema discovered the Alexander farm during an aerial search. It was the perfect place because it resembled Middle-earth as described by Tolkien. The only reason they picked Alexander's farm was the large pine tree which later became the famous "party tree"
They also approached the neighbors and offered them a 4 month paid vacation anywhere in NZ in exchange to stay in their house while filming the movie. Because a confidentiality contract was signed, the Alexander family had no idea Peter Jackson was their new neighbor. The site construction started in March 1999. Total site construction took 9 months and throughout construction and filming all activity on the site was kept under strict security.
The NZ Army was contracted to build 1.5 km of road into the site. To stay true to the book, the Oak tree overlooking Bag End was brought in from the nearby town, Matamata. Each branch was numbered and chopped, then transported and bolted together on top of Bag End
Part of the contract was to return the property to its natural state, however, after filming, the Alexander family had so many people stopping by wanting to see the hobbit holes that New Line Cinema agreed to keep them. They have been returned to there natural state but New Line Cinema still owns them and Peter Jackson owns the design to the hobbit holes.
Someone on the tour mentioned that they should have kept the structures and made a big thing out of it. But I like the fact that they didn't make it into "Disney" and as the tour guide mentioned, the Alexander family has been sheep farmers for over 30 years and that's what they do. Oh, one thing I forgot to mention, with all of the sheep, can you imagine that they brought in stunt sheep. They needed black faced sheep not cute, fluffy white ones! They also had a veterinary on site 24/7 for all of the animals: chickens, donkeys, horses. It's just overwhelming when you think of all of the work that went into this movie.
You will notice the movie set pictures and of course the Party Tree which we got to hug! We video taped the entire tour and would love to show anyone interested once we return home. It was definitely worth seeing.