The year was 1998 and Peter Jackson was looking for locations for his biggest film project to date, New Line Cinema’s three-part film adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The project would require more than 150 locations and a variety of spectacular landscapes to bring the epic story of the brave little hobbits to screen. Jackson combed New Zealand’s North and South Islands to find the perfect match for mythical Middle-earth.
In some ways everything has changed, in others nothing has changed. The little piece of farmland is still a working farm, but it’s also one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist attractions and one of the most famous landscapes in the world.
Russell Alexander – General Manager of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours and unofficial Lord of the Shire – would be the first to admit that life has taken on a whole new landscape. “When they reached the place, it was immediately clear to them that they had found the perfect place. The concept artists who were with the team just sat on the lawn and started drawing and placing hobbit holes in the landscape. “
Photos: Russell Peters enjoys Yas Island before his show
An army of workers – stage builders, landscapers, and a roofer or two – spent nine months on the farm in 1999 preparing the film set. After filming on the Lord of the Rings trilogy was completed, the original set was dismantled, but the setting became a popular tourist attraction. The fact that these significant artifacts left over from the filming attracted such an audience is testament to the universal appeal of these incredibly popular films.
The set was remodeled for the Hobbit trilogy in 2011 – this time in durable materials, complete with hobbit holes, gardens, bridge and mill, and is now operated by the Alexander family in collaboration with Sir Peter Jackson. In 2012, with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the Green Dragon Inn, the perfect pit stop for a little hobbit featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, has been recreated on the site.
More than a decade later, the Hobbiton Movie Set has become a must-see attraction for tourists, attracting over 350,000 visitors annually – testament to the set’s growing popularity and interest Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies.