After leaving Waitomo on September 27, being a big fan of the Lord of the Rings, Lauren dragged me to the Hobbiton village movie set (satellite view) where we saw Bilbo's home (Bag Eng), Sam's home, the Green Dragon inn, and the pond. The guide had lots of trivia, here is what I remember:
- Tourists sometimes think the village is real and the hobbit holes are historical New Zealander dwellings, so the guide had to explicitly state that everything is built just for a movie.
- Some hobbit holes are built at 90% scale, others at 40% scale; to make you look like either a hobbit or wizard, respectively, when standing in front of them.
- The oak tree above Bag End, as seen in The Hobbit film series, is likely the most expensive movie prop ever built. It is built from metal frame segments, covered in silicone, and made to look exactly like the same (real) tree seen in The Lord of the Rings (except a bit smaller because The Hobbit story takes place 60 years before The Lord of The Rings). For the leaves, they manufactured and imported 20,000 (or 200,000?) from Taiwan, each hand-painted, and hand-glued to the tree. But the paint on the leaves faded under the sun, so Peter Jackson, a detailed man, hired a woman to spend 15 hours per day re-painting each and every leaf in a slightly darker shade of green.
- Since the village faces east, they filmed a sunrise and played it in reverse to simulate a sunset in a scene where Bilbo and Gandalf make smoke rings in "The Fellowship of the Ring". However, birds flying in the distance were accidentally included in the shot and are seen flying backwards. (Note: I checked a copy of the movie that I personally encoded from my Blu-ray disc to H.264/720p/1.5Mbps but I could not see the birds —maybe they are visible on the Blu-ray original.)
- In the party scene where Bilbo makes a birthday speech, a lot of the actors dancing are kids. In order to keep them full of energy until 1 am, they gave them unlimited amounts of sugary drinks.
|The pathway that Gandalf and Frodo take when Galdalf arrives in a cart in LOTR 1.|
|The aforementioned fake oak tree.|
|Outside the Green Dragon pub.|
|Scene from The Hobbit 1, at 9'48".|
|Our comparison shot, taken about 10 m / 30 ft in front of where the camera was for the movie.|
We visited the Tamaki Māori Village, where we learned about the culture, lifestyle, and customs of the Māori people of New Zealand. We even tried out doing some dancing (Lauren) and war training games (Marc). They performed the Haka, demonstrated the use of weapons, and cooked chicken, lamb, and potatoes in a hāngi (for us to eat), which is a traditional Māori method of cooking where food and heated rocks are buried in a pit oven. We did not know it at the time, but that village is actually not an original village site, just a model of a traditional village. It was okay, but mostly felt like a show/performance, to be honest.
|The women were fierce.|
|It really looks like the houses are on fire, but it is all steam.|
|The only way to own a house in this village is to inherit it, or marry into a family of the community.|
|Community thermal baths.|
|Geysers in the background.|
|Very well maintained facilities.|
|Falcon is not amused.|
|They are very food motivated.|
|Shaheena Tetsuko on the new NZ$20 bill.|
|The sulfur water reminded Lauren of the Dead Marshes of LOTR. Do not follow the lights!|
And since we stumbled upon a very small fair with an inflatable obstacle course, we concluded the day with 2 races through it between Lauren and I. She was more agile and won both times :)
Next stop: Taupo!