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Hobbiton: Magic in The Shire


Peter Braun

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New Zealand is home to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogy movies. Peter Jackson sought out the best place for the movies and decided on New Zealand. He really enjoyed the Alexander sheep farm where he had a vision for The Shire, home of the hobbits, to be built and filmed. What a place it is! The tour took me around the Shire explaining parts of the filming, locating, and tour process. Below is some of the history and information I was told. 

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Located in Matamata, Hobbiton as it is now referred to, the Shire was built. For the Lord of the Rings (LOTR)  and The Hobbit trilogy movies the Shire has a small role and is used little. Since LOTR was filmed first the set was made up mostly of cheap material. As I was told on the tour today, after filming the scenes the crew started to take it down. However the rain came forcing them out. They would try to be back during the dry season, many months later. During that time the family was having some questions about seeing the hobbit holes. So they decided to try to get the contract with the filming company to allow for some tours. This worked, but the holes were only temporary. 

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With the success of LOTR, Peter Jackson decided to make the Hobbit into three parts. With this new filming the Alexander family had some stipulations, the set must be remade to be permanent. Jackson agreed and Hobbiton is 100% true to the films.

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The set is located within the sheep farm and the Alexander family does not want anything changed so the drive in on the tour bus is through roads with sheep wandering around. Even the gates are still just metal and chains. Not even an automatic gate at the entrance. The vegetable patches are kept up by gardeners and the place is fully irrigated. This would be a cool place to work. 

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As you will see in the pictures a problem with the hobbit holes being so small is that people are much taller than them. To keep the image of small, but normal proportion, actors of heights 5'2" or smaller were cast. Only Frodo, Elijah Woods, was taller at 5'4". Perspective was a huge part of the movies to make someone like Gandalf look much taller than the hobbits. We got to see a little of that today. 

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The hobbit holes are really cool, but most have not insides and the ones that do have only a few feet inside. Still cool to walk into a hobbit hole. The same goes for the windows and the chimneys. There were a lot of people at Hobbiton today, but it was still a magical place.

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A really interesting fact I learned today is that the tree above Bilbo Baggins house is fake. In the LOTR films a tree was brought in piece by piece and had all of the leaves removed. Then 200,000 fake oak leaves were brought in and tied on to make the tree look real. At the completion of LOTR the tree was removed and destroyed. So for the Hobbit a new tree was erected. This one completely fake, but very sturdy. As the Hobbit takes place some 60 years before LOTR the tree was made smaller and more juvenile looking. Again 250,000 leaves were brought into make the tree look real. This time the Peter Jackson got sick just before shooting so it was postponed eight months. When they got back with two weeks till filming it was noticed that the leaves had faded, so workers had to paint each leaf individually to get the proper look. The things done to get a perfect piece of art. 

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The final stop was the Green Dragon Inn. The local pub for the Hobbits and our final event. In one scene in LOTR Frodo see the Shire being burnt down. The Green Dragon Inn actually was burnt down. So for the Hobbit movies an new one was created with it being a fully functional pub. Here everyone on the tour gets a free drink of their choice. I got ginger beer, kinda like a root beer or birch beer, but really good. I thought it was amazing. Another cool fact is that the Green Dragon Inn "sells" the most beer out of any place in New Zealand. 

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I just loved this place. Watching the movies and then starting the books made me want to see what this place looked like. When I first got to the Shire I thought, "this is a place I could actually see people living." I half expected to see someone come out of a hole. Maybe in the future they should carve out  few more holes that are complete for living and allow nightly stays in a hobbit hole. That would be cool.

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This was a great way to end the trip to Auckland. Just a day and morning till I get on a plane bound for the States. For the day I drove 343.3km (213.3 miles) making my full trip 3273km (2033.7 miles). What a trip this was. Hopefully I get to go it again. 

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Great report Peter. You should have a very good plane ride home as you have seen so much and done so much in a short time and thanks to these blogs shared it with all of us.

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