About Me and My Travels

Sunday, March 13, 2022



Lord of the Rings movie set 

lord of the rings,hobitton,matamata

When the Lord of the Rings movies were released to the public in early 2000, they were an instant hit with the viewers and became the highest grossing films of all times.  The movies were based on the epic written by J.R.R. Tolkien and contained Wizards, Hobbits, long battle scenes and above all, magnificent vistas of New Zealand such as the one below.

Besides making me a fan of the series, I was captivated by the natural beauty of New Zealand and was determined to visit the country and the movie set.  The movie set is located in Matamata, which is about 70 KM from Rotorua. You can book one of the many tours on the official website at the link below. 

There are many companies in Rotorua that can take you to the site or you can drive there.

Please visit my you tube page at for a video tour of the Hobbiton. Don't forget to hit the red subscribe button on the right:

Back story of the Movie set

As with any movie production there is always a fascinating back story and here is the one regarding the Hobbiton movie set. Peter Jackson (the director) was scouting locations for the Shire and the village. His location scouts came across the Alexander Farm in Waikato region. The farm captured the description from the book of rolling hills, lush green pastures, a large tree, pond and grazing sheep. The Alexanders had not heard of Peter Jackson, so the first time that Jackson tried to talk to them about leasing his farm, he was told to go away as there a rugby match going on! Not deterred, Jackson came back and convinced the farmer to let him build the set on his land. After he had received a skeptical approval, the next big task was to build the set.

hobbiton,alexander farm,matamata
Alexander farm 

Jackson convinced the New Zealand government that the movies will bring the attention of the world on to New Zealand and that this would be good for the tourism industry of the country. He asked for government funding for the construction but was instead offered the assistance of the New Zealand army to move dirt and build the hobbit holes. Jackson repaid this favor by hiring soldiers as extras in the battle 
When the Lord of the Rings trilogy had finished filming the sets were removed as promised. However, the farmer started to get a lot of tourists visiting his farm expecting to find the Hobbiton village. This was obviously annoying but helped spark an idea that was profitable for all later.  Due to the success of the first series, Jackson received funding to film the prequel called "Hobbit". In order to film the "Hobbit" he would have to recreate the village with the hobbit holes again. This time he went back to the farmer and struck a deal with him that paid off big time for both. Jackson would now build more permanent structures in the Hobbiton and when the filming was done, they would open up the village up as a tourist destination. This partnership has worked well for everyone. The maintenance of the park is well funded by ticket sales. a Win-Win for all including the tourists. 

The Village Tour

You begin the tour at the main tour gateway a few miles away from the actual site. This is where you can buy tickets, get some snacks, and of course walk through the "gift" shop. From the gateway you are bussed in by the "Hobbiton" crew. They give you the detailed narrative of how and why the farm was selected and used for the movies shoot. There is no doubt that the local economy got a big boost because of this tourist destination. 

 Once you arrive at Hobbiton, t
he guides walk you down to the village to begin the tour. You are given a very detailed description on how the village was cleverly designed and constructed. The hobbits were little people whereas Gandalf was very tall. To tackle the problem of scaling without having to rely on CGI all the time, some of the Hobbit holes were scaled down while the others were the normal size

The Hobbit holes are very distinctive in their design, being based on rabbit holes. They were first constructed out of plywood and styro-foam but then changed to more permanent structures. The level of detail in the landscaping and design is remarkable. The gardens have flowers, weeds, furniture, fruit trees and other plantings  to give the impression that they are actually real. Sheep were brought in for grazing on the slopes. 

Normal sized Hobbit house
Small scale  Hobbit house 

Here you can see how the scaling was was used to film shots between Hobbits and Gandalf. 

The design of the homes was done with meticulous care to give you the illusion that it was being lived in. Minute details like toys were strewn in the front yard as if some children had just played there.  

The tour path takes you by the the house that belonged to Bilbo Baggins who is the main  character of the "Hobbit" series. The oak tree just above this house is entirely artificial. The trunk and branches are fiberglass and the leaves made of hand painted silk. The thousands of leaves were installed manually and if  they lost color,  the leaves are  repainted again by hand. 

House of Bilbo Baggins

Washing prop

This prop of the washing is an example of the kind of detail that the designers included in the set. 

Smoke from fake Chimney
There are chimneys that have smoke billowing out of them to make it look like there is someone living in the hobbit hole. 

Carpenter's home

This photo depicts a carpenter's house. The tools including some of the wood shavings give you the illusion that the occupant is working on something and just went inside for a drink. This is another example of how the set was made to look like a lived-in authentic village

Apple tree 

As described above these fruit trees were planted as part of the set.  As you wind your way through the village you get an idea of what an enormous task it is to maintain the place, especially as throngs of tourists go through it seven days a week. To do this there is a crew of multiple trades maintaining the village. These range from gardeners, carpenters, electricians etc. They are unobtrusive but can be observed doing their daily chores. Making this village look clean, lived in is a full-time job for them and they love it. 

At the center of the village is the "Party " tree which is a real tree unlike the Oak. This is the tree where the party was held for Bilbo Baggins farewell ceremony. 

In the movie the tree was lit up by lanterns and there was a lot of partying that took place that night. 

The tour path is designed to take you down to the Green Dragon inn where you can buy some green Ale. If you take the evening banquet tour, you are given a guided tour along with a feast. The village is lit up at night and is quite a sight to see. 

Green Dragon Inn 
Enjoy the green Ale in the Inn

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog and hope that it motivates you to visit the place

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