Hobbiton gets ready for world's hob-nobbers

00:53, Nov 28 2012
HERE'S TO JRR: From left, Marcia Vosper, who played a hobbit in The Fellowship of the Ring, Russell Alexander of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours, The Hobbit art director Brian Massey, and Sue Whiting, manager of Matamata i-Site, toast what Tolkien’s stories have done for Matamata inside the new i-Site building.

Brian Massey began working on The Hobbit trilogy years before the cameras started to roll, but even the trilogy's art director doesn't know what will appear on screen at tonight's world premiere in Wellington.

Mr Massey, who had a hand in restoring the Hobbiton movie set on the Alexander family farm near Matamata for The

Lord of the Rings prequels, will see his work on the big screen for the first time at The Embassy Theatre in Wellington tonight.

''It's always hard to know what to expect, because you know what's been shot but not what's been put in,'' Mr Massey said.

''My job is to take the work of the conceptual artist and make the set look that way,''  Mr Massey said. ''My job is all about look. I am a cog in the wheel.''

Not only did Mr Massey have to make the set look like the conceptual art from established fantasy artist John Howe, he also had to match the look of the location in the first and last


The Lord of the Rings films The Fellowship of the Ring and The Return of the King while taking into account five extra hobbit holes added to give the location more scale.

''It's always hard to recreate something,'' he said. ''The first time you have a certain amount of leeway.''

One of the biggest challenges was getting permanent building materials, such as brick, stone and wood, to look like the temporary moulded polystyrene used to build Hobbiton for

The Lord of the Rings when Mr Massey was in charge of landscaping.

The work was done by a mixture of builders from the film industry and local tradesmen and women.

One of the tricks, in aging the timber frames to look like old English architecture, was painting them with a vinegar solution.

''The Hobbit, in the books, is set 60 years before The Lord of the Rings but the main things need to be in the right place,'' Mr Massey said.

He will be in the right place tonight alongside Russell Alexander, managing director of the Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.

''I have never been to a world premiere before,'' Mr Alexander said. ''It's a whole new experience for us, we're going on an unexpected journey. It's an absolute privilege.''

Tourist numbers to Matamata are expected to double to 400,000 people per year in the wake of the first part of The Hobbit, as they did following the release of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, having been about 50,000 prior to The Lord of the Rings being filmed.

After tonight's world premiere the world's media will be flown to Hobbiton where they will hobnob with Prime Minister John Key, Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler,

Film New Zealand chief executive Gisella Carrr and Mr Alexander for the official opening of The Green Dragon pub where hobbits put their hairy feet up for a quiet brew.Tourists on the movie set tours, after this week, will be treated to a craft beer in the Green Dragon.

For Marcia Vosper, of Matamata, this week's festivities are a reminder of the four days and one night she spent parting as a hobbit at Hobbiton with fellow extras in 1999 for The Fellowship of the Ring.

''The party scene, all that food, we did a lot of drinking coffee. It was really good, '' she said.

''Elijah Wood passed me a cup of coffee while I was in make up and I didn't know who he was. I have never read The Lord of the Rings book, boring, but I did read The Hobbit. I would have loved to have come back for The Hobbit but I was on a cruise on the Panama Canal when they filmed it.''