Saturday, August 15, 2009

New Zealand: Hobbiton, aka Matamata

To be blunt, there is more to say about the Hobbiton tour than there is to see. That aside, it was exactly as promised, and our guide was knowledgeable and friendly. As a bonus, preparations were underway at the site for filming of The Hobbit movie--someday soon, people will travel across the seas to get here only to be turned away because the set is closed.

Several scenes from the beginning and end of LOTR were shot here after Peter Jackson picked this site from a helicopter, mainly for the giant tree located between a pond and a gentle slope that could be transformed into Bagshot Row ...

... and Bag End:

I first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and The Hobbit, circa age thirteen, and could hardly wait until the day when the films would be made--it seemed to me pretty cinematic stuff. Rankin/Bass did a fair animated version of The Hobbit in the 1970s, but the LOTR that followed it, directed by Ralph Bakshi, was totally unsatisfactory--it was fine as far as it went, but compressed two of the three books into about two minutes. Horrible!

I knew that eventually movie magic would allow a solid film version to be made, but I was blown away by the quality and care of Jackson's effort. Each character, each scene equalled or exceeded my vision as a youngster (and as an older person who read the books more than one or two times). That New Zealand provided the backdrop for the films only increased my desire to come here someday.

The first chapter of The Hobbit is titled 'An Unexpected Party' wherein Gandalf and a bunch of dwarfs turn the staid life of a middle-aged hobbit topsy-turvy. The opening of LOTR is 'A Long-Expected Party' which uses Bilbo's eleventy-first birthday celebration to launch the adventure that follows. I have always found that quite delectable--I love to take great care, and see great care taken, in the choosing of titles.

At the end of Bilbo's long-expected party, he stands before what is known as the Party Tree, makes a speech, and slips the One Ring onto his finger. It is a dramatic exit, since the ring renders its wearer invisible. Who would have thought that thirty-odd years later, I could do the same thing?

I mentioned earlier that pre-filming work for The Hobbit is underway. Here are a few photos of that work, now that the secret is out of the bag (or Bag End):

Finally, a view looking down from Bag End at the Party Tree and across the pond:

Hobbiton is indeed a magical place:

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