Hi everyone, still on Rotorua and leaving in a few hours. Yesterday (saterday) I went to Hobbiton and was very very lucky to go. First I got there and had to sign a confidentiality agreement saying I wouldn't put any photos online, or even email them to anyone. Apparently they can shut down your site or email within 12 hours and take you to court, two people tried before Christmas and lost their cases. Anyway sorry guys, if you want photos you'll have to watch the movie. Or just wait till I get home and have a look at my laptop.
The set is built on a sheep farm owned by the Alexander family and although other sets for Bag End and the Market had been found they needed a place for the party. So they were in helicopters looking for a big tree next to a lake in rolling hills, and saw the farm. When they saw it it was perfect for the whole of the outside of Hobbiton and they build 32 hobbit hole facades. The one thing that was missing was a big oak tree oabouve Bag End which Tolkein mentions and there was a bit of a swamp by the party tree so the built a fibre glass tree and suck oak leaves on it and stuck it on Bag End. The Army came in to clear the swamp. So a whole town which was going to be to together in the editing room was suddenly built in one place! All the inside scenes were filmed in Wellington so the whole set is the outdoor stuff. Its stunning, the level of detail is amazing. They bought English hedgerows and mature fruit trees from a local farmer, every hobbit hole as a different letter box and they mixed yoghurt, bacteria and paint to put on the fences, making moss and lichen just like on the surrounding trees.
Peter Jackson and the production team rented a house next to the Alexander families and the owners were give an 4 month all expenses paid holiday to anywhere in NZ during filming. Each night the films would be driven to Hamilton, the nearest big town, flown to Wellington, edited, and flown back by 7 in the morning when Peter would decide if they would re-shoot or move onto the next scene.
I was lucky because after filming was completed they had to destroy all outdoor sets and re-plant any damaged grass/plants. Any place you go anywhere in New Zealand all you will see in untouched land scape, and all the other tours can show you is where the filming took place. So they began with burning the Green Dragon and market, you can see it in the movie in the bit where Frodo and Galadriel look into the water and see the Shire burning, that really happened! They got about half way through demolition when the weather turned bad, and asked for 6 months grace as it was to dangerous to continue. The Alexander family allowed it, and after chatting with the neighbours someone came up with the idea of doing the tour. Then back in 2009 when they began preparing for the Hobbit they re-built the set exactly as it was and allowed the tours to continue but under the condition that all photos remain confidential. They have also added 5 new hobbit holes to the set and guess what... my battery died! i replaced and guess what... that one was flat!! I couldn't even ask someone to email me a photo as that wasn't allowed. It was only on the bus back that I thought of asking to put my memory card in someones camera but oh well, I'll see them in the new film, and probably won't know which one is which. Filming was supposed to start there on 14th of Feb but due to a few delays it won't happen till the end of the year. So I was lucky to see firstly the re-vamped set, as it was for the movie plus 5 new holes, and that filming hadn't started so I could see it this month!!!
After the tour we were taken the the sheep shed and watched a sheep getting shorn, then got to feed some lambs. Not a single lamb was in the movie as they are white with white faces. Instead they were all hidden and some Suffolk 'stunt sheep' with black faces were brought in as they looked more English. After all Hobbiton is supposed to be the English country side.
In the afternoon I went to the Rotorua museum, which was in Government House. It was build sometime in the 1900's as a spa to compete with the European bath houses and the architecture was Elizabethan style. They even got and Australian sculptor, educated in Italy, to do lots of Neo-Classical marble sculptures (like Michelangelo's David). However it didn't really attract that many tourists , it seemed along way to come from Europe just to have a bath. The spa was fed from two pools, Priest's water was Acidic and prescribed for certain ailments, and Rachel's water was alkali and prescribed for others. There were massive maintainance problems however. They hydrogen sulphide in the priest's water formed acid rain (sort of, just general acid in the air) and not only did the marble sculptures turn brown but it caused all sorts of other problems. There was a lot of silica in Rachel's water and that would clog the pipes up. So in the 1960's the spa was shut down and after many years it re-opened as a museum.
Just had a lie in this morning, I feel I should have gone white water rafting but I'm not really to bother about that. I'm in McDonald's using the free wi-fi again and off to Taupo soon. So we'll see what happens there!