Since the filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy, Hobbiton has become New Zealand’s biggest tourist attraction. The hyper realistic movie set designed by Sir Peter Jackson’s production team makes travelers feel like they’re in the heart of Middle Earth. Walking the streets of Hobbiton, you almost expect to see Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and Frodo and his gang of mischievous and playful hobbits.
The attention to detail in Hobbiton is truly spectacular and, thanks to Hobbiton Tours, anyone can experience the magic. Here are 10 fascinating facts about what went into turning the Shire from fiction to reality.
1. Hobbiton is located on an operating farm
In 1998, a team of location scouts working for Sir Peter Jackson took an aerial tour of New Zealand. They were searching for a tall tree near a pond that would be similar to the Party Tree described in The Lord of the Rings books. The rolling hills made for perfect hobbit holes, and the whimsical trees of The Alexander Farm near the farming community of Matamata matched the aesthetic they were looking for.
The family operating the farm didn’t know who Sir Peter Jackson was, and they had never heard of The Lord of the Rings books, but they agreed. Little did they know that it would make their farm a destination for Lord of the Rings fans around the world!
2. Are you sheep enough?
Even though the Alexander Farm had roughly 13,500 sheep, Peter Jackson didn't think they looked like classic sheep and decided not to use them for filming. He preferred the dark faces and legs of the Suffolk sheep and used that breed instead.
3. A tale of two Hobbitons
Hobbiton by night — Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand
The original Shire, constructed of polystyrene and plywood, was torn down after the completion of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was never meant to be a permanent set. But when they began rebuilding Hobbiton for The Hobbit movies in 2010, they decided to make the homes more permanent. Using concrete, wood and bricks, it took 70 set builders to complete.
4. Hobbiton is a large village for small people
The current Hobbiton now stretches over 4.8 hectares and has 44 hobbit holes. Most of them are just facades, but there is one that tourists can explore.
5. Frogs were not quiet on the set
During production, frogs claimed the man made pond located on set as their new home. But these frogs were so loud during filming that the actors couldn’t hear one another. So it was one person's job to collect the frogs and relocate them to another pond on the farm.
The frogs aren’t even native to New Zealand. They're an introduced species from Australia called the Australian Bell Frog.
6. It’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s fake
The oak tree on the hill above Bag End is fake. The tree is made of fiberglass and its leaves are made from silk and were imported from Taiwan. The leaves were attached to the tree one-by-one and whenever they faded in the sun, someone was paid to repaint each one by hand.
7. Is it a plum, apple or pear tree?
In the first book of The Lord of the Rings series, it says that there were children were playing under plum trees. Since plum trees would be too large for the small feel of hobbit children, Jackson planted apple and pear trees instead and when the fruit began to ripen, all apples and pears were replaced by fake plums.
Don’t remember the scene? It’s because after all that work and attention to detail, the scene ultimately got cut out of the final version of the film.
8. Odd jobs
Sir Peter Jackson’s attention to detail is one of the most celebrated features of his Lord of the Rings films. Along with hiring a person to relocate loud frogs, a person to repaint silk leaves on a fake oak tree, and replacing apples and pears with fake plums, Jackson also hired someone to walk in between the clotheslines to make the tracks look well-worn.
9. Dining in Hobbiton
The Green Dragon Inn was added to Hobbiton in 2012 and is a fully operational pub with food and drinks.
10. A sunset is just a sunrise in reverse
Hobbiton view from Hobbit Hole — Photo courtesy of Tourism New Zealand
There’s a scene where Bilbo and Gandalf are watching the sunset from inside Bilbo’s house. But because Bag End faces east, the crew had to get up and film sunrises and play the footage backwards. It took them 7 sunrises to get the scene just right.