Hobbit celebrations grow larger-than-life

By Rebecca Quilliam, Leena Tailor in Los Angeles

Richard Taylor with one of the giant great eagles created by Weta Workshop and installed at Wellington International Airport. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Richard Taylor with one of the giant great eagles created by Weta Workshop and installed at Wellington International Airport. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Hobbit fans eagerly awaiting the release of Sir Peter Jackson's second instalment of his film trilogy were treated to a few larger-than-life movie moments today.

The world premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is due to take place in Los Angeles tonight (local time).

To celebrate the film, which will premiere in New Zealand next week, the image of the movie's mythical dragon, Smaug, was revealed in Auckland today.

The 54-metre-dragon image is emblazoned on an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300 aircraft, which headed to Los Angeles from Auckland for the world event.

Air New Zealand's newly painted Hobbit-themed plane. Photo / Richard Robinson
Air New Zealand's newly painted Hobbit-themed plane. Photo / Richard Robinson

Seeing the dragon along the entire aircraft was "awe-inspiring", Sir Peter said.

"To see Smaug fly off the big screen and into the skies like this is pretty exciting.

We're proud to debut him here in New Zealand, where our team has worked so hard to bring him to life."

At Wellington Airport this morning, travellers were greeted by two enormous eagles, one of which was carrying a determined looking Gandalf.

The birds, which weigh a tonne and have a wingspan of 15 metres, hang from the ceiling and join an enormous Gollum reaching for fish.

Weta Workshop co-founder Sir Richard Taylor said the birds took about three months to build, and needed to be dismantled to get through the airport doors.

"We ultimately modelled every feather in 3D in the computer and then we milled them individually into huge plates of acrylic and then poured individual feathers with their own shafts into these moulds and in turn generated all of these feathers that you see on these creatures here."

While he would not say how much the installations cost, Sir Richard did express a desire to have a third installation in the airport for the final Hobbit film.

However, that would depend on whether the airport wanted to commission one, he said.

Weta Workshop supervisor Rob Gillies was "taken aback" at the number of people viewing the birds.

There were "butterflies" for the moment they were hung from the wires, he said.

"All the specs have been loaded to three times their capacity, so we're very sure that they're safe and they're not coming down until we say they're coming down."

Video

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Sir Peter Jackson and stars of the second Hobbit film reunited to unveil a giant, New Zealand-themed pop-up book in Beverly Hills.

"The Book of New Zealand", which is equivalent in size to almost two tennis courts, features four walk-through sets highlighting key filming locations in the trilogy's latest instalment.

The installation, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, will host the film's five-day media junket and coincides with the Los Angeles premiere.

The depicted locations include Lake Pukaki (Lake-town), Paradise (Beorn's House) and Marlborough's Pelorus River, where the movie's highly-anticipated barrel scene was filmed.

Last month, Sir Peter and several stars from the Hobbit films made appearances in a Hobbit-inspired Air New Zealand safety video.

- APNZ

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