The shrieks of Gollum and the soundtrack melody of The Shire filled our heads on our visit to The Hobbiton Movie Set. Located on an old family farm near Matamata, the area features 44 hobbit holes (including Bag End, residence of Bilbo and Frodo), the party tree, the water wheel, and of course The Green Dragon, home to “the only brew for the brave and true”.
While the family who owns the farm provided some tours after The Lord of the Rings films, it wasn’t until after The Hobbit films that the set became a major tourist attraction. This is because the set design for The Lord of the Rings used temporary materials and was torn down following production. Seeing an opportunity for future tourism revenue, the team behind The Hobbit was persuaded to build a permanent Hobbiton set with excavated hobbit holes, doors and frames made from real wood, and a functioning pub.
The tour guide guide pointed out the most famous hobbit holes and provided a few neat facts about the filming process. For example, in order to show the size difference between the hobbits and Gandalf, Sir Ian McKellen was filmed in front of hobbit holes built at 60% scale. The film crew had to be careful to never show hobbit holes of different sizes in the same shot. We also learned that many of the orcs were played by members of the New Zealand army, who also helped to excavate the site for set construction.
The tour finishes with a hobbit-sized mug of ale at The Green Dragon. They were quite light, but both the stout and amber ale were surprisingly tasty.