New Zealand, the land of dreams for moviegoers - The360 Travel

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  • Saturday, December 14, 2019

    New Zealand, the land of dreams for moviegoers

    New Zealand, the land of dreams for moviegoers

    The landscapes of New Zealand are among the most spectacular on the planet. No wonder dozens of films are filmed every year, some of which have become cult, like the Lord of the Rings. Today, thousands of moviegoers are enthusiastically visiting the hottest cinemas in the archipelago. Overview of what we can see...


    Ordinary day at Hobbiton, the most famous location in New Zealand.

    Every 10 minutes, a packed bus crosses the fields to lead visitors to the hidden gates of the Hobbit County. On the spot, the sorrowful eye would see only round colored doors among the trees. But anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings movies is being transported to the countries of Bilbo, Frodo and Sam.

    The place is enchanting, it must be confessed; every detail has been studied, until the smoke comes out of the chimneys. The magic of cinema becomes reality for the thousands of visitors, cameras in hand, who spend each year by this site located ... in the middle of nowhere.

    "The Lord of the Rings has put us on the map. Before, nobody knew that existed!"

    Tour guide, Jono Hitchcox is categorical: Peter Jackson's trilogy has drastically changed the image that the rest of the world had of New Zealand.

    Difficult to contradict him. Since 2001, year of release of the first installment of The Lord of the Rings, The Ring Community, the number of tourists who have passed through the archipelago has exploded exponentially. In the lot, many are moviegoers eager to set foot in "Middle-earth". As proof, the tourist attractions that directly or indirectly touch the world of the author J.R.R. Tolkien are still archipopular, even if the films were shot more than two decades ago.

    "The main attraction of New Zealand has always been the beauty of the landscape, and Sir Peter Jackson's films have presented these landscapes on a scale never before seen. He showed everything the country had to offer. However, there are other reasons for the increase in the number of tourists, such as the addition of new air routes and lower gas costs, "explains Rebecca Ingram, who worked for many years at the tourist board. and is now the new Executive Director of Government Relations in New Zealand.

    Best of all, New Zealand's film industry is on a roll, and every year many famous filmmakers come to shoot one or more scenes. With the films that are multiplying, the cinema-savvy travelers have constantly new places of filming to visit...

    "The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies have shown the credibility and creativity of New Zealand film crews and post-production crews. Today, the film industry is doing very well, for both international and local productions, "says Catherine Bates, head of international filming at the New Zealand Film Commission.

    "One of our advantages is the small size of the country. The filming sites are very accessible and often not far away. Many are concentrated around Queenstown, while pre-production and post-production work is mostly done in Wellington."

    It is not for nothing that the capital of the country has received a new nickname: Southern Hollywood...

    Four activities for cinephiles

    Hobbiton

    Of all the film sets of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, only The Shire is still standing. The colorful doors of the hobbit holes, the gardens, the green alleys, everything is there. The trees are in bloom or loaded with fruit, the kitchen garden is crumbling under the (real) vegetables, the (fake) clothes dry on clotheslines. Every day, hundreds of people line up to participate in guided tours of this beautiful scenery and take trillions of photos.

    To this end, we must thank the Alexander family, who raised their livestock on hilly terrain near Matamata, on the North Island, when Peter Jackson knocked on his door. It was here that he had found all the tranquility and greenery necessary to plant his county.

    For the filming of Lord of the Rings movies, the set was made of temporary materials, such as styrofoam. It did not last long. So when it came time to shoot the Hobbit trilogy in 2011, the family convinced the production to use stronger materials. Result: Hobbiton is still one of the most visited tourist attractions in the country.

    Weta Studios

    Man of Steel, King Kong, Avatar, The Last Samurai, The Chronicles of Narnia ... Located in the suburbs of Wellington, Weta Studios have worked (and are still working) on ​​a number of large-scale films, particularly for the production of accessories and costumes.

    A small part of the studios can be visited, but only in the company of a guide. Many visitors come here to take a closer look at the props of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies: swords, helmets, axes that look like metal, but are actually made of mostly plastic. These weapons are made to different scales, to seem huge in the hand of a hobbit, like Bilbo, or all small in those of Gandalf, explains the guide Jericho Rock-Archer.

    The second part of the tour focuses on a more recent project by Weta: the shooting of a series inspired by Thunderbirds (The sentinels of the air in their Quebec version), these puppets created in England in 1965 and which saved the planet at each episode... In Thunderbirds' huge studio Are Go, it is the genius of modeling that is highlighted. Weta's technicians have created miniature sets for each film set, using the most usual equipment: kitchen sponges, CD players, juicers or ping-pong balls are transformed into flying vessels under their hands. control, in buildings ultrecrets ... Ingenious. And spectacular.

    Guided tour near Queenstown

    The city of Queenstown, in the South Island, is known for its high-adrenaline activities: paragliding, bungee, canyoning ... Cinema buffs are not left out since the surroundings were used for filming many movies. Moult companies offer guided tours to access these often hidden film locations.

    This is the case of Nomad Safaris, which offers two different tours that allow you to enter familiar settings, at least for those who have seen the two trilogies of Peter Jackson, but also X-Men Origins films: Wolverine, Vertical Limit , Willow ... This is the case of the mountainous Remarkables, which belt Queenstown.

    "Peter Jackson has used the Remarkables about twenty times in The Lord of the Rings, especially to shoot the scene of the Ouargue attack, the one where Aragorn is thrown down a cliff. The whales were made by computer, but he used real horses, which had to do a real choreography, "says our guide Jono Hitchcox. "In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, director Gavin Hood turned the Remarkables into Canadian Rockies ... In Mission: Impossible - Fallout, the mountain was more like the mountains of Pakistan."

    During the 4 hours 15 minutes that will last the visit, the guide will multiply the anecdotes. At each location, he will take out of his pocket photos of the scene as seen on the big screen. Here, Sam and Fredo faced the oliphants. There stood Isengard. Later, Boromir breathed his last, facing warrior Uruk-hai Lurtz, "a Maori giant, whose real muscles we saw through the costume." For the untrained eye, it is simply a clearing, a river, a forest. But for the movie lover, these are places full of stories, scenes of mythical scenes...

    Peter Jackson at the museum

    Peter Jackson is a fan of history in general, and of the First World War in particular. For the National Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, he designed giant statues of men and women who participated in the Battle of Gallipoli, Turkey, in 1915 and 1916. Nearly 2,700 New Zealanders have lost their lives, and Jackson wanted to pay homage to these men and women by creating characters two and a half times larger than the human size.

    The result is striking and very moving. The attention to detail is such that one would believe these animated statues. Beard hair (which is really yak hair), real hair, drops of synthetic sweat that bead on frowning eyebrows. More than 24,000 hours of hard work were required to bring forth these giants, exposed to Te Papa until April 2022.

    What to salivate while waiting for that is born, still in Wellington, the project of museum of the cinema that Peter Jackson caresses since years. The obstacles continue to stand in front of the director, but the director still hopes to find a showcase to expose all the sets, accessories and costumes that are currently sleeping in warehouses. A record to follow...

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