My #1 priority during my trip to New Zealand was not only to see a country of diverse beauty but to go on a Lord of the Rings tour. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Hobbiton in Matamata, but I was able to make it to Wellington, back to where all the magic happened. Wellington is the home of Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshop, after all, where creative ingenuity brings movies to life. Avatar, District 9 and The Chronicles of Narnia are just to name a few.
First, before I even got to Wellinton, my tour group happened to pass by the mountain used as Mount Doom on our drive to the city. Mount Ngauruhoe, as it’s really known, is an active volcano situated on the Central Plateau region south of Lake Taupo. The mountain itself strikes an imposing figure on the landscape.
In Wellington, the first filming location we visited was Mount Victoria. This is where Frodo’s infamous “Get off the road!” scene was shot among many other scenes used throughout the trilogy. This is also where the hobbits roll down the hill and hide from the Dark Rider, although the horse and rider were shot in a different location on Mount Victoria.
Outside the city, we pulled off the highway along the Hutt River. This river was used for various scenes where the Fellowship was rowing down the River Anduin. To achieve a forest on both banks, they shot Boromir facing upstream and Aragorn facing downstream. They weren’t actually in a ravine or sitting next to each other during production. It’s truly amazing what they can do with special effects.
After the river, we visited Rivendell. All that’s left of the filming location is the picnic area among the forest where the necessary sets were built for filming then destroyed afterwards. These would’ve included Frodo’s bedroom, a staircase and a bridge. The rest was done post-production with visual effects. Afterwards, however, the same location was used to shoot photos of Orlando Bloom as Legolas for posters.
Our last location, after Rivendell, was the park that was used for the gardens of Isengard. In particular, the scene where Gandalf rides up to the tower and later when Saruman and he are walking through the gardens were shot here. What’s amazing is that you’d never know it’s just some quaint little park off the beaten path. The only evidence left behind is the strip of grass where they laid the path Gandalf rides along.
It may not have been Hobbiton, but the tour was well worth it. Not only was it a great way to see Wellington, but it was rather educational also. Finding out how every scene was shot gave me a whole new appreciation for the movie business. It’s unbelievable how much work and effort go in behind the scenes to get the perfect shot even if it’s only a few seconds long. In that case, Peter Jackson may just be a filmmaking genius. There are also many little secrets hidden within the trilogy whether they were planned or happened during filming. Peter Jackson even went to great lengths to include the actors’ families, his children and even himself somehow.
For anyone visiting New Zealand, therefore, I would highly suggest going on a Lord of the Rings tour whether or not you’re a fan. It’s something different, eye-opening and it may just be entertaining if a hardcore fan is along.