New ‘Hobbit’ art flies at NZ airport, airline

Story highlights

Wellington International Airport unveils sculpture of "great eagles" from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug"

Air New Zealand unveils its own ode to the film -- a new livery featuring the dragon Smaug

All three films in the "Hobbit" trilogy were shot in New Zealand

CNN  — 

“Hobbit” mania is in full swing in New Zealand this week, where all three of the Peter Jackson-directed movies based on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien were filmed.

Wellington International Airport has unveiled a new installation featuring two realistic “great eagles” from the “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” the second in the trilogy. The film’s world premier will take place on December 2 in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Air New Zealand is showing off a new livery featuring the title character on one of its planes.

The airport’s new sculptures were created by Wellington’s Weta Workshop – the same team that built props and designed physical effects for “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings” trilogies.

Each eagle weighs approximately one ton, with a wingspan of 15 feet.

The wizard Gandalf is depicted riding on one of the eagles.

The two eagles in Wellington International Airport each weigh approximately one ton, and have a wingspan of 15 feet.

“We were thrilled to return and create another installation for Wellington Airport,” said Weta’s Richard Taylor, who oversaw the project.

“What could be more suitable for an airport in Middle Earth than Gandalf the Grey atop a great eagle swooping into the terminal, such an evocative image from ‘The Hobbit’ and a fantastic and challenging project for our artists to design and build.”

The giant eagles appeared at the end of the previous Hobbit movie, “An Unexpected Journey,” and twice in “The Lord of the Rings.”

They act as aids to Gandalf and his companions, rescuing them from the bleakest of circumstances.

That they’re now being displayed in celebration of the upcoming film, “The Desolation of Smaug,” suggests that the eagles will yet play other parts in “The Hobbit” trilogy.

The sculpture joins an existing installation featuring Gollum fishing for trout, which is suspended above the airport’s food court.

It’s become a tourist attraction, with visitors driving to the airport just to take photos beneath it.

Air New Zealand’s new Hobbit livery

Over the weekend, Air New Zealand – also working with Weta – unveiled a new livery on one of the airline’s Boeing 777-300s.

The livery features the dragon known as Smaug stretched out along the plane.

Air New Zealand's new Hobbit-themed livery features the dragon Smaug.

This is the first time the full design of the highly anticipated character has been released to the public.

“To see Smaug fly off the big screen and into the skies like this is pretty exciting,” said director Peter Jackson in a statement. “We’re proud to debut him here in New Zealand, where our team has worked so hard to bring him to life.”

Air New Zealand also recently released a new Hobbit-themed commercial starring Dean O’Gorman (Fili the dwarf) and the voice of Sylvester McCoy (the wizard Radagast), continuing its history of using the films to promote New Zealand.

Last year, for the world premier of the first Hobbit film, Air New Zealand teamed up with Weta to design a Hobbit-themed livery for one of its Boeing 777-300 aircraft, which it used to transport the actors back to New Zealand and then buzz the crowds along the red carpet later with a flyby.

Since the first film debuted, Air New Zealand has offered Hobbit-themed flights and put out a popular Hobbit flight-safety video using cast members and other actors in costumes.

The airline is currently screening the extended edition of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on all international flights.

Capitalizing on the films’ fame

Weta has long been the public face of New Zealand’s movie capital, Wellington.

While its main workshop isn’t open to the public, an adjoining Weta Cave in the suburb of Miramar is open for visitors, offering a mini-museum and behind the scenes documentary screening, as well as movie prop reproductions for purchase.

The “Window Into Workshop” is a separate tour that allows visitors to watch Weta artists work on art pieces, view more of the actual props used in “Lord of the Rings” and other films and learn about the process of creating props for the film industry.

Hobbit madness doesn’t stop there.

Last year the city of Wellington was redecorated and temporarily renamed The Middle of Middle Earth, hosting a red-carpet event for the world premiere of “The Hobbit” that ran through the city.

While it won’t host the world premiere this year, there are still several parties and advance screenings planned around town.

Meanwhile, Tourism New Zealand and Warner Brothers have teamed up for “The Book of New Zealand” in Hollywood, a five-day VIP publicity event to market the new Hobbit film and New Zealand as a film location destination.

The large display features four reassembled film sets from the movie, and will be open to fans on December 4 only.

Following its December 2 world premiere in Los Angeles, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” will open in New Zealand on December 9.