On the Trail of 'The Lord of the Rings'

Michael O. Varhola

One of the most enjoyable things I did on my recent trans-Pacific voyage from Honolulu, Hawaii, to Sydney, Australia, was to take a tour in Wellington, New Zealand, that took me to a number of the sites where The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies were filmed, to include a visit to Peter Jackson's Weta Studios! Following are some representative photos from this experience.

The New Zealand fantasy film industry was, in fact, one of the things I spoke about during my tour of duty as Destination Lecture about the Royal Caribbean International vessel Radiance of the Seas, and is one of the things I will be giving presentations on at a number of upcoming 2014 conventions, including Dallas Comic & Pop Expo (March 1-2) and Comicpalooza (May 23-26). 

At right is the entrance to the municipal park where several of the scenes associated with the departure of Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin from the shire were filmed. 


Above left, Ted Guise of Wellington Movie Tours displayed on a laptop scenes filmed at the various spots we visited. Above center, a scene from the Lord of the Rings shot in the tree pictured in the upper right corner of the first image; above right, me and Diane Varhola recreating the scene in question with props provided by Guise.  


Above left, Guise also brought story boards depicting stills from The Lord of the Rings, this one showing the scene in which the Hobbits roll down the hill into the woods after being chased by Farmer Maggot. Above right, our recreation of Frodo and the Hobbits where they landed on the road, played by me and a trio of au pairs. 


Above left, in the foreground four tour goers recreate the actions of the Hobbits as they hid below the road, while in the background four others represent the Dark Rider, its horse, and the roots and tree depicted in the scene -- which were artificial and created for the film! Above center, the clever Guise showed our group how to replicate the image of a Dark Rider in silhouette. At right, our actors can be seen in their guise as a Dark Rider. 


Above and below left, some of the life-sized Troll statues displayed at the Weta Cave, which provide ample opportunities for amusing fan photography. 


Above center, the Weta Cave has on display numerous props and models from The Lord of the Rings and other movies produced by the studio. Above right, we had the opportunity to go beyond the red door while we are at Weta Studios, where we learned about props and models created for their movies! Photography was not allowed but anyone who cares can buy me a beer and I will tell them about all the wonderful things we saw there.  


Above left, a glimpse at the massive green screen at Weta Studios -- note that the wall it is built on is made of stacked up-shipping containers! Above right, some of the rocks along the shore of Wellington Harbor that were used as models for the stonework in the lair of Shelob the giant spider. 

If you are in Wellington, New Zealand, or will be visiting it, be sure to check out the Lord of the Rings tour to see all of this and more yourself. Otherwise, be sure to check out one of my great presentations during the convention season in 2014!