Hobbits and tourists: Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand tap into Tolkien hype, again

The lucky few travellers who were at Auckland airport this morning became the first people in the world to see Peter Jackson’s take on the dragon Smaug, which has been emblazoned across a Boeing 777-300.

The 54-metre rendering of the creature, which was designed by Weta Digital, gives Kiwis a taste of what they can look forward to when The Hobbit: the Desolation of Smaug is released in cinemas on 13 December.

Public affairs spokesperson for Air New Zealand Andrew Aitken says, “In 2012, Air New Zealand entered into a global promotional partnership with Warner Bros. to promote the Hobbit Trilogy.” And Air New Zealand chief executive officer Christopher Luxon explains the airline has been in discussions for some time regarding permission to feature Smaug on the side of the plane.  

In the first instalment of the Hobbit trilogy, Jackson only gave viewers a glimpse of the mythical beast’s eye, thus causing fan circles to speculate on how it would be re-imagined in the second film. And judging by the Twitter response, fans seem impressed with what they saw.

The dragon comes as a welcome surprise to Kiwi fans, which were left disappointed that the film’s international premiere would be occurring in Los Angeles on 2 December rather than in Wellington.

But Kiwi fans will only enjoy a short exclusive view of the dragon plane, as it’s set to depart for LAX this afternoon to arrive just in time for the inaugural screening of the movie.

And waiting for the aircraft in Los Angeles is the ‘Book of New Zealand,’ a Hobbit-inspired promotional initiative, which has been released by Tourism New Zealand (TNZ) to encourage Tolkien lovers to visit Middle-earth.

Described as the world’s largest pop-up book, the ‘Book of New Zealand’ offers viewers a chance to step into four filming locations – a Lake Pukaki, Pelorous River, Paradise in Glenorchy, and Turoa – from the highly anticipated film.    

The structure, which was conceptualised by Whybin/TBWA and designed and built by The Hobbit Trilogy production designer Dan Hennah and set decorators Ra Vincent and Simon Bright, was unveiled at the Beverley Hilton Hotel during a full-blown Kiwi event that included New Zealand food and wine, songstress Hinewehi Mohi performing and MC Nancy Jay (from EXTV) entertaining the crowd. In addition to the Kiwi hype, stars from the motion picture also made an appearance and posed for photographs with the pop-up book’s scenery as a backdrop.

Kevin Bowler, the TNZ chief executive, says, “The organisation’s objective with the ‘Book of New Zealand,’ is to support the international story of New Zealand as a fun, must-see tourism destination, as well as an innovative and creative nation, and a great place to make films and do business.”

“All our campaign work aims to connect the fantasy, movie landscapes of Middle-earth with the actual experiences of New Zealand and demonstrate how easy it is for people to come to New Zealand, see Middle-earth first-hand and experience all the country has to offer,” he says.

Although forming part of the ‘100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand’ tourism campaign, this initiative follows on the heels of the ‘New Zealand Story’, which aims to attract foreign business to New Zealand.   

The pop-up book will be on display in California for five days, but access is exclusive to invitation holders on all days except 4 December, when fans will be able to peruse the impressive display. 

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