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It’s a wrap: New Zealand stricken with severe case of Hobbit fever

Amid the
controversy that seems to have attached itself to the release of the first
Hobbit film, Wellingtonians
in particular will be hard-pressed to forget the premiere is taking
place in their city, not least thanks to the two-storey Middle Earth wrap
that’s been attached to the side of Clemenger BBDO’s Wellington office.
That’s one more Hobbit-themed gesture to add to a growing list that also
includes DraftFCB’s baggage carousel at Wellington airport, Air New
Zealand’s Hobbit aircraft and, of course, Tourism New Zealand’s 100% Middle-earth. 

Clemenger’s giant
creation, featuring a towering mountain surrounded by roaring waterfalls,
was created as a labour of love, with the agency donating its time and talent for
free to bring the building to life.  

“Wellington is the
creative capital of New Zealand, so we wanted to do something special with the
eyes of the world upon us,” comments Clemenger’s executive creative director,
Philip Andrew. 

With 100,000 expected to turn out for the upcoming premiere, managing director Andrew
Holt says the agency decided to create the perfect backdrop for the spectacle.

“In a typical
movie premiere they bring the film to a city, but we thought Wellington doesn’t
do typical so let’s do something that puts the city in the middle of Middle-earth.”

Clemenger’s wrap
coincides with DraftFCB’s Hobbit-themed baggage carousel unveiled last week at
Wellington airport (The Dull Men’s club would not be pleased with this extravagance). That’s on top of another Wellington airport installation,
the 14-metre 
long, 3-metre high Weta Workshop sculpture of Gollum,
which was unveiled in October. And while we’re on the subject of airports,
don’t forget Air New Zealand’s Hobbit-inspired safety video and, as unveiled
over the weekend, its official Hobbit aircraft, which features a 73-metre long image
featuring the film’s cast. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eiHET7UjnoSo there’s plenty riding on the fact that Jackson and co. haven’t made a stinker. 

Take a stroll to Wellington’s Embassy Theatre and you shall not pass without being greeted by a nine-metre Gandalf statue standing guard. Then there’s the 14 rather large dwarves that have taken residence atop
the New
Zealand Post House on Wellington’s waterfront. And there’s even a Middle-earth market running in Waitangi park this week. 

In August
this year
, Tourism New Zealand debuted the beautifully shot ‘100% Middleearth, 100% Pure New
Zealand” campaign, the work of Whybin\TBWA and Curious
Film. 

But all the hype has been marred by a fair dose of controversy. According to
this story on stuff.co.nz, documents released under the
Official Information Act show that Tourism New Zealand “sought approval
from Warner Bros. for every aspect of its $10m ‘Middle-earth’ marketing campaign, even checking with the film studio over issues that did
not directly concern it”.

The campaign’s
“pure” references have also been subject to scrutiny by environmentalists, with senior lecturer in environmental science at Massey University, Mike
Joy, likening New Zealand’s clean and green image as “fantastical as
dragons and wizards” in a New York Times article  (of course it’s not the first time the
“pure” brand has been subject to scrutiny, as evidenced
by BBC’s Stephen Sackur grilling of John key last year).

Another New York
Times article,
which is well worth a read, probes the many facets involved in making the movie
and keeping production in Enzed, including the extent to which John Key and the New
Zealand Government are in Warner Brothers’ pocket. After all, the labour dispute that marred the films’ production a couple of year’s back was resolved, but it involved Key urgently
passing changes to labour laws in Parliament in 2010, and a $25m tax break for
Warner Brothers. 

More recently,
allegations of animal abuse and JRR Tolkein’s estate suing Hobbit
producers for $98m over merchandise copyright infringements continue to
put Jackson and his clan through the ringer.  

But while The
Hobbit
’s battles look to not be reserved exclusively to the fantastical on-screen world, stakeholders probably won’t be too perturbed,
so long as the film performs. Judging by ticket pre-sales in the US, which have
The Hobbit outselling Sky Fall and Twilight, the first film at least
looks set to do just that.

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