It was only a matter of time before I had an entry on here (majorly) devoted to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Honestly, I’m surprised it hasn’t come sooner.
Before we get to the Tolkien-centric portion of this post, I figured I’d just quickly talk about our time in Wellington thus far.
Wellington, as a whole, has been nothing short of kick ass. The city is wonderful, there are lots of places to go out to and visit, and it’s just got a really lovely atmosphere. I’ve become slightly convinced that it’s the city I want to put down roots for this upcoming year after Kathleen goes back to the states – but it’s still early so we’ll see. Nonetheless, we’ve gone out for drinks the last two nights – one night with Meg and the next with Anushka – and we’ve gotten pretty well acquainted with the city as a whole. We leave tomorrow morning, but then we’re coming back in four days after our WWOOFing stint ends.
Yesterday we visited the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, which is this massive museum filled with so many wonderfully different things. There are floors about sea life and wild animals, volcanoes and taxidermied animals, gay pride and immigrating to New Zealand, earthquakes and dinosaurs, classic artwork and a bad ass Maori piano, and the list goes on. We spent pretty much the entire day in the museum, as there was so much to see.
My favorite exhibit of the museum was probably the art gallery on the fifth floor (photography was prohibited – darn). There were some beautiful photographs (I saw a Diane Arbus photo!!), wonderful portraits, and – as already mentioned – one hell of a piano. Plus they had a board filled with magnetic words, and Kathleen and myself spent a good half hour writing magnetic poetry. It’s nice to put one of my majors to work.
Honestly though, if you’re ever in Wellington for a bit of time, head for the Te Papa museum. It’s a fun, educational, and free way to spend the day!
Okay, but enough about that. Moving on to how we spent our day today.
It’s important to me that people know that Lord of the Rings is not the number one reason I’m in New Zealand. I came here because of the beautiful landscapes, the rich culture and history, and because I heard such wonderful things of the country… that being said, I can’t deny that LotR didn’t play some part in my choice of travel. Those movies have been with me for over ten years now. The closest thing I have to a religious experience nowadays is watching those films once a year. You think that I’m exaggerating, but really, I’m not.
During the planning process, Kathleen and I knew straight away that we’d be visiting our fair share of LotR related sites. Hobbiton would be a must. We’d check out a Ride of the Rings tour someone recommended. Perhaps we’d make the great trek to catch a glimpse of Mount Doom.
And, of course, how could we possibly miss out on…
After a hearty breakfast of pancakes and bacon, Kathleen and I ventured onto a number two bus to find the famed Weta Cave. Finding the bus didn’t take too long, and once we boarded the bus and made a couple of helpful friends who pointed us in the right direction, we soon found ourselves there. We were floored. The two of us had dreamed of this moment for so long, and it was finally here – at long last!
First we watched a twenty-eight minute video covering all the films Weta has done work on. Lord of the Rings, Tintin, Avatar, The Avengers, Meet the Feebles, Heavenly Creatures, District 9, Narnia, King Kong, The Lovely Bones, and the list goes on. All I know is that I had a stupid grin on my face for the duration of the film. Next we got a tour of the Window into Weta. For those of you who don’t know, one does not simply walk into Weta Workshop. It’s pretty off limits, seeing as they’re usually working on top secret things for upcoming films. So, in order to incorporate the fans more into the process, Window into Weta was stemmed from the Weta Cave. The Window gave us a glimpse of past creations from previous films, as well as showing us a little bit of the process that goes into making all those props, prosthetics, and weaponry a reality. We got to see guns from District 9, a warthog from a Halo video, Eowyn’s armor and Eomer’s helmet, a mold of Billy Boyd’s face, sculptures of the Balrog and Thorin, and lots of other amazing props from films. (No photography on this one either.)
Then we headed back into Weta Cave. The Cave, for the most part, is a store of sorts. You can buy pretty much any merchandise directly related to Weta Workshop films. Of course there were dozens of statues/figurines from The Hobbit and LotR, as well as some damn cool weaponry replicas, and a ton of amazing books and apparel as well. This time around I only bought a couple postcards and a key chain. I fully intend on going back later in my travels to buy a mug, a map of the Shire, and either a One Ring or Nori’s knives. Who needs money anyway, right?
Oh yeah. These guys were pretty spectacular as well.
After our time spent pacing the aisles of Weta Cave, Kathleen and I headed back down the road until we found the Roxy, ie. the movie theater Peter Jackson bought and refurbished. We poked around inside a bit and saw a couple cool statues (a Gollum and a Smaug were there – no big surprise) before we headed on our way once more.
Then we walked a tad bit further until we came across a special little street.
Recognize the name? No? How about now?
Like the absolute goober fan girls that we are, Kathleen and I proceeded to march around the entire Stone Street Studio lot. We were abuzz; continuously throwing each other dumbfoundedly ecstatic grins. Never mind that the filming was over with and barely anything was going on inside the studio. This was where it all happened. The birth place of our favorite movies.
At the entrance of one lot our presence (and my snapping camera) drew the attention of a security guard, so we fled the scene before we got into trouble (though I’m pretty sure we weren’t doing anything wrong to begin with?). Then we went to the second entrance to snap some pictures and, once again, a security guard didn’t seem too happy about it. So, taking a couple last photos, we took off, just happy that we had gotten to see the studios where Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit had been created.
Coming to this country, I was worried about what people would think if I openly expressed my LotR craze. Would they think I was just another tourist here to get my fill of what was left of the films? But the fact of the matter is, LotR had such an immense effect on me growing up. Those films drew me in as an eleven year old and have never let me go. They were present in my fanfiction writing years (hell, The Hobbit got me back into fanfiction writing only six months ago). They have provided Halloween costumes, movie marathon parties, inside jokes, fan mail, and Tumblrs. They were a world for me to escape to during the hardest year of my entire life. They gave me my senior yearbook quote. Those films have simply always been a constant; my constant.
While I’m thinking my next tattoo is going to be the words “Explore. Dream. Discover.” from the Mark Twain quote, I know very well not long after I’m going to be getting myself a LotR related tattoo. I’m not entirely sure what it will be. I like the idea of getting the Tree of Gondor or possibly JRR Tolkien’s symbol behind my left ear. Perhaps the marking Gandalf leaves on Bilbo’s door? Or maybe, just maybe, my favorite quote from my favorite character in my favorite series of all time:
“There’s some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.”