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New Zealand Has Become Middle Earth

I love New Zealand. I’ve never been, but I have a neighbor who hails from there and she’s super nice. Also, there’s that whole Lord of the Rings thing which makes it look really pretty. I hear good things. I really want to go. But with The Hobbit coming out in theaters in mere days, I fear New Zealand has actually turned into Middle Earth.

Some may think this is a good thing. If you love Tolkien, the idea of living with Hobbits and Elves might sound pretty cool. Just remember there are also Orcs and Goblins and that guy who sang those weird songs whose name I can’t remember. I think I’ve forgotten him because I didn’t like him, but you guys know who I mean and he was not missed at all in the movies.

So, good stuff and bad stuff comes with the world of Tolkien.Despite the risk of potential evil-doers, New Zealand has embraced the idea of being home to it all to such a degree that, well, it’s a wee bit scary. Don’t believe me? I offer up the following proof of the impending Middle Earth-ification of New Zealand.

They get their weather in Elvish. Here’s a guy dressed like Legolas giving the weather report on a local station. He’s got the cloak and the ears and the hair and darned if he doesn’t sound really good. It’s impressive how good he sounds.

Then there’s this huge and slightly scary Gollum mobile-statue thing in the Wellington airport. This could send a toddler into a total meltdown and definitely falls into the bad guy category if not actually evil. He causes nothing but trouble, he’s got stringy, nasty hair, and he eats raw fish. They’ve even included fish in the display. Just another step toward acclimating its citizens for what’s to come as Middle Earth.

How about a flight safety video that’s filled with residents of Middle Earth, and Peter Jackson? New Zealand air thought it was a great idea, and I admit that they were right. It is without a doubt the most attention I’ve paid to one of those videos ever. And it’s a fantastic way to promote the New Zealand that soon will be.

In fact, New Zealand Air is so excited about becoming Middle Earth Air that they’ve even decked out their planes with the cast of The Hobbit. Oh, and I can’t leave out the recently issued, completely legal tender coins and stamps with images of the characters. Some might call this marketing, or overkill, or just enthusiasm. I call it like I see it.

New Zealand, it was nice knowing you. Middle Earth, welcome to the real world.


3 Responses to “New Zealand Has Become Middle Earth”

  1. Vaughn says:

    Might want to first travel somewhere before you say you love it. What I wonder about is how they are going to keep this going after this next set of films. Theme park?

  2. Joanna says:

    Woo hoo I made it on your blog as an unnamed neighbor! I'm famous! Yes I think you would love NZ…thankfully the famous middle earth attractions are spaced out a bit, even on different islands, so hopefully it's not as obnoxious as it could be! But yes, there may be a little overkill going on!

  3. What? No link to your own piece on That's Nerdalicious? Actually, based on the few trips I've made since 2000, New Zealand remains lovely and distinctly un-theme-park-like (well, except for some bits around Rotorua, but that has nothing to do with the film). I think the whole LOTR thing in NZ is less about crass marketing and merchandizing, or some kind of country-wide obsession. It's mostly about having a bit of fun with this odd and unexpected source of Kiwi fame, coupled with a real sense of pride in having produced such wildly acclaimed films. (Though I do believe Tourism NZ views these movies as free, two-hour commercials it gets every so often as a Christmas present from Peter Jackson.) Even in Wellington, people seem more amused by the excitement of visiting fanboys (and fangrils) than anything else. For the record, I returned to NZ last fall to (finally) marry my girlfriend of 18 years on a beach on the Coromandel Peninsula. And no, I didn't force her to go on the LOTR tour in Wellington (or the competing LOTR tour I took the next day because I felt the first one had skipped too much), nor to visit the Hobbiton set. I had already been there the year before, see. Even had second breakfast at the cafe across the road… (Oh, and for a meal fit to serve a Hobbit, check out my column on Bon Appetit's Nerdery blog today:

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