MAKING THE FILM
THE LORD OF THE RINGS:
FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING


This page was created on December 12, 2001
This page was last updated on May 31, 2005

MAKING THE FILM
IMAGINING MIDDLE-EARTH:
THE DESIGN OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
"The greatest feeling of success has been to watch all these bits and pieces of polystyrene and metal and wood become a world so real you believe these characters live there. We've painted Tolkien's palette as much as possible across the film."
-Richard Taylor

Until now, Tolkien's Middle-earth has existed only in the imaginations of readers and in the detailed yet limited illustrations for the novels. But in The Fellowship of the Ring, the Hobbit holes of Hobbiton, the sylvan glades of the Elf refuge Rivendell, the smoky innards of the Prancing Pony Inn, and the networks of underground caverns in the Mines of Moria come physically, palpably to life.

Peter Jackson had one underlying precept for the visual design for The Lord of the Rings trilogy: a transporting brand of realism. The undertaking would not be possible without the services of WETA Limited, New Zealand's premier physical effects house, under the direction of supervisor Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger. Their mission: to create Middle-earth's physical reality, from the interiors of Hobbit holes to the heights of Mount Doom, as if they believed with all their hearts and senses in its existence.

Taylor approached the project like a general going to war. He immediately employed a crew of over 120 technicians divided into six crucial departments:

SPECIAL EFFECTS

WETA Digital, a separate arm, also took on the challenge of creating the groundbreaking computer-generated creatures and effects for The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But before WETA could get to work, the filmmakers needed to turn Tolkien's vividly drawn descriptions into three-dimensional visions. They turned to the two men who knew Tolkien's universe best: conceptual artists Alan Lee and John Howe, who illustrated the Harper Collins editions of The Lord of the Rings. Lee and Howe sketched madly, producing seminal images of the cultures, creatures, buildings and landscapes that make Hobbiton, Rivendell, Mordor and other locations in the trilogy feel so alive.

Inspired by their own intimate love of Tolkien's work, Lee and Howe produced hundreds of life-like sketches which later were metamorphosed into storyboards, then scale models of Middle-earth's many landscapes and regions, and sometimes into full-scale sets under the aegis of production designer Grant Major. In addition to full-sized sets, the production widely used miniature sets - models so detailed and artistically rendered that the slightly larger ones became known as "bigatures."

"As a conceptual artist, it is quite a mine field treading through Tolkien's world, but you somehow have to trust your own judgment and your own vision. Tolkien's descriptions are so beautiful and poetic, yet he has left plenty of room for us to make our own little explorations," says Alan Lee.

Lee was especially excited by Peter Jackson's mandate. "When he said he wanted to be as true to the spirit of the books as he could and try to create very, very real landscapes and as believable a world as possible, I knew I was the right person for the job," he says.

Says production designer Grant Major of Lee and Howe: "Their contribution to the project was absolutely fundamental. They gave us the look and feel of Middle-earth, and they brought the most intimate knowledge of Tolkien lore to their work."

Lee had always tried to make his illustrations believable, but now he and Howe had a new challenge: producing illustrations so rich they could be turned into miniatures, models and sets. He recalls the magic of seeing Hobbiton evolve from Tolkien's charming descriptions to detailed sketches to life-like sets. "We had drawn so many sketches and had so many conversations and then there was the whole construction process," he recalls. "But, finally it became this absolutely real place where grass grew over the roofs and the chimneys were spouting smoke, and it was like a dream to see it come to life."

Lee also oversaw the work as his sketches became miniature sets that seemed to take on a life of their own. The miniature production unit was guided by director of photography Alex Funke, who won an Oscar for his effects on Total Recall. Funke and team filmed an unprecedented 64 miniature sets, some of the most complex ever rendered. Among those seen in The Fellowship of the Ring are the "forest kingdom" of Lothlorien made up of tree-houses connected by walkways, and the land of the Dwarves known as Khazad-Dum.

Many of the sets, big and small, were carved out of polystyrene, a material that can look like wood that has aged for thousands of years, as in the Prancing Pony Pub, or the stone sculptures at the gates of Minas Tirith. WETA made some remarkable innovations, using a polyurethane spraying machine developed for spraying rubber coatings on North Sea oil rigs.

"We were able to do in a week what might have taken months to build in a traditional manner," explains Richard Taylor. "With this machine, we could sculpt anything. We were making a hundred helmets in a day. It helped us to build many worlds."

Production designer Grant Major oversaw the creation of such life-sized exterior sets as the intricate and delicate Elvish kingdom of Rivendell, the grassy knolls of Hobbiton, and the underground interior realms of the mines of Moria. He, too, made realism and exquisite detail a priority.

The sets for Rivendell, for example, were created to reflect the Elvish culture - which is highly artistic and intimately connected to the forest and nature. It appears as a place of deep serenity, with arching walkways spanning babbling streams and quiet wooden gazebos. "We used a leaf motif throughout the sets, and used a lot of hand-carved statues, pillars and door frames. Even the colors are right out of the forest," Major notes. "We even added Art Nouveau-style influences that reflect their elegant nature." Major also wanted to lend Rivendell "a sense of mystery," so he designed and built a series of 40-foot-tall towers that shimmer in the background of Rivendell, suggesting more than meets the eye.

Many of Major's sets were built on stages in Wellington, New Zealand. This, for example, is where he created the Mines of Moria, where the Fellowship journeys in The Fellowship of the Ring. Gray granite walls were sprayed constantly by WETA technicians to appear as glistening, dripping, jewel-encrusted caves, a whole network of which spans beneath the Dwarf land, Khazad-Dum.

One thing Major always had to consider in the design of his sets was durability. "You had thousands of people trampling through these sets, and sometimes people were hucking axes into the floor, so they had to be built to withstand a lot! Our sets had to withstand 60 pounds per square foot." Major worked hand-in-hand with WETA Digital, to make sure the sets would accommodate computer-generated images to be added in later.

Major even found himself becoming a fledgling gardener. To create Hobbiton, he had a large greens department team plant 5,000 cubic meters of vegetable and flower gardens a year before filming began. "We started the year before filming because we wanted the look of it to age naturally in the weather," explains Major. "We were always trying to make every set as real in time and place as could be imagined."

Everyone who entered Hobbiton was transported. Observes Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf: "Hobbiton really wasn't a set at all. It was a real open-air village, with growing crops and flowers actually sprouting in gardens, birds singing, insects... Nothing was plastic or fake. It was just totally thrilling to enter another world like that."

 

WETA GETS TO WORK:
OF MASKS, MEN AND VAST DESIGNS
"The contribution of Richard Taylor & Tania Rodger and their WETA Workshop has been essential in putting this film together. They truly understood my desire to make every inch of this production feel real. Right down to the pitted, greasy, dirty armor, WETA has gone the extra distance to get the details right."
- Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson made another stunningly ambitious decision early on in the development of The Lord of the Rings: The production would make every single item in Middle-earth from scratch. It made logical sense, since nothing from Middle-earth actually exists. But Jackson's visions beget a logistical undertaking beyond what anyone had ever attempted before.

To get an idea of the sheer scope of creating Middle-earth, consider the following numbers:

Click to enlargemore than 900 suits of hand-made armor
more than 2,000 rubber and safety weapons
more than 100 special, hand-made weapons
more than 20,000 individual household and everyday items handmade by artisans
more than 1,600 pairs of prosthetic feet and ears, individually sized and shaped
WETA's team oversaw it all in an effort not unlike mobilizing an army. Richard Taylor, head of WETA, became the general spurring his troops on to greater and greater creative achievement.
"I would say that we have been fanatical about this project," says Taylor. "We wanted to stay fanatically loyal to the written word of Tolkien. The people I hired are people who have an intense love of Tolkien, who bring a totally fresh, written word approach to design. The whole design for every little element of the entire trilogy has been figured out to the nth degree. The bottom line was this: Everything had to feel real."

In addition to the usual motion picture crew, WETA brought on board blacksmiths, leather-workers, sculptors and experts in medieval armor. A special foam latexing oven was running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to churn out Hobbit ears and feet, Uruk-Hai arms and legs, among other prosthetics.

"The level of reality in WETA's creations was such that you could pick up a sword that looked completely real and find out it was made of rubber. Their stuff looks that good," says Peter Jackson.

Click to enlargeIn addition to weapons and props, WETA brought to life some of Middle-earth's most imaginative creatures, including the Orcs, of whom no two are alike. WETA artisans created gray, wrinkled prosthetic skin suits - resembling elephant hide - and black armor resembling an insect's exoskeleton to produce the Orcs' frightening, insect-meets-medieval-knight appearance.

Each of the 200 Orc heads made for the film was unique - an individually shaped mask made of latex foam silicone and implanted with yak hair, woven strand by strand for different hair styles. WETA also forged blue-tinged prosthetic feet, with long, curving claws, to stick out from the Orcs' knee-high boots. The look was completed with layers of Middle-earth mud.

"I wanted the Orcs to look like Roman soldiers," says Richard Taylor, "who live under an ethic of fear of their leaders."

The physical effects team of Steve Ingram, Richard Cordobes and Blair Foord also joined in the fun to manipulate the natural environment, creating rain, snow, fire and wind storms with spray pipes and giant fans, as well as an enormous volume of mist, steam, fog and smoke through the use of special liquids. The team also created fake rivers and streams running through fake forests on soundstages.

Throughout, the WETA team had one "bible" they used as a constant source of reference: Tolkien's original novels. "We would photocopy appropriate passages from the books and place them all around the workshops as the artists worked," explains Richard Taylor. "We were never without Tolkien's spirit on the set."

The scale of every character from 3'6"-inch Hobbits to the huge Cave Troll, had to also be taken into consideration by WETA and the costume department. As Richard Taylor of WETA notes: "We had to create almost everything at least twice in different scales. The mathematics alone was a staggering challenge. But it was the only way to stay true to what Tolkien created in his imagination: a world of many different sizes."
FROM HOBBITS TO ELVES:
THE COSTUMES AND MAKE-UP
"On a project of this size and scope you have to design what you believe in, and on this film there wasn't a day in the 274 days of shooting that the costumes didn't look and feel real."
-Ngila Dickson, costume designer


At the heart of every culture are its clothing and physical appearance, and Middle-earth is no different. In order to clothe an entire universe of beings, costume designer Ngila Dickson faced the challenge of her life. Although she has been creating imaginative, ancient costumes for "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Hercules" on television, Tolkien's universe presented a challenge unlike any other: clothing not just hundreds of characters, but nine physically and expressively different cultures. Working with a team of 50 tailors, embroiders, cobblers and jewelers, Dickson attempted to make each costume life-like, functional and reflective of each character.

Click to enlargeThe volume of costumes alone was staggering, an average of 150 costumes for each of the different cultures. Adding to the sheer numbers was the fact that many individual character costumes had to be made in two sizes: one for the actor and the other for the smaller or larger "scale double" used in filming.

Creating the Hobbit costumes was always a priority - and a sticky challenge. "When you have little fellows running around in frock coats and short trousers, you have to work hard to make that believable," notes Dickson. "But Peter was quite clear that he wanted them to look as real as possible."

Dickson did so by highlighting their pastoral nature. She used very natural fabrics and strong weaves, influenced by ancient European cultures. They wear waistcoats in harvest colors - greens, yellows and browns -- with brass buttons. But she also reinforced the playfulness of their stature and way of life. "I added a lot of quirks, things to jar the eye," she points out. "Their trouser legs and sleeves are too short, their buttons are too big, and their collars are out of proportion. I even made their pockets higher than usual for example, so when they put their hands in their pockets it has a very distinctive, funny look to us."

Click to enlargeFor the Elves, Dickson went for sheer elegance, mossy greens, tree-bark browns, autumn scarlets, an androgynous quality and a touch of antiquity. "They invoke their environment," she notes, "and they're very light on the earth, so we searched for very, very fine layers of fabrics for them." Their costumes were forged from Indian silk brocade, which Dickson washed, bleached, dyed and sandpapered to give the costumes a shimmering metallic gleam that looks organic.

The Elves also wear silk-velvet acid-etched with Art Nouveau leaf designs. Even their sleeves are made in leaf shapes, coiling around the actors' arms. On their feet are knee-high leather boots that add to their willowy appearance.

Another challenging costume was that of the Wizard Gandalf. Dickson toiled for weeks designing his hat, the ultimate wizard icon. "I wanted something impressive, ancient and magical but not too overwhelming," says the designer. "Our first sketches were like great ships on Ian McKellen's head, but we finally came to something that was perfect, functional and mysterious."

Click to enlargeFor the film's female characters, Dickson went for a new ethereal aesthetic. For the film's two Elven leading ladies, Cate Blanchett and Liv Tyler, Dickson took their ethereal qualities to create an alluring race who are "the angels of the story," as Dickson puts it.

Dickson continues, "The Elves are tall, slender and elegant. They have a floating image to their costumes, using colors and fabric that are light and semi-shimmery."

Once Dickson created her costumes, she then had to "ruin" them. That is, she had to age and soil and tear them to make them look like they had gone through the adventures the creatures of Middle-earth experience. The Hobbits, for example, start out with clean, white shirts at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring, but soon find them muddied and bloodied in battle.

In the case of Aragorn's rugged, mud-splattered costume, Viggo Mortensen did the aging himself. "He took his outfit home with him because he wanted to literally grow into it," says Dickson. "He sweat in it, lived in it, even repaired it himself, as Aragorn would have. That's the best you can hope for in making costumes: that the actors will participate and make them their own, a part of their character."

Working closely with Dickson and Peter Jackson in forging each character's distinctive, detailed look was the makeup and hair design team of Peter King and Peter Owen. One of their main challenges was hair, which in The Fellowship of the Ring ranges from the belly-length beard of Gandalf to the thinning scraggles on the head of the Orcs to the flaxen locks of Galadriel. King and Owen had hundreds of wigs made to specifications that make them essentially invisible to human eyes. In fact, some 300 hand-made knotted wigs were permed in a giant pressure cooker in WETA's workshops.

The makeup artists also worked closely with the prosthetic artists to coordinate such features as pointy ears with the overall look. They, too, had to "enhance" their work with a variety of dirt, blood, scratches and gashes collected as the journey went on. In fact, the make-up artists eventually became known on set as "The Mud Men."

No matter the costume, it was essential that every robe, wig and boot in the film be maximally durable - especially given the fact that actors were scrambling over cliffs, slogging through streams, crawling underground and heaving swords at one another. "We tried to get longevity out of each costume," explains Dickson. "They had to survive a lot."

In the end, Dickson hopes her costumes don't stand out. Instead, she hopes they become part of the astonishing realistic backdrop for the characters' incredible journey towards friendship and wisdom. "The less people notice the details of the costume the better job we did in a sense," she comments, "because that means the costumes have helped to completely absorb you in the story."
BREAKING DIGITAL GROUND:
THE VISUAL EFFECTS

"My same philosophy applied to digital effects as to the overall design. I wanted the monsters to feel real right down to the dirt under the fingernails of a Cave Troll or the bloodshot, bulging eyes of Gollum."
- Peter Jackson

Click to enlargePeter Jackson and his team not only created a physical Middle-earth, they also designed an entirely digital universe for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This staggeringly intensive, behind-the-scenes work was carried out by Wellington, New Zealand based WETA Digital. This innovative effects company assembled a crack team of computer artists, key frame animators, modelers, digital paint artists, motion editors, compositors and software engineers, among others, to devote years of their lives to creating never-before-seen effects.

WETA Digital also invested in a historical first in live-action filmmaking: a massive database that has stored every single frame shot in the making of The Lord of the Rings in a digital library that can instantly access, analyze and cross-reference any single item appearing in the film. This means that every single element in the trilogy can be subject to digital manipulation, from landscapes to mood lighting to Hobbits and horses.

Click to enlargeWETA Digital spent countless hours, with their team comprised of more than 200 people at the height of digital production, enhancing the New Zealand landscape to create environments that mirror images of Middle-earth forged into imaginations by Tolkien's prose. They sought to make the colors, images and locations of Middle-earth feel tangibly real, as if they have existed since the beginning of time. A WETA Digital team was on set at all times during the lengthy shoot, cataloging and chronicling all the physical aspects of production to make the digital transition smoother. With more than 5 units shooting on particular day all throughout the country of New Zealand, the team had to be meticulous down to the last frame. Whether it be the Fellowship dangling for life from the stairway of Khazad-dum, Gandalf being damned by Saruman to Orthanc Tower, or a massive battle with the menacing Uruk-Hai, the scope and detail of the digital world of The Fellowship of the Ring proved a key component in creating the adventure and excitement of the epic tale.


These Cave Troll images show how detail obtained from the original clay maquette with the 3D laser scanner is applied to the finished rendered creature as an extracted displacement map.
Courtesy: New Line Cinema


But the real creative power of WETA Digital is most apparent in some of the most evil and threatening of characters appearing in The Fellowship of the Ring. Creatures forged entirely through digital magic including the Balrog, the Cave Troll and the Watcher, among many others. One of the most exciting creatures introduced in The Lord of the Rings trilogy is Gollum, who was born a Hobbit-like creature named Smeagol but transformed into something far more frightening through his own encounter with the One Ring. Audiences can look forward to seeing Gollum in his entirety with the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, though he appears briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring.

"I think that Gollum may be one of the most sophisticated digital creations seen yet," notes WETA's Richard Taylor. "Throw out all your old ideas about what CG looks like because Gollum defies them."

Gollum was brought into existence through a combination of state-of-the-art computer animation and sophisticated motion-capture technology utilizing "fluid dynamics." Peter Jackson wanted to avoid a "computer-generated look," so instead the painstaking design lends to Gollum realistic joint movement based on actual organic muscle and bone, all seen rippling under his translucent, but flesh-like skin. The computer artists studied anatomy books to create a believable view inside Gollum's skin.


"WETA developed vast amounts of code to create Gollum," notes Peter Jackson. "They developed new modeling codes, new skin codes, new muscle codes. He is amazingly life-like and we were able to give him a range of expressions from the evil of Gollum to the sympathy of Smeagol."

Multiple cameras are used in the motion capture process to record the action of an Elf "massive agent" running up a ramp.
Courtesy: New Line Cinema


The filmmakers also brought in renowned character actor Andy Serkis to give Gollum a range of voices - from melancholy to menacing. According to Barrie M. Osborne, "It is imperative that Gollum is a real character. He is brought to screen as an animated character, but we need him to have an emotional range, a character torn between the power of the One Ring. Andy Serkis has that range as an actor to do an amazing job, both in his vocal range, in his ability to pantomime Gollum on set, and also on the motion capture stage - so when animated he will become the most realistic animated creature ever on screen." Digital technicians worked closely with Serkis to capture his own uniquely created movement for the bony, lonely creature.

INTO THE RING'S EVIL:
STUNTS AND ACTION

"This film required actors in tremendous physical shape, both because of the battles they go through and the fact that the Fellowship journeys over water, under the ground and across mountains to destroy the Ring."
-Barrie M. Osborne

Click to enlargeThe action of The Lord of the Rings also required the design of unparalleled stunts under the direction of stunt coordinator George Marshall Ruge. They not only helped to choreograph massive battle sequences filled with ancient (and newly invented) fighting techniques, but worked with cast members and stunt extras balancing on high cliffs, scaling castle walls, falling out of boats and charging through forests on horseback. The stunts for this film are unique because of the wide range of fighting styles practiced by the myriad characters. It was a challenge for the stunt department to stage battles with so many different sizes, styles and movements.

Click to enlargeBob Anderson, the world's top sword master who has consulted on such films as Star Wars and trained legendary film star Errol Flynn, was also brought in to train the actors in different fencing techniques. An expert in medieval arms, Anderson read the novels and then developed sparring methods based on Tolkien's descriptions of each culture. For example, he determined that the Hobbits are so small, they should fight as a team. Some, like the axe-wielding Gimli the Dwarf, use a variety of other weapons. A commando army of stunt performers was given special training to perfect the unique fighting styles of the Orcs, the Uruk-Hai, The Ringwraiths, the Elves and the other civilizations in Tolkien's universe. An expert in firing ancient English longbows was also brought in.

Click to enlargeThe stunts not only required a massive human effort but an animal one as well. The Lord of the Rings used more than 250 horses, including a corps of 70 specially trained horses. Among them are the five miniature horses used for the Hobbits, and the two proud white Andalusians used to bring Shadowfax, the wizard Gandalf's mysteriously wild and courageous steed, to life. This multi-faceted department was helmed by head animal wrangler Dave Johnson, horse coordinator Steve Old, horse technical advisors John Scott and Lyle Edge, and horse stunt coordinator Casey O' Neill.

For Peter Jackson, it was all part of an effort to reflect the realistic pandemonium of battles-from the adrenaline rush of the crowds and the hammering hooves of the horses to the heart-wrenching screams and valiant cries in the background. Despite the sophistication of the stunts and effects throughout The Lord of the Rings, in the end Peter Jackson kept the focus on a simple enemy: the One Ring. "What's so interesting to me about The Lord of the Rings is that the ultimate villain of the entire epic story isn't a fire-breathing dragon or killer robot or massive shark. It's a tiny thing," he says. "The evil is more psychological, intangible, something each character encounters in his or her own way."

 

THE MUSIC
OF THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING
Click to enlarge
Director/Writer/Producer Peter Jackson with composer Howard Shore at a London scoring session.

Photo: Daniel Smith/New Line Cinema

In devising the music for The Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson was committed to the idea of creating a timeless, classic orchestral score that would not reflect a specific historical period. Recognizing the tremendous influence of music and song in Tolkien's literary works, Jackson and co-writer/producer Fran Walsh worked closely with Howard Shore to create music that would best reflect Tolkien's world.

Shore engaged the 96-piece London Philharmonic Orchestra, working in London over an intense 6-week-long schedule, to create two hours of original music for The Fellowship of the Ring. He also enlisted the choral vocal group, The Voices of London, a 60-person male and female adult choir led by Terry Edwards.

Out of his desire to create different vocal and instrumental elements for each of the various civilizations in Middle-earth, Shore included in the fabric of the score a number of exotic instruments, such as the Raita from North Africa, which he utilized in segments involving the Ringwraiths.

The only portions of the score recorded outside of London were to accompany the Moria sequence. This music was recorded over a week at the Wellington Town Hall in the center of Wellington, New Zealand, where The Lord of the Rings production was based.

The soundtrack also features two original songs by acclaimed musical artist Enya, a longtime fan of the trilogy. Jackson, likewise a fan of Enya's music, invited her to New Zealand to meet with him and watch footage from the film. Among the tracks Enya contributed are the songs "Aniron," which accompanies an intimate sequence between Arwen and Aragorn; and "May It Be," which is heard during the end titles of the film.

The Lord of The Rings:
The Fellowship of The Ring
- Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Howard Shore, Enya

MIDDLE-EARTH DOWN UNDER:
THE NEW ZEALAND LOCATIONS

"New Zealand is Middle-earth. It has every geological formation and geographical landscape you can imagine ... and some you can't."
-Elijah Wood, "Frodo Baggins"

Click to enlargeTo truly create Middle-earth for The Lord of the Rings, the filmmakers had to find a location that could represent the earth as it might have appeared 7,000 years ago. In the South Pacific, across the International Date Line, they found their idyll in New Zealand, where a primal, untamed and unruly landscape still exists almost untouched by any blight of modern technology. "New Zealand has the essence of the old European countryside," says Peter Jackson. "Yet it also has an extraordinary quality that makes it perfect for The Lord of the Rings, as well as very experienced crew members."

In New Zealand, as in Middle-earth, mountains loom overhead and green rolling hills spread underfoot. Peter Jackson and his team scoured the country's two islands for their most beautiful, hidden areas. The sheer diversity of landscapes allowed for the recreation of such locales for the trilogy as Hobbiton, Bree, Rivendell, Moria, Mordor, and Gondor, all seen in The Fellowship of the Ring. New Zealand's volcanic activity came in handy for fiery Mount Doom, where Sauron forged the One Ring, seen briefly in The Fellowship of the Ring. From the remarkable mountain ranges of Queenstown to the deserts of Tongariro, each unique distant location became home for a cast and crew of hundreds.

"Middle-earth has a familiar feel to us, but as an audience you don't know exactly where it is. That is the beauty of New Zealand with fields that resemble England, mountains that could double as the Swiss Alps, or beautiful pristine lakes that you get in Italy -- all this eclectic mix of locations in a small country where it is easy for a film crew to get from point A to point B," says co-producer Rick Porras.

When Jackson and company came upon the rolling hills of Matamata on the North Island, they knew they had found their Hobbiton. The size of the small, sloped grassy hills seemed to perfectly match the 3'6" Hobbits and their homestead. "With real moss, real grass, real trees and, thanks to the incredible design team real-looking homesteads, the idyllic rural life of the Hobbits became real. New Zealand made it a truly special place. It meant I didn't have to use my imagination because Hobbiton was there for Gandalf to feel at home in," notes Ian McKellen. Adds John Rhys-Davies, who plays the Dwarf Gimli: "New Zealand is such a primitive land it can take you back to a primitive time in history. It's so breathtakingly beautiful that you believe that even in the twilight of doom there might still be humor, honor, courage and compassion."

Many of the locations were under the protection of the New Zealand Department of Conservation, but the filmmakers treated the land with the respect it deserved. The indigenous New Zealand people, the Maori, came to bless the production's soundstages before principal photography began.

Of course, not everything you see in The Fellowship of the Ring is pure, natural New Zealand. Sometimes, the stunning scenery is digitally enhanced with seamless sophistication. "With digital wizardry, we were able to add craggy little mountains, and put buildings where they never have been. New Zealand is an impressive landscape; but with a little extra help from the computer we turned it into Middle-earth," says Peter Jackson.

"We had a crew comprised mostly of New Zealanders, or 'Kiwis.' There are a lot of innovative concepts and technologies on the crew's behalf that have made shooting a project of this mammoth scope possible," says producer Barrie M. Osborne.

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