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October 31, 2012

‘The Hobbit': Happy birthday, Peter Jackson, and happy flying

Posted in: Movies

gollum The Hobbit: Happy birthday, Peter Jackson, and happy flying

New Zealand's Wellington Airport renamed its terminal "The Middle of Middle-earth" and installed an enormous Gollum sculpture. (Weta Workshop)

fishlrg The Hobbit: Happy birthday, Peter Jackson, and happy flying

The sculpture was designed and facilitated by filmmaker Richard Taylor, right, and Weta's workshop supervisor Rob Gillies, left. (Steve Unwin / Weta Workshop)

handlrg The Hobbit: Happy birthday, Peter Jackson, and happy flying

The sculpture is more than 42 feet long -- the size of a small jet aircraft. (Steve Unwin / Weta Workshop)

eyelrg The Hobbit: Happy birthday, Peter Jackson, and happy flying

Rob Gillies works on the Gollum sculpture at Wellington Airport. (Steve Unwin / Weta Workshop)

Peter Jackson has more to celebrate than just his birthday — the director is 51 Wednesday — as the countdown to the release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” continues.

As marketing ramps up for the film, the first in what is to be a trilogy based on the novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, ahead of its Dec. 14 release date, New Zealand post has released “Hobbit”-themed currency and stamps, the Wellington Airport installed an enormous Gollum sculpture, and Air New Zealand on Wednesday unveiled a new in-flight briefing video that takes a page from Middle-earth.

The video (watch it below), which instructs passengers to buckle up, turn off their electronic devices and properly stow their luggage, features cameos by a host of characters from the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “The Hobbit,” both of which were filmed in New Zealand, Jackson’s home country. Jackson also makes an appearance, finding a golden ring beneath his seat and saying, “My precious!” as he slips it on his finger, promptly vanishing from sight.

PHOTOS: Meet the 13 dwarves from ‘The Hobbit’

Dean O’Gorman, who plays the dwarf Fili in the upcoming “Hobbit” films, tells passengers how to assume an emergency position, and Tolkien’s great-grandson Royd Tolkien, who played a Gondorian ranger in “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” is seen sitting near the Eye of Sauron.

The video also features a wizard resembling Gandalf piloting the plane and trying to sneak a smoke on his pipe, an elven woman giving instructions to passengers, and an orf, a dwarf and the Lord of the Nazgûl (also known as the Witch-king of Angmar) working on their laptop, smartphone and tablet. Even Gollum makes an appearance.

The gray wizard finishes the video with a message from the cockpit.

“Sit back, relax and enjoy your journey,” he says. “May the road rise up to meet you and your beard grow ever longer. May the sun shine long upon your — Fly, you fools!”

New Zealand has been capitalizing on hype for “The Hobbit,” adapting the film series’ imagery in its tourism industry. The Wellington Airport recently renamed its terminal “The Middle of Middle-earth” and installed a gigantic Gollum sculpture, more than 42 feet long, designed by filmmaker and “Lord of the Rings” prosthetic wizard Richard Taylor and Weta’s workshop supervisor Rob Gillies. The sculpture portrays a gleeful Gollum, chasing three “juicy sweet fishes.”

Check out the sculpture in the gallery above. And are there any more video cameos we missed? Let us know in the comments.

– Noelene Clark

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