How Hobbiton created new families for their latest Hobbit hole movie set experience

With 500,000 people passing through Hobbiton's movie set each year, you would expect that those in charge have their hands full already. 

However, the Hobbiton Movie experience in Matamata has now expanded its repertoire to open two of the iconic Hobbit homes in the Bagshot Row area, allowing people to finally see what lies inside after 20 years of wondering. 

But even with the reveal of two new homes, those in charge faced a new challenge - how to stay true to J. R. R. Tolkien's world of Hobbits, dragons and adventures while creating a new backstory for those dwelling behind the door. 

The Hobbit Hole features a labyrinth of fully themed rooms: an entry hall, two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and dining area, equipped pantry and a parlour complete with a crackling fireplace.   

While tours of 40 people will be split between the two open Hobbit holes, both homes share a narrative similarity - they are family dwellings which bustle with the accoutrements of a functional home, as well as accommodating two children and a baby. 

From the warmth and cosiness of the roaring fire that's forever burning inside, to the hand-written labels on jars of food, every little detail has been pored over and curated during the building process. 

While the work on the idea began years ago, the last nine months have seen Hobbiton turned into a hive of activity as over 100 contractors set to work behind the scenes making this latest fantasy a reality. 

Hobbiton Movie Set Tours general manager of tourism, Shayne Forrest, told Newshub it was important to ensure the experience was authentic for fans once they ventured into the 425 square-metre homes. 

"Around every corner there's those little touches and those little stories that get you involved and make the Hobbit house feel real, alive and living like there's a real family living there now. You feel you could see a Hobbit as you walk into the next room," he explained. 

For 20 years fans have longed to go behind the doors of the Hobbit holes.
For 20 years fans have longed to go behind the doors of the Hobbit holes. Photo credit: Supplied

"The Hobbit that lives in number one Bagshot Row is known throughout the Shire as being a little bit of a collector. So one day when a peddler was coming through, he made a purchase that is now sitting pride of place on the mantelpiece. 

"If you have a little peek around the corner and a look at all those little nooks and crannies, there's what he believes is a dragon egg and also what he believes is Smaug's toenail. The other hobbits in the shire believed that he got a bit ripped off and it's not real," he laughed. 

That level of obsession is something set designer Kathryn Lim knows all too well. 

She's spent months on the Hobbiton set, dressing the homes with the finer details and arranging the knick-knacks.  

Lim knows the Lord of the Rings franchise well, having worked on The Hobbit as a set finishing supervisor. 

The Hobbit holes feel like their owners have just stepped out.
The Hobbit holes feel like their owners have just stepped out. Photo credit: Supplied

But despite that, she confided in Newshub from outside number one Bagshot Row that working on the project had been one of her biggest challenges to date. 

"You've got this great following. You've also got some really great resources and work that's already been done on that. We've got really good films that people just absolutely love. We've got these amazing books that Tolkien wrote and he did a lot of illustrations for them. We've got the illustrations of the concept art of Alan Lee - so we're trying to make good on that, you know? But you need to make sure that the fans have lots of things that they can look at." 

Lim also told Newshub her every waking moment had become obsessed with minutiae as she spent months creating the imaginary lives and stories of the families that lived behind the doors. 

"We knew that we had a parents' bedroom, a children's bedroom, a parlour, a living room, you know, a kitchen, a dining room, a study and a bathroom. But what we didn't have is the fact we didn't have the who lived here? Who were the people who lived there? How do they interact with these spaces? So that's how I started. I started working out a narrative of the family that lived here in this particular Hobbit hole." 

Lim then etched out a complex and in-depth backstory, to incorporate the Hobbit's extended family. 

Every detail has been pored over at Hobbiton
Every detail has been pored over. Photo credit: Supplied

For example, just inside the first home, there's a fish mounted in a case on the wall. When Newshub mentioned the decoration, Lim regaled us with the story of how the fish came to be there and how the rod the Hobbit used broke during the capturing of it - it's these details which have been painstakingly sketched out throughout the entire process. 

"We wanted it to be charming and we wanted to be cozy. We wanted it to be a home that people could believe that the Hobbit sort of just actually just slipped out and that we've just interrupted their part of the day or early evening. You know, a glimpse into their life." 

But not everything could make the final cut. 

Lim revealed one of her earliest and favourite creations had to be removed, amid fears visitors to the Hobbit holes could damage it beyond repair. 

"We made a handwritten guide to mushrooms. There were these hand-sculpted different types of mushrooms, and it was like, 'These ones are great in a rabbit stew. This mushroom was poisonous. Stay away from this one. This one might make your tummy a little bit upset, but they're actually quite delicious', things like that. We know that hobbits love mushrooms," she laughed.  

Hobbiton's Hobbit holes  are well stocked.
Hobbiton's Hobbit holes are well stocked. Photo credit: Supplied

"But I couldn't fit it on the wall. I really, really wish that it was in there because visually it's beautiful. It was probably one of the first things that I thought about making and it just tied in with everything and added colour. But we realised it could get damaged quite easily. What I'd like to do is to revisit it, find a space it can fit amongst all the things and make one that's a little bit more durable, one that will last." 

While Forrest is adamant the Hobbit holes won't be expanded to accommodate an Airbnb experience ("Who knows where things to go in the future. But at this stage we have no plans for accommodation"), Lim became animated when asked if she viewed the holes as a real home she could stay in overnight. 

"I would absolutely love to. I would absolutely like to sleep here and just think about what life is like being a Hobbit. I love the simplicity of it, I think it's the architecture, which is at 83 percent of human size - I think that's got to be a really big part of it. A night here would be fantastic - even though the beds are a little bit short for me!"