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From Mirkwood to Erebor
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" showcases a wide range of New Zealand landscapes: Turoa Skifield became the backdrop for the approach to the hidden door to Erebor; Paradise provided Beorn with a visually striking backyard; Canaan Downs became the Anduin Valley; Glenaray Station was used to portray the High Fells; Takaro Lodge served as the south borders of Mirkwood; and the Pelorus River became the Forest River. Portions of the barrel ride down the Forest River were shot near the Aratiatia Dam of Lake Taupo.

Martin Freeman marvels, "Every set looks like it was made by God, and they put it all together in about three hours. It's madness, absolute madness."


The home of the Skin-changer Beorn was found on location in Paradise, Glenorchy, on the South Island of New Zealand. The exterior for the home of the massive creature was built as two sets, 650 feet apart, to capture the striking views of the surrounding area

A unique combination of influences inform the design of Beorn's home, including references in the book to a Norwegian longhouse, as well as Beorn's nature as a skin-changer. "He's hundreds of years old, and has been stuck in the bush building this house, so we thought he would be a bit of a carver," Hennah notes. "He has carved iconic images into all his beams, doors and windows, so there is a whole other layer of depth in the wood."

Manifesting these carvings involved a confluence of design and the craftsmanship of the local artisans brought in to do the woodwork. John Howe explains, "I was heavily inspired by Norwegian stave churches and Viking wood-carvings, with a few Norse motifs snuck in. However, most of the carvers who built the sets were either Maori or familiar with Maori art, and they brought a wonderful touch of that to their work. In the end, it's familiar but otherworldly, and fits perfectly in Middle-earth."

Interiors were built in Dwarf scale on a stage in Wellington, which translates into a set that was 1.8 times larger than average to create the effect of Beorn, at 10-feet-tall, looming over the Dwarves.

Animals bred for their large size were brought to the set to portray his menagerie. "Pigs that are the size of cows, cows that are the size of horses, and horses...well, they must have been the biggest horses in the world," McKellen remarks.

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