Hobbits, dwarves and wizards, take note: Air New Zealand, now known as the official airline of Middle-earth, unwrapped its Hobbit-themed Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on Nov. 24, four days in advance of the global film premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" in Wellington, New Zealand, on Nov. 28.
Imagery depicts characters from the fantasy adventure film, the first in a trilogy of Hobbit films by Kiwi director Peter Jackson.
The character images extend the full length of the 219-foot aircraft, the longest plane in Air New Zealand's fleet, and took six days and 400 man hours to install, the largest-ever graphic on an airplane.
In advance of the plane's unveiling, the airline rolled out a Hobbit-inspired safety video on Nov. 1, which chalked up more than 8 million views on YouTube in the first week.
The video features appearances by Jackson, the unforgettable character Gollum, shots of hairy Hobbit feet as well as descendants of J.R.R. Tolkien, author of "The Hobbit."
New Zealand tourism hopes for a big boost in visitors, according to Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.
"The Hobbit movies will be hugely important to New Zealand's tourism industry in the next couple of years as tourists are inspired to come and see and experience the landscapes which have shaped the movies," Fyfe said.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," the central film in the trilogy, will be released on Dec. 13, 2013, and the final film, "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," will debut on July 18, 2014.
— Gay Nagle Myers