The Boeing 777-300 was unveiled over the weekend, before a round trip to Los Angeles, via London, to pick up the actors.
It took the Air New Zealand team 400 hours to install the graphic, which at 830sq m is the largest ever applied to an aircraft.
Wellington has been re-named Middle of Middle-earth to celebrate tomorrow night’s world premiere of the first of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies, An Unexpected Journey.
The whole city has been gripped by Hobbit fever, with the character-wrapped Air New Zealand 777-300 aircraft flying in from Auckland today, bringing with it stars of the film.
They were greeted at Wellington airport by Jackson and fellow actors Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and James Nesbitt.
A 12m sculpture of Gollum – a $250,000 piece crafted by local special effects studio WETA – greets passengers at the airport, where luggage can be collected from “Baggins Services”.
In the city centre, fans have gathered at a themed marketplace, premiere venue the Embassy Theatre is watched over by a 40ft tall Gandalf, Middle-earth dollars are circulating and mail is going out stamped “Middle-earth”.
Five months after wrapping up filming, the cast of The Hobbit have reunited in Wellington to celebrate tomorrow’s movie premiere.
Four of the 13 dwarfs and wizard Radagast, played by British actor Sylvester McCoy, made their way to the capital in Air NZ’s new Hobbit styled Boing 777-300 and were met by the rest of the cast lead by director Peter Jackson.
“This plane with its 77-metre flying billboard came from Los Angeles and down from Auckland this morning,” Air New Zealand deputy chief executive Norm Thompson said. “It’s the first time this plane has arrived in Wellington, which is really fitting for the occation”.
The plane had made his maiden flight on Saturday in Auckland and has since been to Los Angeles and London.
Tourists arriving at the airport for the premiere excitedly flocked to the windows underneath the massive Middle of Middle Earth sign to catch a glimpse of Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and the rest of the Company of Dwarves.
The flight’s special guests were joined by cabin crew decked out in Hobbit habits: leather arm-pieces for the men and silver crowns for the women. And if they got bored, they could always watch Lord of the Rings on the in-flight entertainment.
But, better yet, the cast gets to see the film they spent a year and a half filming for the very first time.
“We get a cast viewing today in case we hate it,” said Turner.
And they brushed aside talks of animal cruelty on the set of the film.
Kiwi actor John Callen, who plays Oin in the film, discounted the validity of complaints horses were treated badly on set.
“The big question has to do with timing. My feeling is, if people were 100 per cent genuine in their intentions, then perhaps something should have been done sooner.”
After tomorrow’s premiere the cast will start a promotional tour around the world.