By Emma Jolliff and Jeff Bell
A 9-metre long Gandalf caused roads to close in Wellington today ahead of its installation on top of the Embassy Theatre.
The giant statue was sculpted by a team that includes Hobbit production designer Dan Hennah and Weta’s Masayuki Ohashi, who also carved the giant Gollum hanging from the roof of Wellington Airport’s main terminal.
Majoribanks St closed at 6am this morning as workers positioned the Gandalf statue, whose final arm piece will be added last. The huge installation also includes a piece made to look like the front of a Hobbit house.
The installation comes as the city preps for the November 28 premiere of Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
A cave troll, Gollum and Nazgul rider have topped the Embassy Theatre for past premieres in the city.
Mr Hennah says he had a moment of brilliance with the idea before he realised it was going to be quite hard to achieve.
“This is Gandalf,” he says. “He's at Bilbo's doorway and he's leaving a mark on the doorway that the dwarves will recognise as a place to go. It's a place where they meet, a place where they plan their journey.
“We've had to attach it to the side of the building to carry the weight and then how we transfer that weight back to the ties.”
All day the project drew crowds of enthusiastic onlookers.
“It's absolutely stunning,” says Anna Kirtlan. “It's much bigger than I thought it would be.”
It wasn't until late this afternoon that the final piece went into place.
Gandalf will lord it over the Embassy until at least January.
- The façade puts no weight on the awning of The Embassy – it is designed to hang
- It took three sculptors three weeks to create – about 500 hours of work
- The grass on the Hobbit house comes from 600 imported grass skirts
- 2400 bamboo skewers and 153 litres of paint were used
- Trolley bus cables had to be re-aligned to accommodate the installation