What’s that in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a dragon!
If you were in sight of Los Angeles airport this morning, the latter two answers would both have been correct.
Air New Zealand gets to call itself the official airline of Middle-earth thanks to a partnership with the upcoming film The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which was largely filmed in New Zealand. In celebration of tonight’s Hollywood premiere of the film, the airline transformed a Boeing 777-300 aircraft – emblazoning the 177 foot-long Dragon on both sides. The aircraft, which is the only place the film’s Smaug has ever been shown in his entirety, touched down at LAX this morning, just in time for the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy to premiere at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood this evening.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Officer Christopher Luxon says the airline has been in discussions for some time around permission to feature Smaug on the ‘flying billboard’ ahead of the film’s official release. “For our partners to allow Air New Zealand to reveal their star exclusively to the world ahead of the movie premiere and theatrical release in ten days is a huge privilege. We worked with the digital effects company behind The Hobbit Trilogy, Weta Digital, and they designed the graphic for us especially for this purpose.”
And while seeing Smaug himself land on an LAX runway must have been exciting for fans and onlookers, even the director of The Hobbit Trilogy, Sir Peter Jackson, thought seeing his creation on such a massive scale was pretty darn cool. “Seeing Smaug fly off the big screen and into the skies is pretty exciting. The first Air New Zealand aircraft features various characters from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and it’s extremely impressive, but I think Smaug running the entire length of the aircraft is even more awe-inspiring.”
Here is a video of the dragon coming in for his LAX landing, and below is a time-lapsed video depicting the process of turning a plain ole’ plane into a fearsome beast of epic legend (and epic marketing magic).