Oct 8 2013, 10:00pm
I've had a unique experience as a Tolkien fan and a Hobbit film extra - I got to dress the part and move within amazing Middle-earth settings. It's an experience I'll always treasure and one I would have loved to share with other fans, to inhabit Middle-earth for a time. Many of us over the past several decades have tried to recreate parts of Middle-earth for ourselves either through costume or hobbit hole building, just to be able to slip into that wonderful world we love for a while. The fans who've established the ALEP festivals in Kentucky http://www.alep-ky.us/about.html seem to have found a lovely way to share that with other like-minded folk, and good on 'em! Thanks to PJ and the hobbits of Matamata, we can now all stroll through the Shire and have a brew at the Green Dragon. We at TORn do our Middle-earth communing on line.
I choose to contribute (and hope it helps us, every one).
There will, no doubt, be some sort of Middle-earth themed attraction in the US or elsewhere one day. I do hope it's a good one - but my idea of good won't be others', just as we disagree here about the making of the films. The phrase "good taste" always presents itself when this subject comes up, but whose good taste will prevail? It won't be to everyone's liking, that's certain, but does that mean it shouldn't be built at all?
Since I think that members of the themed entertainment industry will one day have the incredible fun of putting together such an attraction for the rest of us, I'm going to put in my two-cents worth so that I'll be able to think that perhaps some of "my" Middle-earth is there for others to enjoy.
1) Have simple costumes (capes, hats, gowns, jackets) available and required for each and every visitor to transform themselves into local inhabitants of Lake-town, Rivendell or the Shire. Bomby is right that Hawaiian shirts would definitely detract from everyone's experience; clothing that might pass in Diagon Alley in a Harry Potter-themed area would scream "real world" in M-e.
2) Pay as much attention to detail as the set decorators on The Hobbit and LOTH have done. Avoid the tons of paper and plastic products in cafes and find authentic-looking ceramic and glass reusable dishes. Have homely objects placed on windowsills, tables and cupboards as if the owner has just left them there. Plant flowers and trees that blossom in spring, and let leaves blow along the paths and streets in an October wind. Let this be a living place. Weta Workshop is capable of creating the most incredible realism in a place that has never existed, so use their expertise - please!
3) Have cast members in character interacting with visitors: put more actors to work! Take advice from living history museums like Plimoth Plantation http://www.plimoth.org/...tury-english-village , where each actor takes on the story of one of the original settlers and has no idea what an airplane or telephone is as the year is 1627; Old Sturbridge Village of the 1830's http://www.osv.org/, where actors cook on open hearths, load carts pulled by oxen, bind books, make lace, and where I spent the most authentic Thanksgiving of my life tantalized by the smells of roast turkey and spices on the air while an actor told me how the whole family would be arriving soon to share the meal - and they did - in costume. Yes, I wished I could sit down with them, but later I had a wonderful feast at the inn and tasted authentic dishes of the period while sitting in front of a crackling fire. (sigh) That's what I'm talkin' about! Make it a living Middle-earth.
4) rides: well...it is a theme park. There's a lovely little merry-go-round in Dale we see with various animals, no doubt created by the dwarves, and that could be fine; boat rides among the piers and buildings of Lake-town with Lake-towners going about their daily tasks and calling out to the visitors, passing the time of day as if they belonged there, too; canoes or swan boats on the River Anduin as elves play and sing Tra-la-lally on the shore amongst the trees ; and, yes, I would LOVE to walk through the caverns of Thanduil's realm and then escape on the river through the rapids in a barrel - and get wet!
Even if it can't match the vision we each have in our heads, the chance to experience the sense of really being in Middle-earth "is not a thing to miss, in June under the stars". I had that chance in June under the stars. I'd like others to have it, too.
(This post was edited by Lissuin on Oct 8 2013, 10:02pm)