WELLINGTON Fight a hobbit for an aisle seat? Get life jacket instructions from a beautiful female elf? Only on a plane to Middle Earth - or in an Air New Zealand safety video.
The company's latest in a series of variations on the usual dull pre-flight safety instructions has lifted a page from J.R.R. Tolkien's classic "The Hobbit" in the run-up to the world premiere of the film later this month, a bid to attract visitors to the nation where much of the film was shot.
"An Unexpected Briefing," a play on the movie's title of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," features crew members explaining flight safety to passengers embarking on a pilgrimage to Middle Earth, Tolkien's land of treasure, dragons and magic rings.
Director Sir Peter Jackson, who received Academy Awards for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, makes a cameo appearance in the four-minute video, playing a passenger among the Orcs, pointy-eared elves and furry-footed hobbits that otherwise pack the seats.
Gollum, the creature corrupted by the infamous ring at the center of the series, does his bit by scuttling along darkened aisles to point at the emergency exit lights, while an elf pointedly tells the powerful wizard Gandalf that he cannot smoke his pipe on the flight.
"To have Gollum step off the movie screen for the first time and into an Air New Zealand aircraft is incredibly special," said Mike Tod, Air New Zealand General Manager Marketing and Communications, in a statement about the video, which has received 2.4 million hits in the day since going up.
The video, produced with Jackson's Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, which created the visual effects for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films, includes inside jokes and quotations from the series. It also contains two lines of code in the Elvish language.
New Zealand, whose dramatic and pristine landscapes serve as the backdrop for the epic fantasy series, has been buzzing with publicity for the film, the first of a trilogy, which premieres in the nation's capital of Wellington on November 28.
Die-hard Tolkien fans have flocked to the town of Matamata in the country's North Island, which earlier this year began tours to the set of Hobbiton, the town from which the story's hero, Bilbo Baggins, starts his journey.
Wellington, where Jackson and the Weta Workshop and studios are based, also has been cranking up the publicity machine before its rolls out the red carpet later this month.
The city, which has dubbed itself "The Middle of Middle Earth", has erected a giant countdown clock at the cinema where the premiere will be held, while visitors to Wellington have been welcomed since last week at the airport by a 13 metre (43 foot) high statue of Gollum.
(Reporting by Naomi Tajitsu, editing by Elaine Lies)