Air New Zealand, the official airline of Middle-earth, has transformed a Boeing 777-300 aircraft - emblazoning the 54 metre (177 feet) long Dragon on both sides. The aircraft is the only place the film's Smaug has ever been shown in his entirety. It touched down at Los Angeles airport this morning in time for the premiere of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second film in The Hobbit Trilogy, which will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood this evening.

The first film in The Hobbit Trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, teasingly featured just Smaug's eye, leaving it to fans to imagine for themselves how the iconic Dragon might look in filmmaker Peter Jackson's mind's eye.

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."

This is the second 777-300 inspired by The Hobbit films in the Air New Zealand fleet. The first was unveiled last year to coincide with the launch of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and has been wowing fans around the world since. Both aircraft will operate on the Auckland-Los Angeles-London route.

Director of The Hobbit Trilogy, Sir Peter Jackson, says seeing his creation on such a massive scale touch down in Los Angeles is a proud moment.

"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".

Visual Effects Supervisor Eric Saindon of Weta Digital says designing a graphic which not only fits with Peter Jackson's creative vision but also meets the various specifications required to fit on an aircraft was no mean feat.

"Capturing Smaug's presence and the amazing detail in his design while accommodating the windows, doors and wing shape was quite a different experience for us," said Saindon. "It was great to see Smaug brought to life, and he appears even larger in the film!"

As part of its global marketing campaign around The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the airline has also released a video entitled Just another day in Middle-earth, which features staff from across its business, with a magical Hobbit movie-inspired twist. The video has been viewed online 1.5 million times in less than two weeks.


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Note: video and images of the aircraft will be available at www.airnzhobbitmedia.com

Issued by Air New Zealand Public Affairs ph +64 21 747 320