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Air New Zealand Unveils Giant Flying Hobbit

Call it something of a Hobbit fixation, but Air New Zealand as turned its newest aircraft into a flying billboard for the movie "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

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Meanwhile, the arline's new "Hobbit" safety video has scored more than 9,248,829 views on YouTube, which of course doesn't take into account the number of people who have watched it on planes in the three weeks since it was launched.

The flagship carrier unveiled its new 73-meter-long 777-300 aircraft Monday, with exterior imagery depicting characters from the first in a trilogy of films by director Sir Peter Jackson, according to News24.

AdNews reported that the plane will also "be present" at the film's 28 November world premiere in Wellington.

Next year, the carrier will unveil another aircraft celebrating the trilogy's next movie, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."

Air New Zealand chief executive Rob Fyfe explained the reason behind the Hobbit livery (aside, perhaps, from a sizeable incentive payment from the producers of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," a New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures?):

"New Zealand is the home of Middle-earth and The Hobbit movies will be hugely important to New Zealand's tourism industry in the next couple of years as international tourists are inspired to come and see and experience for themselves the landscapes which have shaped the movies. We are thrilled to see so many international visitors booked to travel to Wellington for the world premiere of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'; we want them to experience the magic of Middle-earth as soon as they set foot on this aircraft."

The airline will run the Hobbit safety video, which features director Peter Jackson and characters from the much-anticipated movie, until early 2013.

"We're very excited about the Hobbit one; we believe it is the best yet, and there are no plans to stop [making non-standard safety videos] at the moment," the Fairfax media quoted the airline's head of international marketing, Jodi Williams, as saying.

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