Smaug painting adorns the sides of New Zealand Air plane

Dec. 2, 2013 at 11:30 AM

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Air New Zealand unveiled a custom-painted Boeing 777-000 aircraft with a 177-foot-long dragon emblazoned on both sides at Auckland airport Monday.

The dragon is a prominent character in the upcoming fantasy film, "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which was shot in New Zealand.

"To see Smaug fly off the big-screen and into the skies like this is pretty exciting. We're proud to debut him here in New Zealand, where our team has worked so hard to bring him to life," Peter Jackson, the movie's director and producer, said in a statement.

Visual effects supervisor Eric Saindon of Weta Digital said designing a graphic which not only fulfills Jackson's creative vision, but also meets the various specifications required to fit on an aircraft was not an easy task.

"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!"

The airline said the plane will head to Los Angeles Monday evening and arrive just in time for the U.S. premiere of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," which is scheduled for theatrical release Dec. 13.

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