Airplane safety is nothing to be taken lightly – in fact, it’s so regimented that you’ll hear a similar spiel about safety belts and oxygen masks aboard practically any airline you fly. But you probably haven’t heard it delivered by an elf.
To coincide with next month’s release of Peter Jackson’s latest film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Air New Zealand has unveiled its own epic production of sorts, an adventurous take on the standard in-flight safety film. It’s an obvious and aggressive effort to promote New Zealand’s role in the film as a stand-in for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth, but also a clever way to inject some fun and attention into the presentation that — let’s face it — leaves little to the imagination.
The four-minute safety epic – titled “An Unexpected Briefing” – stars many of the fantastical characters from Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films: elves, dwarves, Hobbits, a few men and a familiar-looking wizard in a long beard and gray felt hat. Gollum makes a cameo, as does Jackson himself, reaching down to pick up a dropped ring — he even calls it “my precious.” Tolkien’s great-grandsons also appear in the film as passengers aboard the flight.
While Hobbits are unapologetic homebodies, more likely to hang around the Shire than to consider jetting across the world, they’d likely be proud of this safety video. That’s because the diminutive race created by Tolkein and first published in print in 1937 are notoriously safety-conscious and risk-averse.
And after the Hobbits were versed in the proper safety procedures, it seems they were cleared for takeoff – on the side of an Air New Zealand jet. The carrier has rebranded itself the “Airline of Middle Earth,” plastering the body of a Boeing 737 with images from the film. It’s now set to jet across the world as a “flying billboard” for the film. (New Zealand is going all in on its promotional Hobbit tie ins; earlier this year the government released a series of commemorative coins featuring characters from the film.)
It’s not the first time Air New Zealand has decided to have some fun with their safety presentation, though this is the first one with a movie tie-in. In past years, productions have called on Richard Simmons and New Zealand’s All Black rugby players to deliver humor-tinged safety instructions.
Even multinational airline Delta is getting in on the lighthearted safety presentations, though with a bit more restraint than Air New Zealand. Two recently unveiled videos feature subtle jokes spliced throughout the usual chatter. The airline does toss in an Abraham Lincoln cameo, although it’s hard to compete with a full-fledged epic in airline-safety film format. Still, it’s a useful reminder that we should renew our attention to airline safety videos – we wouldn’t want to miss a good gag.