Though there have been misgivings in certain corners of the press about the quality of the forthcoming film The Hobbit, in the country where the trilogy was shot there’s nothing other than feverish anticipation. That much was proven when tens of thousands of people packed New Zealand’s capital city Wellington today (November 28) in order to glimpse stars at the premiere of the first of the new Peter Jackson films, with people clambering onto roofs and shimmying up drain pipes to get a better look.

Peter Jackson was clearly delighted by the turn out; the director had recently been telling Radio New Zealand that the film was almost switched to England and Scotland following a union dispute, and his pleasure at eventually being able to continue in the land of the silver fern was clear, vindicated too by the interest in the premiere today. "I'm glad that we established the style and the look of Middle Earth by adapting Lord of the Rings before we did the Hobbit," Jackson told Reuters from the red carpet before telling the crowd "Fate meant for us to be here.”

Though Ian McKellen was absent from proceedings, most of the cast were there, including Martin Freeman, who plays the Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Elijah Wood. "Between us - Peter (Jackson) and me -- we hashed out another version of Bilbo. There'll be others, but our version is this one and I hope people like it," said Freeman of the more light hearted version of the hobbit he’d portrayed in the film. A negative point of the evening came when animal rights activists turned up in protest at recent reports that animals had died on location during the filming. Event organizers tried to block out their posters with Hobbit billboards.

Watch trailer for The Hobbit