Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis were among the stars of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey who walked the red carpet at the movie's premiere in New Zealand.
Screen beauties Cate Blanchett and Evangeline Lily were also at the glitzy opening, which saw a plane freshly painted with Hobbit characters flying low over Wellington's Embassy Theatre and thousands of fans in the crowd wearing elf ears and wizard hats.
Martin, who plays the lead role of Bilbo Baggins, said he thought director Peter Jackson had done an amazing job on the film, which is the first of a three-part trilogy.
"He's done it again," Martin said. "If it's possible, it's probably even better than The Lord Of The Rings. I think he's surpassed it."
Peter said it was strange working on the project so intimately for two years and then having it suddenly taken away as the world got to see it. "It spins your head a little bit," he said.
Meanwhile, a handful of animal rights protesters held signs at the premiere. A couple wore grim reaper outfits and held up signs which read "three horses died for this film".
People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals (Peta) is protesting after several animal wranglers said three horses and up to two dozen other animals had died during the making of the movies because they were housed at an unsafe farm.
Jackson's spokesman earlier acknowledged two horses had died preventable deaths at the farms but said the production company worked quickly to improve stables and other facilities and that claims of mistreatment were unfounded.
"No mistreatment, no abuse. Absolutely none," Peter said at the news conference. "You've got a very radical political organisation which has jumped on this."
He said the allegations were an insult to everyone who worked on the films and that Peta's attempts to get publicity at the premiere were "pretty pathetic".