Talk about piggybacking. Thanks to a pig tale, Babe, the tiny village of Robertson (pop. 800) in New South Wales is becoming one of the biggest tourist destinations down under. Yet the movie’s producers are anything but tickled pink that the Australian Tourist Commission (ATC) is promoting the rural hamlet 75 miles south of Sydney as Babe’s ”Home Town.”
”It would be a rip-off to travel there,” says Johnny Friedkin, a spokesman for the film’s production company. ”You’d come away aggravated if you traveled hundreds of miles to see Babe’s hometown.” Robertson’s mayor, Jim Tuddenham, admits that even though Babe was filmed there, locales from the movie don’t actually exist. There is no Hoggett Farm, for instance — it was only a set, which was torn down after completion of the movie. But Babe pilgrims can stay in Ranelagh House, a monastery-cum-guesthouse on the same road where Babe herded sheep, with the blessing of the movie’s director. ”I love to see the town promoting the film and themselves,” says Chris Noonan.
How can you fault a town so proud of its porcine heritage that its citizens gathered on Oscar night to watch the show at the Robertson Inn? According to the mayor, ”There were hundreds watching. We were playing pin the tail on the pig and hoping for the big one.” They didn’t get it — Babe lost to adopted Aussie Mel Gibson’s Braveheart. But there’s no lingering shame. Notes Tuddenham: ”We say this is God’s place.”