WELLING­TON

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Lord of the Rings. Avatar. The Hob­bit. Dis­trict 9. Some of today’s most pop­u­lar

and well known movies which com­bined have grossed bil­lions of dol­lars world­wide. What do they all have in com­mon? The spe­cial ef­fects, cos­tumes, weapons and/or other props in these films all come from a lit­tle sub­urb in the

coolest cap­i­tal in the world, Welling­ton.

Weta Work­shop, based in Mi­ra­mar, is only a short trip from Welling­ton air­port and worth a stop on your way in or out of town. The name ‘Weta’ comes from the name of a na­tive New Zealand in­sect, one of the largest/heav­i­est in­sects in the world. Weta was founded by Richard Tay­lor and Ta­nia Rodger in 1987, and since then the grow­ing team have worked on a huge num­ber of high pro­file films, TV se­ries and com­puter games pro­duc­ing not only spe­cial ef­fects, but also ar­mour, weapons, minia­tures, pros­thet­ics and crea­tures. The Lord of the Rings tril­ogy was their big­gest job to date, with no less than 48,000 pieces of ar­mour and 19,000 cos­tumes cre­ated for the three movies.

Be­ing a fan of Lord of the Rings my­self, a visit to Welling­ton meant a visit to Weta Cave. The Cave it­self is free and open seven days, but the visit isn’t com­plete without the be­hind the scenes tour. Get on­line to book a ticket at least a day be­fore you plan to visit to guar­an­tee a spot. I ar­rived a lit­tle early for my tour af­ter over­es­ti­mat­ing the dis­tance from the CBD to Mi­ra­mar (it’s only a 10 minute drive) so while wait­ing for the tour to start I was able to ex­plore the Cave. There is a mini mu­seum filled with hun­dreds of sculp­tures from Weta’s var­i­ous films, books, T-shirts and other film mer­chan­dise to pur­chase, and even sold out col­lecta­bles on dis­play. It was dif­fi­cult to drag my­self away from the 18 carat gold au­then­tic One Ring, com­plete with the orig­i­nal Elvish in­scrip­tions for a

neat sum of $5123 (I just couldn’t set­tle for the gold plated ring; de­spite be­ing a more re­al­is­tic $149). There’s also a thirty minute be­hind-thescenes film to watch with in­ter­views with the founders of Weta, so make sure you leave time be­fore or af­ter your tour.

We were col­lected from the Weta Cave and taken out­side and down to one of the ware­houses where all the work takes place. All the tour guides are also part of the tal­ented cre­ative team so you get plenty of in­sider in­for­ma­tion about what goes on be­hind-the-scenes. Our guide was a street artist be­fore he be­came a props painter at Weta; us­ing his skills with spray cans to create

the il­lu­sion of tex­ture on the props he works on. Through­out the tour we were shown the step-by-step process of how the props are cre­ated, from Dis­trict 9 weapons to Halo ve­hi­cles. Many of the props that were on show we were able to hold, play with and swing around, get­ting more of an idea of the ef­fort and weight the ac­tors have to deal with. I was most sur­prised to find that a ma­jor­ity of the ar­mour is made of plas­tic and foam, mak­ing it light­weight and eas­ier for the ac­tor to move around in. It’s the skilled peo­ple like our tour guide who are able to paint it to look ex­actly like a metal ar­mour suit Be­cause the tour is in one of the ac­tual Weta work­shops, you can see de­sign­ers, sculp­tures and pain­ters work­ing on ac­tual projects through a num­ber of large win­dows around the room. One of the large 3D ma­chines which cuts moulds out of pieces of wood was run­ning dur­ing our tour, and we were able to watch ex­actly how it works.

The tour gave me an in­sight into the im­mense amount of time, ef­fort and skill that goes into each film, and I un­der­stand why the tal­ented Weta team are of­fered to work on so many Hol­ly­wood block­busters. I also found out a few se­crets be­hind the movie magic, but we were sworn to se­crecy. You’ll have to visit for your­self to find out!

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