Entering a dark curtained theatre room, the walls are covered in plated armour, with swords and axes longer than your arm. An excited hush falls among the group, as the introductory video sparks into life. Snippets of blockbuster movies flick across the screen. All products of the workshop. Welcome to the wonderful world of Weta.
Weta’s Humble Origins
Despite the multi-million dollar clout Weta now flaunts, the origins are more than humble. Richard Taylor, a young and aspiring Wellingtonian, loved to make things and would make prosthetics and props from the back room of his flat. Finding a niche in the New Zealand market, Richard and partner Tania created 68 puppets for political satire programme ’Public Eye’ was back in 1988. By 1991, they had worked on three films directed by Peter Jackson, including the awesomely gruesome ’Braindead’ which won multiple accolades for its specific effects.
In 1994, Weta was born. The idea was to start a film and effects company in New Zealand for New Zealand. The company worked on programmes like Xena and Hercules before embarking on an insanely ambitious 7-year project to film the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. This would include design, miniatures, armour, weapons, creatures and specialised effects. I can only marvel at the ambition of Weta to start on such a huge and momentous project.
Lord of the Rings Acclaim
In 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring was released on cinemas receiving as much public acclaim of the much-loved story as critical acclaim for movie making. With the remaining films of the trilogy being released the consequent years, the acclaim was duly enormous with buckets of awards.
Since Lord of the Rings, Weta has grown with sister companies as films have changed. With the establishment of Weta Digital that can do all sorts of crazy CGI stuff as well as Stone Street Studios (with its epic 24,000 square foot soundproof stage) and Park Street Post Production company. All within a small radius within this cute little suburb
The Weta Cave is the entrance to this workshop. No photography is permitted in the workshop due to copyright and that it is still a fully functioning workshop, one of only five in the world. The workshop isn’t like a studio tour but seeing what happens with your guide who is an artist at the workshop. The workshop is an amazing experience, not only to see the love and care that goes into each and every piece but also the passion that every person in the workshop has for the work they do.
The weta cave experience needs to be booked in advance and the tour bus picks you up outside the Wellington Information Centre. The experience takes about 45 minutes and includes transport there and back again.