Window on Weta Workshop Tour

Weta Workshop Building
Image courtesy of Weta Workshop (c)

The Window on Weta Workshop Tour is very popular. You get  a look behind the scenes to see how things develop and created. Tours sell out fast so it we recommend you book, especially during the school holidays.

Our tour began as our guide, a young lady working for Weta in their sculpture department, led us around the side of the building. We entered a small room that held a few items that represented the things Weta does. She asked if there were many foreign visitors in the group. It turned out we have one British family and several groups of American visitors. One worked at the Disney Imaginarium which sounded really cool and impressive!

Joining the Weta Workshop Tour

As we entered the Workshop exhibition space, our guide shows us how many of the weapons used in the films are made. This included  modelling, and casting using an cheap form of rubbery stuff. They used this to cast lots of ray guns for extras to use in District 9 and  Avatar. As our guide spoke my eyes never stopped moving as the busy walls were covered with weapons, and pictures that related to the  films.  One of the most inventive weapons creators is the imaginative Greg Broadmore. He is the mastermind behind Dr. Grordbort. It seems that casting weaponry is easier than using a 3-d printer, they are tougher and more durable.

We then moved on to an area where the face models for the prosthetics were stored. We saw plaster casts (head/shoulders) of Andy Serkis, Bernard Hill as King Theoden, and Ian Holm. He was the original Hobbit. There is a plaster cast of everyone in the Hobbit! You can tell who didn’t like having the cast made – their faces are creased in dislike! These models or ‘busts’ have been used to make very fine rubber prosthetics. These are used as part of the elaborate make up for the dwarves. They also serve as models for other characters who definitely don’t belong on our earth. They were able to return to Ian Holm’s earlier cast to make him a ‘younger’ prosthetic for The Hobbit. Weta Workshop Tour

Where Creatives work on the Weta Workshop Tour

We saw a mock up of what one of the designers desks would look like. Apparently the computer designers are seen as the rock stars of the creative Weta World.   We were impressed by the amazing skills of the tech creatives. We loved those who worked purely with their hands modelling and sculpting.  We know we would love working there.

All around us, as we walked, we saw genuine pieces from the films Weta has worked on. I noticed a a superb model from District 9 which was not used in the film. Sadly this was last moment decision by the director.  Apparently it didn’t serve its purpose and his intention in the film. As its is over 9 feet tall we were still impressed!  The sudden loss of removal of something from a film is a common hazard for creatives. They develop work and propose ideas – but the final say is always with the film director.

Trolls at Weta Cave, Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand
Cave Trolls from The Hobbit

We visited the workroom of the armourer who makes the real swords used (rarely) in the films. Why rarely? Well, it seems they are not only beautiful to look at but very heavy to wield in action.  You know the story of Vigo Mortensen, Aragorn? When he was shooting Lord of the Rings. He insisted on keeping his (real) sword with him at all times. This caused much consternation to the local police  when he had a meal in restaurants.

We saw into the weapon making studio where one guy makes all the cast models of swords and other weaponry. He has an amazing machine, adapted from the motor vehicle industry, that does heaps of amazing things to make his life easier. It really does look space age all by itself and is a very effective 3D printer.

We then turned to look at the chainmaille as made by the Weta artisans. We were shown a sample of genuine chainmaille used in armour – it is very heavy. Wearing a suit of this stuff would wear you out in no time! So they use larger rings made from aluminium (I think it was?) lighter, and much more easy to assemble. There was a display of different maille types mounted on the wall. We noticed that the rings used are much easier to assemble, they don’t need mum’s ring opener and pliers here :-). The chainmaille display absorbed Mum for  quite some time. There were a variety of different weaves and constructions on display.

Our guide them showed us some of the prosthetics made for the dwarves in The Hobbit. The sample of Thorin’s ‘arm’ she handed round was about the size of a hand; very thick and heavy! How did those actors kitted up in prosthetic make up including body parts (!)  on top of their own.

Gandalf – life size in Weta Cave

Meeting the Model Makers on the Window on Weta Workshop Tour

To finish, our guide introduced us to a model makers who used all sorts of odd things to create models. The maker would work from  a director’s concept or ideas. Usually working from images the director provides. The creative we watched was working on small model ideas for the new Thunderbirds film. She also made a comment I found interesting. 

If a model maker feels they are losing sight of what they are doing or seeing. The model can be spray painted into a solid colour, such as grey. The pieces become one solid entity – this gives a view of the ‘shape’ not the assemblage of odd little items.

Finally, I saw one of my favourite pieces – a genuine life size model of Netiri from Avatar (oh boy – TALL!)

It was a huge privilege to be guided around some of Weta’s treasures. Seeing how things are begun, finished or made in a variety of forms for different tasks in movies.

I hope you enjoyed your visit with us to Weta. If you are ever in Wellington – book a visit and enjoy a real treat. I’m only sorry I was not able to decorate my special visit with pictures, oh boy could I have shown you some treats, but, we had to respect the Weta folks wishes * sigh *

  • You can take a close look at our detailed costume selection from the Hobbit movie here

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