Category Archives: Lord of the Rings

Weta Workshop Wellington

The Hobbit Hole Door at the Weta Workshops, Wellington.

For our last day in Wellington, we went for the tour of the Weta Workshops. These are completely different to the exhibit in Auckland, being less ‘theatrical’. You can’t take photos of everything, because much of it is still under copyright. You get a much better understanding of how wide-ranging are the efforts and output of the workshops. Because it was the weekend, the workshops were mostly deserted. Mostly – we did get to meet their aluminium foil sculptor, Warren Beaton. He did a skull in under a minute.

We were shown how they constructed the helmets for the Lord of the Ring movies, from sketches to the final product. It was explained that the helmets had a specially weighted ruff or spine so that they would move like an actual helmet. When you consider how many different styles of helmets were in the movies, it was eye-opening how hard they worked to get the details right.

I love pointy things. One of the exhibits we were allowed to photograph.

We were shown the mirror sword used in the live-action version of ‘Mulan’. It was much too long for the actor to fight with, but it needed to be large enough to reflect her face. Most swords and weapons are plastic, with a metal core to give them a realistic heft. There must be warehouse full of the armour and weapons from LOTR.

As mentioned, the workshop had supplied the gigantic sculptures of the people in the ANZAC exhibit in the museum. They use yak hair to recreate hair, beards, eyelashes, eyebrows, and even hair on your arms and knuckles. They thread each hair individually. So you need an artist who is also a hairdresser.

The second part of the tour was inspecting the models used in the Thunderbirds reboot.

Thunderbirds are go!

I was – and still am – a fan of the original Thunderbirds series. The creativity used in creating these sets – often using junk – was phenomenal. They had a lovely story about the sets from the original series. Some man complained about the use of a plastic juicer as part of the set in one episode, so they then used as many juicers as they could. They kept the tradition going when making the new sets. They also used washing machine bits, vacuum cleaner parts, computer boards, the caps from bottles and tubes, just about anything could be adapted for the futuristic settings.

The human-sized set of Thunderbird Two, complete with Scott.

They replaced Lady Penelope’s martini glass and cigarette with a pug. In keeping with that theme, pugs decorate her mansion inside and out. So cute! I remember wanting to be Lady Penelope when I grew up … but never managed to smoking part.

Late in the afternoon, we caught the ferry to Picton. I was excited to discover that you can see both the North and South Islands at the same time when crossing the strait. It was a smooth, uneventful trip, much to my relief. It was dark when we got into Picton, so didn’t get to see much until the next day.

Goodbye to the North Island.

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Concerning Hobbiton

Our next adventure was Hobbiton.

The drive from Auckland to Hobbiton it just over two hours (nothing to a Queenslander) and it was my first introduction to just how GREEN it is in New Zealand. After rain, it can get lushly green where I live, but it has nothing on the greenness of New Zealand.

Ireland may be second in the world greenest country award.
It’s very green in Middle Earth as well.

Hobbiton exists on an enormous family sheep farm. It’s upkeep takes twenty fulltime employees: gardeners, people to change the tiny laundry on the clotheslines, keeping the smokers going so the chimneys smoke authentically. The party tree is real, but the tree above Bad End is not. They did one day of shooting, and there was a storm that night. When they came back the next day, the tree looked different – so Peter Jackson had it replaced with an artificial tree that needs lots of care and attention. There is so much attention to detail!

Take the Hobbit holes. There are three different sized holes. There a tiny ones to give the landscape depth in wide shots. There are ‘realistic’ sized holes for working shots. And then there are huge ones to make normal humans look hobbit-sized. My family jokes that I am half hobbit, as I am short and round (but I have tiny feet). I felt very at home in this landscape, so maybe they aren’t wrong.

A hobbit in her natural habitat.

We stayed for the evening banquet at The Green Dragon – the only set that has a proper internal rooms and décor. I got to meet pretty Pickle, the Hobbiton cat. The bar supplies four sorts of drinks: a non-alcoholic ginger beer, an apple cider, a lager, and a dark stout. I tried the cider and it was delicious. I was also lucky enough to get a photo taken of my playing barhobbit. The banquet was suitably gorgeously gluttonous. We walked back through Hobbiton in the dark, with lanterns.
Our tour guides were locals, and had lots of gossip about the actual filming at the set. Many locals were hired to play hobbits in crowd scenes. And now locals are hired to tend to the set. Sounds like a dream job, gardening at Hobbiton!

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