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.
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.
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.
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.