Since I’ve had a Lord of the Rings theme going lately, I might as well cover Weta Workshop, which I visited two weeks ago when my friend Steve was in town. He was the one I met at Hobbiton, so it seemed appropriate to continue with the Middle Earth theme when showing him around Wellington. First, we visited the spot on Mount Victoria that I covered a few weeks back, where the hobbits hide from the Ringwraith. I must admit, it felt pretty great being able to show someone else around this awesome city.
After taking in the view from atop Mount Victoria, we headed towards Miramar, a peninsula which forms part of outer Wellington. This is where the now-famous Weta Workshop is based, the special effects and prop company that worked on Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Avatar, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many other big films. Weta Digital is right nearby, but doesn’t offer tours.
I didn’t have my Nikon with me, so please forgive the iPhone shots.
Anyway, you can see that even the entrance is decked out with winged creatures and a troll from The Hobbit, visible on the right, who looks like he is trying to duck out of the shot.
Since cameras aren’t allowed on the tour itself, Steve and I took plenty of time to get all the requisite geeky shots before ours started.
See! They really did turn to stone.
Inside, there was a gift shop where you could see different props on display or spend exorbitant amounts of money on weapons and miniatures.
Lurtz wasn’t for sale, but I don’t think anyone would want to buy him anyway. That dude is ANGRY.
I think my brother would be a big fan of that case.
They even had “Mithril,” but somehow I don’t think this type would hold up if you got stabbed by a sword.
Sauron seems to lead a pretty mundane life in this glass case after being overthrown.
Gollum was also hanging around, so of course I had to get a shot with him.
Don’t worry. I don’t want your nasty fish.
There was also a mini-museum displaying some more props and costumes from the films.
I especially liked Bilbo’s ensemble.
His name is even written inside the gross hobbit feet.
For the tour through the workshop, our group was pretty small, which was nice. Our two guides were a Kiwi and a guy from South Africa. People come from all over the world to work at Weta. We couldn’t see too much of what they were working on for current films, but there were some great props from Lord of the Rings, weapons from District 9 and an awesome miniature castle from The Chronicles of Narnia. We watched a couple sculptors work on building mini thatched-roof cottages for an undisclosed upcoming movie. The entire tour lasted about 45-minutes and was really interesting and informative. Weta seems like an incredible place to work, and it must be thrilling to see your work displayed in so many popular movies.
After the tour, Steve and I headed outside to get some more troll shots.
The detail that went into these trolls was pretty impressive.
This guy really only wanted a high five.
We finally had to say goodbye to Weta, but I’m glad I got to share the experience with a fellow Lord of the Rings fanatic.
We briefly stopped into Wellington’s famous Te Papa Tongarewa Museum, which has everything from dinosaurs to Maori artifacts on display. We ran into another Middle Earth denizen there, too – Azog the Defiler.
In the following days, I saw little traces of Middle Earth all around Wellington as the city prepared for the release of the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies. We were lucky enough to have it released a week before the U.S., even though New Zealand didn’t get to host its own premiere.
I went and saw the film on the afternoon of the first day it was out, opting not to do the midnight showing now that I have a job. I saw it at Wellington’s historic Embassy Theatre, where premieres for all three Lord of the Rings films and the first Hobbit took place.
I really loved the film, and what better place to watch it than the heart of Middle Earth? Before the movie, they played a special segment thanking NZ for all they’ve done to make the films possible, featuring everyone from Peter Jackson to Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom. It made me think back to when I first fell in love with New Zealand through the films, and how happy I am to be here.
Even New Zealand’s postal service recognizes the importance of the films and the country’s status as “The Real Middle Earth.”
I’ll try to return to other subjects for my next post, as I know not everyone is as big of a nerd as I am when it comes to Lord of the Rings, but thanks for staying with me!