Weta Workshop: Special Effects Workshop

A bit of a companion stop to Hobbiton, Weta Workshop is the prop and SFX company that really got its boost and acclaim from working on the Lord of the Rings movies. They are located down in Wellington, several hours south of Hobbiton, nestled in an unassuming bit of suburbia. What treasures do its warehouses store? Let’s find out!

What I Can Show You

There’s a lot I can’t show, and I’ll explain that a bit later.

When you first arrive, there are three massive trolls outside to signal that you’ve arrived in the right place. It’s needed because it’s really just in a neighborhood, next to a school, right across the street from some residential homes. I wonder what those people think, who live across the street? Are they Weta Works employees? Or just locals who roll their eyes at all the nerds congregating at the workshop?

Either way, you can enter the main welcome building, where you can purchase tickets for tours and look around the gift shop. Here, you can find all sorts of goodies for movies they’ve worked on, as well as many figurines and art books that employees at Weta Works have made! There are also a good deal of props and minifigures they have set up that you can take pictures of. That’s where I got most of my photos.

When you enter the first workshop, this is the one attached to the welcome building. You see the Lord of the Rings goods and other movies they’ve worked on here. The second building focuses on Thunderbirds, an old marionette show from the 1960s focusing on four brothers who go around the world helping people. One of the founders of Weta Workshop, Richard Taylor, credits this show as getting him into practical effects. The company got to be the main effects and creative force behind the Thunderbirds Are Go reboot from 2015. The whole second warehouse is focused on that show, the props, sets, and effects made for it. I didn’t realize they had rebooted that show, but if you go on the tour, you’ll be spending a good 30-40 minutes on the Thunderbirds.

There was also a short Q&A area where one of their effects men showed off some of the cool models he was tinkering with using aluminum foil. They also developed a type of ceramic encasing to put around the foil to harden and then sand, paint, and detail for display. Just goes to show you that any creative thing you can think of can be accepted and encouraged if you work here!

What I Can’t Show You

Sadly, much of the tour is strictly no photography, mainly because Weta Workshop does not own the rights to the images and reproduction of the images of many of the props in their tour path. The guide lets you know very clearly where you can and cannot take pictures. If you post what you’re not supposed to, you’re looking at thousands of dollars worth of fines and a generally bad time.

These guys are fine to photograph, but they’re a bit high up! Don’t forget to look up on the tour to see all sorts of cool details!

Some of the props I couldn’t show were some swords and weaponry from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe movies, masks and molds for Lord of the Rings, and a fully functional Warthog vehicle from the canceled Halo movie project from back in the 2000s. There’s also a lot of memorabilia from other productions they’ve worked on, as well as a detailed explanation of the different gradations of props. This ranges from very detailed, as faithfully and truly made as they can for close-up shots to plastic props with weights inside that they give to extras during fight scenes. They let you hold one of the extra props to feel it (a mace), and that sucker is heavy!

Just being able to peek behind the curtains and see how much time, effort, and artistry goes into each piece is a mind-boggling experience. If you’re interested in all in movies, filmmaking, art, or specific projects Weta Works has done, I’d highly recommend taking the time to take the tour and see their workshops!


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