How Some of The Best Special Effects Are Created 7000 Miles From Hollywood

Next time you’re watching a movie that features some jaw-dropping action, don’t assume that it’s always the work of somewhere like the legendary visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic.

While this might be one of the studios you most often come across in movie credits, there’s another one that might not be quite as well-known but which has an impressive reputation all the same. Based in a suburb of Wellington, New Zealand, Weta Workshop has been responsible for creating everything from otherworldly monsters to awe-inspiring special effects for over 30 years.

The business was originally set up in 1987 in a flat the owners of the company – Richard and Tania Taylor- occupied. Today, it occupies a large complex and employs a huge team of model-makers, artists, and special effects experts, many of whom have relocated to New Zealand for the opportunity to work at Weta. Incidentally, the workshop is named after a huge grasshopper-like insect that’s native to New Zealand which is also their unmistakable logo.

For the first decade or so, Weta Workshop created effects for relatively low budget movies including The Tommyknockers and Meet the Feebles, puppet-based satire that owed a great deal to The Muppets. But it was the director of the Feebles movie, Peter Jackson, who was the catalyst for Weta’s move into the big time.

Having chosen the stunning backdrops of New Zealand as the location for the Lord of the Rings movies, Weta was the obvious choice. They were chosen for their expertise in special effects as well as being able to handle the huge amount of model-making involved. In fact, Weta of working on the Lord of the Rings films led to the creation of a plastic chainmail armor that has since been used on other productions including Kingdom of Heaven and Game of Thrones. With hundreds of extras to dress, and the problems of actors moving around in heavy armor, this was an invention driven by necessity, very much the hallmark of the Weta way of doing things.

The Weta way of innovating solutions to problems is reflective of New Zealand as a country that happily embraces the new. For example, it was one of the first places in the world to accept card payments in shops, and New Zealand has also been quick to embrace other answers to modern leisure and entertainment needs. The film industry, for instance, has adopted technology to enable viewers to access reviews of titles on sites like Rotten Tomatoes to make informed decisions of what they’d like to invest their time in watching.

This example of guiding viewers through multiple options has been followed across other forms of entertainment and leisure including online casino gaming. Sites like Bonusfinder New Zealand have been founded to list and rank hundreds of online casinos by bonuses and offers and compare them. Another example can be found in the music industry, where trusted review sites like Elsewhere and Music Nation recommend artists, genres, and concerts. Similarly, Theatre View reviews live theatre performances.

It’s safe to say that the importance of reviews and recommendations is apparent. Indeed, our recommendation is if you ever visit the “land of the long white cloud” yourself, tours of the Weta Workshop are available most days and it’s a fascinating insight into the making of movie magic.

Published by Larry Fire

I write an eclectic pop culture blog called THE FIRE WIRE that features articles about books, comics, music, movies, television, gadgets, posters, toys & more!

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