If you’re a fan of The Lord of the Rings or just interested in everything that goes into making a movie or TV show look amazing, then the Weta Workshop should definitely be on your bucket list. Located in New Zealand’s charming capital Wellington, it’s a treasure trove of exhibitions and information on how some of cinema’s most incredible costumes, creatures and creations came to be.
What began as a small business in the back room of Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger’s flat in Wellington, has grown into a world-leading design and effects facility that serves productions all over the globe. You can read more about Weta’s history and see their timeline on their website.
Entrance to the Weta Workshop bears a striking resemblance to a hobbit-hole, and you enter in through the gift shop – of course. The shop is full of everything a LotR fan could dream of, from replica swords to games and books, as well as clothes and jewelry. Luckily we already had our precioussss one rings, so we managed to walk out with at least some of our travel budget still intact. There’s also a small exhibit of LotR miniatures and other memorabilia.
Once it’s time for your guided tour, the guide will call out your group and lead you into the exhibitions. There is so much to see and even stuff you can touch – make sure to listen to your guide’s instructions though because there are definitely also exhibits you’re not allowed to lay your hands on. Weta Workshop may be best known for LotR, but they’ve worked on numerous projects both on the big screen and the small, so you’re bound to spot more than a few favorites. In addition to LotR and The Hobbit, we were especially excited about titles like Thor: Ragnarok, The Expanse and Mad Max: Fury Road.
It is incredible seeing the amount of detail that goes into the work of armorers, sculptors, prop designers, and so many others. It was also fascinating to learn that sometimes very everyday materials can be used in extraordinary ways. Our favorite demonstration was the use of tin foil in sculpting – we definitely filed that away for use in next year’s Gish!
There are several different tour options available but we did the combo tour, which includes the basic Weta studio tour, as well as the Thunderbirds Are Go miniature stage tour. Even though we don’t know much about the Thunderbirds TV show, the intricate and detailed miniature models used for filming were amazing to see. And once again, there’s some interesting information about how the most mundane objects can be turned into for example parts of a space station.
Othe tour options include packages with lunch or dinner included as well as hands-on workshops, that we would love to try someday. Trying out the different techniques we learned about on the tour with actual Weta professionals would be beyond cool! It may be a long way from Finland to New Zealand, but we’re already dreaming about our return. Hopefully, we can include another visit to the Weta Cave too.
This post was done in collaboration with Weta Workshop, but the experiences and opinions are all our own!