Dan Hennah talks about the designs for “The Battle of the Five Armies”
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Question: We get to put dibs on one of these that we get to take.
Dan Hennah: Yeah, yeah.
Dan Henneh: Yeah, yeah. Oh, this is a piece of Dol Guldur. Purely, this one is just for pick-ups. So, it was just these various elements that we could bring in and then move around, so we could re-create these different parts for his various pick-up shots.
Question: So, was this built in such a way that you know if you’re going to shoot a certain element, then you know exactly how to build just that one small–
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Yes. But also, you had the scene with the bridge and train but then he also wanted a pick-up scene of something else. So, we had to bring one of these over and put it there and take this out. So it was very much a changeable set that we built. There’s Laketown, we’re just resurrecting this model but that was sort of part of the Laketown build. And Laketown, really– Did you see Laketown for real? Yeah, yeah. We built some more.
Question: What kind of time, to build this, is involved? How quickly can somebody make this?
Dan Hennah: With enough people, we probably built this in about three weeks.
Question: All right! So that’s good to know. But I mean just the model.
Dan Hennah: Oh, the model? Oh, sorry. I was talking about the set.
Question: (overlaps) I wasn’t clear. The sets– That’s great to know, too, actually.
Dan Hennah: The model. How long did you take to build this model?
Crew Member: Three or four days?
Question: Wow! Including painting and all that?
Dan Hennah: Well, knowing what the pieces were, this model, how long did that take?
Crew Member: That was a little bit longer. Maybe like a month for that one.
Dan Hennah: But for that we had six model makers working, so it’s all about resource. How many people you can throw at something. This is the big Dol Guldur model, which was a courtyard we built for the main shoot. And so we pulled that back out to reference for what we needed for the pick-up shoots.
Question: Is it usual to build so many models for a film like this? Or is this something very characteristic of Weta?
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) It’s very characteristic of Peter.
Question: Of Peter?
Dan Hennah: Yeah. Weta don’t have– This is just the art department. Individual contractors doing this stuff.
Question: Yeah. Peter?
Dan Hennah: But, it’s really for Peter and it’s really a great way to establish what you’re building.
Question: Are these referenced into the computer as well? Do they start here and then the computer artists scan these and–
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Yeah. They do, and also the concept artists who were working on all of this have gone on to Weta Digital, so they’re working in the computer generation department and also our head of set design has gone with Weta Digital. So, he’s got all the plans of everything we’ve built, so that sort of fed into the system as well. It’s a really integrated process.
These are just some elements of Erebor that we’re resurrecting and will be setting up for the next couple of weeks to shoot pick-ups in and around the Dwarf mines and the Dwarf holes. All through Erebor, in fact…the ramparts. And this what they’re shooting on today. That’s Ravenhill Fortress. So, the pathway up into Ravenhill, the gateway, the bridge across, there was a bridge across the lake and then the watchtower at Ravenhill. We are going to build– Next week we’re going to start building the Frozen Lake, so you can have ice hockey with swords.
Question: Blood will look great on that.
Dan Hennah: That’s the model in K stage, I mean the set in K stage is that element there. And in G stage is that element there.
Question: So where are they standing as they look over? Just on the edge there, right?
Dan Hennah: That shot that we were shooting earlier?
Dan Hennah: They’re standing right– But what we’ve done is we’ve cheated it for being on this side. It’s a sort of convoluted way of doing something.
Question: And where are they looking? Where is Fili and–
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) They’re looking up there.
Question: Oh, so they’re looking up? Where is Fili getting munted?
Dan Hennah: Up there.
Question: Right, okay. They’re looking up? Yeah, it really felt down, but it’s hard to know exactly.
Dan Hennah: Yeah. No, until the geography gets played with, it’s always– It’s not about the geography, it’s about the drama.
Question: Most importantly, how can that guy do that? Yeah, I’m waiting for that moment in the film.
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) He’s falling. This is a moment in time. It’s like the eagle can stay in the air.
Question: That’s right. Yeah. Nice repelling scene. So the rigs bull comes and kills them all.
Dan Hennah: Yeah, that’s right. Kills us.
Question: Yeah, sure.
Dan Hennah: This is a set we built in K stage, which is Smaug’s lair and I can’t remember how many coins we made for it. But there was a lot.
Question: You actually made–
Dan Hennah: We made fifty buckets of gold coins.
Question: Actual coins?
Dan Hennah: Actually, no. We ended up with fifty buckets, I think we made a hundred and fifty buckets.
Question: So it was a hundred buckets worth that ended up in the pockets of–
Dan Hennah: Oh, who knows. It was certainly a lot of souvenirs I noticed.
Question: What were the coins made out of?
Dan Hennah: They were pressed out of aluminum and plated in gold.
Question: (overlaps) Real gold? This is a big production. They don’t half-ass that stuff.
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Real gold. Yeah.
But also we have sheets and sheets of molded rubber coins, so the actual coins were really just to sprinkle over the top to get the reflec–
Question: (overlaps) The molded coins were to give the impression of more gorgeous coins.
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Yeah. Lots of gold.
Huge amounts of gold. That’s the edge of Dol Guldur where it runs off across this big chasm into the ruined forest. There’s Beorn’s chair.
Dan Hennah: That’s the Beorn-sized one. We also built a huge one.
Question: Is this Mirkwood?
Dan Hennah: Yeah, that’s a piece of Mirkwood that we built for pick-ups. So we have all these various numbered trees that we take away and bring back. And that’s just got a hint of the color scheme of what we painted.
Question: So, when the show’s over, does this all go into storage?
Dan Hennah: Yeah, pretty much. Most of these crates had some of these in them. And we brought them back and we’ll crate it all up again.
Question: Are any of them for sale?
Dan Hennah: You’d have to ask Peter that question.
Question: What was that, I’m sorry?
Question: Do the toy licensers and the merchandizing, do they reference these things?
Dan Hennah: No. No, these were really just for the film. Just for Peter.
Question: Kind of got a Lovecraft-ian– (overlaps) Yeah, it does. doesn’t it? (overlaps) Weird, this quasi-organic feel to it.
Dan Hennah: Yeah, that’s the very, sort of, Elvish art nouveau influence.
Question: Art nouveau meets David Cronin.
Dan Hennah: This was just one of the entrances out of Thranduil’s realm.
That’s all part of the process. That’s a piece of Dol Gulgur, obviously. This is the great hall of Dale, with Thranduil’s campaigned here, when he first turns up. He sets up at the great hall of Dale, and then packs that up and goes down to Erebor and then the battle kicks in.
Question: Where does he pack his tent up?
Dan Hennah: He packs it up. Well, he doesn’t personally pack it, but he has people who pack up.
Question: Do we see it after without the taping?
Dan Hennah: Yes, we do. In fact it’s at A stage right now.
Question: (overlaps) Right, so it does get taken down in the story. Well, not physically.
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) No, no, no. It just goes away.
Question: (overlaps) It goes away somehow and you find it’s not there anymore.
Dan Hennah: That’s right. But he goes away with it.
Question: It’s in his backpack.
Dan Hennah: Yeah, yeah.
That’s the Erebor ramparts, or it’s a set piece we built as part of the Erebor ramparts. This is where all the argy-bargy takes place with the boys shouting at each other back and forth.
Question: Do you have a favorite? It’s work for you, but is there anything–
Dan Hennah: Laketown has got to be my favorite, just because you have this sort of water and the boats moving through the sea. It’s got a lot going for it. They are all sort of favorites but that would be the main one I like. And I guess Ravenhill because it’s so hard to get there. That’s sort of cool.
Question: How’d you get to how it looked?
Dan Hennah: Yeah. It took four years to find out what it looked like. So that was all worth the journey.
Question: How did you settle on the shade of green? It’s very, very–
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Well, there’s– One of the concepts from the very earliest stage of the journey was that they’re travelling east. In Lord of the Rings we traveled south, and here we’re traveling east. So, we sort of took the view that if you went east across Europe you’d start to encounter different influences on architecture and color and that sort of thing. And so we took that on board. So as you go, you get into Tibet and you get into Lapland and you know that sort of thing. And there’s a mountain in China, where they mine this green and gold marble so we took that as an influ– Well, why would the whole Lonely Mountain not be a huge chunk of green and gold marble with quartz running through it? And the Dwarves are in there, chipping away at the quartz getting the gold and the diamonds out and making this architecture of the center and then polishing it up. So we went very much for a polished inside. Just a polished green and gold marble.
Question: Awesome! Very striking. It looks awesome.
Dan Hennah: It was quite cool, when I found the reference to what was coming out of this mine and tunnel, I was just delighted
Question: Yeah. “That’s it!”
Dan Hennah: “That’s it! That’s it!”
Question: And then Peter goes, “Eh.”
Dan Hennah: No, no. No he didn’t! He bought into it straight away and bought into it a hundred percent. So, it wasn’t just an influence. It was like, this is it. Which is very cool. Very cool.
Question: I like the little fellows as well. It seems obvious, but you guys make all your little guys as well, right?
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Yeah, yeah.
Question: Yeah, I was going to ask that one. Maybe there’s some model store. (overlaps) They could just be painted G.I. Joes.
Dan Hennah: No. Dwarves. Dwarves and Elves and Beorns. That’s an experimentation on techniques to light ice. I like the far one.
Dan Hennah: This one’s the resin, when you look at the yellow.
Question: (overlaps) Yes, it’s the nicotine version.
Dan Hennah: Yeah. That’s the smoker’s version. That’s a sort of cool color combination.
Question: Yeah, you can get a sense of the water beneath it. The green and the blues.
Dan Hennah: (overlaps) Yeah, yeah.
Question: This one looks like plastic is floating on the top.
Dan Hennah: Yeah this was– We tried using cling film to get the sort of broken ice– It just didn’t quite work.
Question: So how did they make this one?
Dan Hennah: That was with epoxy resin, Dacron, and they did use some cling foil. I think it was a different sort of epoxy that didn’t react… A lot of the stuff we do is techniques that we evolve as we go along. A lot of the rock, a lot of the ice, all those things are just things we find out. You know what it should look like and then you got to find the product.
Question: Find a way to get there.
Den Hennah: And use it badly to make it look like that.
Question: That’s Dan Hennah, art department, designer. Thanks, mate.
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