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Mileage: 49K / 30 Miles
Sites: Production facilities in Miramar, The Shire, The Chocolate Fish Café, and the Embassy Theatre
Special Guest: Daniel Reeve
Daniel Reeve, Calligrapher and Mapmaker
Our day started with a visit from Daniel Reeve, mapmaker and calligrapher. Daniel is another extraordinary person involved in the production whom we would not have met outside the Red Carpet Tour, and another one whose life and work have gone in a different direction because of working on The Lord of the Rings.
After reading the trilogy as a teenager, he started working in elvish scripts and creating maps. When he learned about the about the production, Daniel was working in the IT department of a bank and creating watercolors on the side. He sent samples of his calligraphy to Peter Jackson, and the studio called almost immediately.
Like Chris Ruttens, Daniels involvement expanded over time, especially as the films moved from production to distribution and merchandising. The labels for Gandalfs fireworks, made in two sizes, were his first prop. Think of the many scrolls, letters, books, and maps in the trilogy: Bilbos party invitations, the scroll of Isildur, Bilbos and Frodos manuscript, shire calendars, scrolls for Rivendell and the Houses of Healing, orcish graffiti in Cirith Ungol, Sarumans journal, the dwarves history found on Balins Tomb in Moria Daniel created them all. As he spread out all these original works on the table, we were just in awe at the quality of each piece and the scope of the work.
Daniel explained that he distressed paper with coffee and tea to make it look old, and made his own quills from bird feathers. Wrapping paper and watercolor paper were two types he used frequently.
Daniel created different styles of handwriting, paper, and even alphabets to reflect the different regions and peoples of Middle Earth. For example, even though Frodo and Bilbo use the same alphabet, their handwriting is quite different (Bilbos has more flourishes). He also became artist in residence for all crew gift-giving occasions, designing jackets and t-shirts, even a tattoo design of the ring inscription, and creating in calligraphy the personal notes Elijah Wood wrote to each fellowship member. He also taught Elijah calligraphy (see photo of Elijahs practice sheets), and served as Frodos calligraphy hand double.
One of his biggest projects was the massive licensee style guide created for New Line Cinema, covering all three films, involving a huge range of scripts, name treatments, borders, and maps for all characters and locations, and including font, size, color, and spacing. Licensees have to follow the style guide to ensure their presentation matches that of the film. (This was the one thing of Daniels Id have given anything to have as a reference, but I guess you have to be a licensee to get one.) He created the theatrical and DVD titles for the films in all languages, including the DVD menu options.
Then there are all the maps used in the films and related merchandise. Daniel told us a secret about the Middle Earth map: Look closely at the harbor by the Grey Havens its Wellington Harbor, complete with the peninsulas where Miramar and the airport are located. He also created the map of New Zealand as Middle Earth commissioned by the Tourist Board and maps for Electronic Arts computer games and the Hasbro/Parker Brothers Risk and Monopoly games.
Calligraphy and mapmaking are now a full time job, as Daniel is working on both King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia. When you see King Kong, look for the 1930s newspapers, marine charts, maps, and the captains log more of Daniels work.
In addition to sharing with us so much of his original art, Daniel had items for sale and was also kind enough to create a personal inscription for each of us. See more of his work at http://www.danielreeve.co.nz/.
Tour of Miramar (aka Wellywood)
After the meeting with Daniel, we boarded our bus for Miramar, where most of Peter Jacksons production and editing facilities are located. On many tours, the Red Carpet group has been able to meet Richard Taylor, visit WETAs board room, and actually hold some of their Oscars. This time Richard was unable to meet us due to heavy commitments on King Kong. However, Kathy (TORns own Garfeimao) called Dan Falconer, and he came out to speak to us. Dan told us a bit about the newest division, WETA Productions, which is producing a computer animated series for New Zealand childrens television titled Jane and the Dragon. Its pushing motion capture even further, with the ability to mocap 6 performers at once.
We drove by Stone Street Studios, Park Road Post, and other facilities, many of which are adaptive reuse buildings, including a former paint factory and a cookie factory.
As a side note, on Shelley Bay Road headed into Miramar, we could see The Venture (King Kong) tied up a public pier. And just down the road is a lot with discarded foam-carved and painted trees from King Kong jungle scenes (you can see them in the trailer).
Lunch at The Chocolate Fish Café
If I lived in Wellington, Id have lunch at the Chocolate Fish every day! Cast members ate here regularly, and the café is justly famous for its food and harbor views. A special surprise was seeing producer Barrie Osborne at the next table, lunching with The Lovely Bones author Alice Seybold. We all managed to contain our enthusiasm, and no one took a picture or interrupted their meeting. Strolling down the beach, one of our fellowship encountered a huge weta in the womens rest room, which we all rushed to photograph, taking it as a favorable omen. We also drove past Peter Jacksons house in Seatoun, located somewhere along the beach road going toward the Chocolate Fish Café. I will speak no more of this.
After lunch, we returned to Wellington for the views from Mt. Victoria and to visit the site where production began, back on October 11, 1999. Mount Victoria has thick forests and lovely walking trails. Downtown Wellington is just a few blocks below hard to believe because the locations look so secluded and remote in the film. The most easily recognized locations are the Get off the road! site, where even after nearly six years the trees still frame the path where Frodo stood, and the large tree root where the four hobbits hid from the Black Rider. The tree and its root are easy to spot, although its more barren in real life without the plants added during filming. Also here is the ridge where they slid down, into the mushrooms.
As all Ringers know, the Embassy theatre was the site of the Australasian premieres of The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, and the world premiere of The Return of the King. The restored Embassy is a real jewel, its restoration being a condition from New Line for having the last world premiere there. The tilework and glass absolutely glow. Upstairs is Blondinis jazz lounge and café where you can have a drink, meal, or specialty coffee, and you dont even have to have a ticket. Theres a photo mural about the ROTK premiere on one wall. Learn about the Embassys history and restoration at http://www.theembassytheatretrust.org.nz.
We had dinner near the Embassy at Strawberry Fare Dessert Restaurant (http://www.strawberryfare.co.nz), where the main courses were good but paled before massive dessert choices like chocolate madness, white chocolate cheesecake, and the triple chocolate brownie, to name a few.
Tomorrow: Lothlorien, Isengard Gardens, Minas Tirith/Helms Deep, and the elven cloak factory