On December 15, 2020, WETA Workshop opened up Unleashed, a hybrid entertainment experience in Auckland that is part film set and part creative workshop. This project started as an idea about 3 years ago, but it was 18 months ago when they landed on the concept that would become Unleashed – A Fantastical Film FX Experience. WETA took over an entire floor at the SkyCity entertainment precinct in Auckland, at the foot of the Sky Tower. This finally gives WETA the space to grow and flesh out what they began with the WETA Cave and the Window on the Workshop experience they have in Wellington.
Upon entering, guests are greeted by Jeff, head of security and health and safety; who happens to be an animatronic character, voiced by Mark Hadlow, with 40 points of articulation. Guests will go on a 90-minute immersive journey, through several rooms that aren’t always what they appear to be. Jeff will get you started on your adventure to learn about the creation of three original films in the Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction genres. Each room will offer hands-on, interactive activities, such as sculpting, making armor, or tracing creatures. The concept is to show the creative process involved in filmmaking from the beginning through the final stages before release, and leave the guests inspired to take that creativity home with them.
In addition to being a fun day tour experience for movie fans and tourists, this facility is big enough to be an event venue, a themed event venue at that: from small groups of 15 or more for things like Birthday or Anniversary parties, all the way up to large corporate or professional groups. There is room for receptions up to 700 people, or banquets of 300. And to add atmosphere, you can include an SFX make-up demo, hands-on workshops, guest speakers, and Middle-earth themed feasts. Makes one wonder if they will have space for some 20th anniversary partying next December…?
For details on where to find WETA Workshop Unleashed and all of their various tours and venue options, simply head over to WETA Workshop Unleashed
One of my absolute favorite lines that our friends from Weta Workshop put out within their The Lord of the Rings statue line is the environment sub-line. As I’ve said in this column before, it allows us to go to places we will never get actually to visit. So today we’re going to take a look at Minas Morgul, and the outstanding job Weta did on this piece. This one is sold out, but if you can track it down and afford it, I think this is absolutely worth it.
Twenty years. On December 19, 2000, a young TheOneRing.net was abuzz with news of LotR Christmas parties, a new spy photo of four battle-ready hobbits, and the big one: New Line Cinema was starting the countdown clock. Only 365 sleeps until The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring would make its long-awaited debut.
At the time, we hoped that the movie could live up to crushingly high expectations; that we would be transported, live-action style, into Tolkien’s Middle-earth. What many of us did not appreciate, though, was the thorough gob-smacking we would experience through Aotearoa – how completely transporting, impossibly immersive, and mind-bendingly beautiful this remote archipelago of New Zealand could be.
Now here we are, on the cusp of 2021 and a series of 20th anniversaries for movies that have never faded in their grandeur and emotional impact (not to mention meme generation power). And like Bilbo, pandemic or no, the heart stirs and we long to see mountains again, Gandalf, mountains! And lakes, rivers, forests, fields, and fens. New Zealand is calling.
For the LotR-lover, this is mandatory bucket list territory. But did I mention remote? New Zealand is a long flight from literally everywhere. Even flying from Sydney to Auckland covers more than three hours and two time zones. One does not simply pop by. That means you need a plan, aspiring Kiwi-connoisseur. And TORn is at your service, with some thoughts on must-see filming destinations, an example itinerary or two, and some resources that might prove useful, should 2021 prove kinder than this last year to those itching to get out into the World again.
If you haven’t been following our friends on Weta Workshop or our own social media accounts then you might have missed the pre-order for the new Legolas and Gimli statue. This great looking statue was sculpted by the super talented Jane Wenley, and it continues the great series of statues from Amon Hen. Legolas and Gimli is available to pre-order for $699 and will ship in March/April of next year. The key part of this is the edition size of these two characters will be set based on the number of people who want one. So in these last 24 hours, get your order in, because it’s likely there won’t be one to go around.
Worried about what to get your favorite Tolkien fan for the holidays? Worry not! TheOneRing.net staff is here with suggestions for every fan of every age and every budget.
From all of us at TheOneRing.net, have a safe and peaceful holiday season.
*Please note prices are listed in US dollars and may change after publication*
deej recommends: Shelob ring from Badali Jewelry; $71 (sign up for their mailing list and get 10% off; plus they have Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales going on right now!). Order here.
“I have several pieces from this company, and can’t wait to add this one to my collection! If you’re an arachnophobe, fear not – Badali Jewelry has a whole line of officially licensed, hand-crafted Middle-earth jewelry. Plus you’ll be supporting a great independent business.”
Funko Pop! Rides: Gandalf on Gwaihir; $30. Order here.
“I know not everyone is a fan of Funko Pops, but this one is pretty darn cute.”
TheLord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended & Theatrical)(4K Ultra HD + Digital) and TheHobbit: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended & Theatrical)(4K Ultra HD + Digital); $89.99 each. Order here and here.
“Who doesn’t need another set of these amazing films? And in 4k Ultra HD, they are going to look and sound better than ever! Now I just need to purchase a new 4K television so I can watch the Middle-earth saga the way it was meant to be seen.”
Tolkien 2021 Official Calendar; price tbd. Order here.
“To coincide with the new edition of ‘Unfinished Tales’, you can also have a beautiful 2021 wall calendar with illustrations by John Howe, Alan Lee, and Ted Nasmith.”
greendragon recommends: “I’m a huge fan of Scottish company Oscha. Their products are gorgeous – incredible woven art, and all ethically made. If you want to support a small business, and buy something really special for a loved one, look no further. Not just baby products – their scarves, throws, bags, etc are all stunning. Even mugs!”
Legend of Frodo Garnet Ceo Scarf – This gorgeous burgundy scarf features flowing ecru Sindarin script reading “Even the smallest person can change the course of history”, while the central band of text reads the name of this design “The Legend of Frodo.”; from $51.39. Order here.
Misty Mountains Coldfells Ring Sling– This beautiful midnight blue sling features the formidable Misty Mountains, which cut across Middle Earth, with a verse sung by Thorin Oakenshield & Co in The Hobbit running in runes along the borders; from $125.01. Order here.
Map of Middle Earth Messenger Bag -This organic cotton tote bag is designed with the length and breadth of Middle Earth, from Mordor to The Lonely Mountain and beyond, based on the classic illustrations by J. R. R Tolkien himself; from $17. Order here.
HMH publications: “What could be better for a Tolkien lover, than writings from the Professor himself? This Fall, a number of new editions were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There’s a gorgeous new collector’s edition of HoME, an illustrated Unfinished Tales, and a new paperback three-volume LotR set for any youngsters you might like to introduce to the wonders of Middle-earth! Plus, perfect for the holidays – there’s a Centenary edition of Tolkien’s ‘Letters from Father Christmas’. My personal favourite is the brand new ‘Hobbit Sketchbook’ from Alan Lee; full of wondrous art to inspire and delight. I’d love to find that under my tree!”
THE HOBBIT SKETCHBOOK by Alan Lee; $30. Order here.
THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH Box Set (also available as individual volumes)by Christopher Tolkien and J.R.R. Tolkien; $225. Order here.
UNFINISHED TALES, ILLUSTRATED EDITION by J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrated by Alan Lee, John Howe, and Ted Nasmith; $30. Order here.
Volante DesignsLord of the Rings Collection; prices vary. “Wow these coats and jackets are amazing. Want to roam around like a ranger from Gondor? Or skulk in the shadows like a Wraith? TORn’s friends at Volante Design have made amazing outerwear which enables you to do just that! This independent business based in Massachusetts added two, officially licensed Middle-earth designs to their amazing collection; and they’ll ship at the end of November, so just in time for the holidays!”; order here.
Madeye Gamgeerecommends: “Another independent artisan worth supporting: Cave Geek Art. I met the CaveGeek, Kfir Mendel, at DragonCon 2016, where his original map of Middle-earth created a stir among the Tolkien fandom (and a dent in my wallet). The CaveGeek specializes in pyrography, burning his designs with 3-D effect into tanned buckskin, and then painting them with primitive pigments using a deer bone as his brush. He specializes in maps across a number of geekdoms. For Tolkien lovers, in addition to Middle-earth, his offerings include Thror’s map of the Lonely Mountain, and his most recent edition anticipating the new Amazon series: Númenor. You can find his prints and original leather pieces by clicking here. Plus he takes commissions!”
Elessarrecommends: Fisher-Price® Little People® Collector Lord Of The Rings set. For fans age 1-101; $29.99. Order here.
saystine recommends: Elven diadems, ear cuffs, and hair accessories by RomanticElfJewelry; prices vary. Order here.
garfeimaorecommends: Legolas and Gimli at Amon Hen 1:6 scale Limited Edition statue by Weta Workshop; $699. Pre-order here.