Last weekend we sat down again with our friend Daniel Falconer, to catch up on what he’s been doing, and all things Weta Workshop. We were able to steal two hours of Daniel’s time – and this conversation is a classic. I believe you all are going to love the topics we touch on. As always, thank you for the support!
Our friends at Weta Workshop have a couple of really amazing environments up for pre-order. We’re in the last five days of the timed order window for the amazing Helm’s Deep which is part of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 20th Anniversary. You can snag your pre-order right now for $899 USD, with shipping expected towards the end of 2023. This is going to be one of the must-have environments for any The Lord of the Rings collection.
We also get our first-ever mini-environment from the trilogy, with the new Mini-Orthanc. This version is Orthanc as seen after Saruman’s Orcs have destroyed the area around the tower. You can order this piece for $99.99 USD, with it shipping in quarter 2 of next year. This will be an open-edition piece.
After a successful Cruise to Middle-earth in November of 2008, and a sequel cruise in December 2012, it is time to complete the Trilogy. This Journey to Middle earth starts on January 2, 2023, in Sydney, Australia as you board the Celebrity Eclipse, and runs 12 nights long, ending in Auckland, New Zealand on January 14, 2023. This is not a LOTR convention at Sea, but more of a Mobile Middle-earth Moot where we get to see the real-world Middle-earth while enjoying the benefits of a luxurious cruise ship.
This 12-night cruise will take you to such filming locations as Hobbiton and Edoras, with the option to visit the WETA Workshop in Wellington on a private tour. Other ports visited will be Melbourne, Dunedin, and the Bay of Islands. And for those choosing to arrive in Sydney a few days early, you will be able to celebrate the New Year’s Celebration near the Sydney Opera House and the Harbor Bridge for fireworks (not included, but I can assist in securing a hotel and flights).
Once the cruise is finished, there will be an optional 2-night post-cruise stay in Auckland so that we can experience WETA Unleashed, and have a farewell dinner in the restaurant at the top of the Sky Tower in Auckland, and have a private tour and dinner in Hobbiton. This allows folks to choose a Cultural or Geological tour option in the port of Tauranga (Rotorua) rather than Hobbiton from the ship, which will be rather short and bunched together with other cruise passengers that might not be as geeky as those in our group. If you choose this post-cruise tour, there will be an additional cost, and you will need to remain in New Zealand at least until January 16, 2023.
If you choose to arrive on the morning of the cruise, you will have to depart North America on December 31, 2022, to arrive by January 2, 2023, or you can depart earlier and spend a couple of days in Sydney. If you wish to be in Sydney for the actual New Year’s celebration, you will want to depart North America no later than December 29 for a December 31 arrival. For those interested parties in Europe or Down Under, the time difference will affect you differently.
I am arranging an exclusive day tour to visit with WETA in Wellington for us when the ship is in port, which will include a private workshop. There will be a motorcoach to pick us up just outside the port area in the morning and take us over to Miramar to tour the facility, taking in not just LOTR projects, but some of the many other film projects WETA has worked on over the years. This will be topped off with a hands-on workshop on crafting leather and chain maille armor before the motorcoach will take us back to the city center for a self-guided tour inside the Te Papa Museum. You will not want to miss Te Papa, besides it being a world-class museum, there is a Gallipoli exhibit created by WETA that must be seen to believe, and the museum is free. We will then make our own way back to the ship before it departs. This tour can be purchased as a customized package not included in the cruise fare. A quote will be available shortly.
On the ship, there will be a few days at sea, with no port stops, so I’ll be planning a few group activities that you can choose to join or not, depending on whether you would prefer to go to the spa or partake in other Ship Hosted activities. There will be a Tolkien Toast on January 3, 2023, to commemorate the Professor’s birthday, and then there will be a few games and group discussions, and maybe singing along to some of Tolkien’s songs found in the books. And this cruise takes place just a couple of months after the Rings of Power airs, so lots to discuss and maybe an additional location or two to be seen. For those of you with Middle-earth costumes, feel free to bring them, especially if they are on the lighter side, for packing purposes. There will be a Costumed Cocktail reception, and for those without costumes, a geeky t-shirt will suffice. The bonus is that you can also wear the costume either in Edoras or Hobbiton or bring two costumes and do both.
The nitty-gritty information for this group is that it has been on sale for several months, so some room types are no longer available. The Cruise pricing fluctuates regularly, based on available discounts for persons who qualify (past passenger, Senior or military rate, etc.) and just what rooms are still open for booking. An interior room right now is starting at $2179 per person, a Balcony room starts at $2429 per person and a Concierge Balcony (more perks) starts at $2869 per person. The private tour to WETA during the ship’s port stop in Wellington will have its own price, to be finalized very soon, and the customized 2-night post-cruise tour in Auckland to Hobbiton and other activities is currently priced at $1170 per person, but that will go down with a few more people booked into the group. There is a small planning fee of $50 per person if booked by May 31, and then it goes up to $100 per person on June 1.
To make an inquiry, please contact me at Garfeimao@TheOneRing.net
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
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.