The incredible 'Fantasy Film' section in WETA's 'Unleashed'
This is the Fantasy film section. Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

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. 

The Health and Safety officer named Jeff, who greets visitors to the attraction - an otherworldly looking character.
Jeff, Health and Safety officer Photo by Sylvie Whinray

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.

Some sculpture work on display
Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

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

An incredible display at WETA Workshop Unleashed
Photo by Jason Dorday/Stuff

Welcome to part two of our tips for touring New Zealand as Middle-earth. In our first segment, we covered getting around NZ and the Top Ten Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit locations.

Today we’ll offer a few options for itineraries as well some helpful additional resources.

Continue reading “Can We Please Go There and Back Again? Touring New Zealand As Middle-earth (Part Two)”

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.

Note: This is the first part of a two part series. In this portion, we will review getting around NZ and the Top Ten Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit locations.

Continue reading “Can We Please Go There and Back Again? Touring New Zealand As Middle-earth (Part One)”

Come One, Come All, the Baggins Birthday Bash is coming in just 3 weeks, time to party like Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves and Men, and maybe the more well behaved Orcs.

We are moving back to Griffith Park, huzzah, and to the Mineral Wells location we’ve used the past 5 or 6 years before last year’s jaunt to Long Beach. Directions can be found on our Facebook event page in the party description. The picnic will start at Noon, with activities wrapping up around 5pm so we can clean up and clear out before it gets too dark. Here are a few of the things to note:

Costumes welcome, but not required. There will be a contest, with all pomp and circumstance.

The Cake and Cupcake contest is back as well, Tolkien themed designs only, please.

Quotes contest – The Hobbit is 80 years old on September 21, so let’s keep quotes to just The Hobbit, film or book in honor of the book that introduced Middle-earth to the World.

There may be a few games as well, such as Golfimbul, depending on how much yummy food and fellowship there is, or the temperatures. Actually, the weather may also impact the number of costumes or the viability of the Cakes. I’m sure some of you remember the great Cake meltdown a few years back.

Survival, on hot days, an umbrella or pop up tent work really well, so bring them, and chairs because the park benches don’t move. On not so hot days, still bring the pop ups or at least the chairs.

Food, yes, this is a Potluck party, so bring food, at least 6 servings worth, but let’s not forget cups, plates, napkins and flatware. If you have an ice chest, bring it. Whether it is personal sized, for your own beverages, or super big to help keep lots of water, soda or juice cold. Bottles are preferred because yellowjackets do seem to like picnics too.

Please check out the Facebook event page (linked above) to RSVP your attendance and what you plan to bring, or you can RSVP to me at Garfeimao@TheOneRing.net just so we have an idea of what is being brought and where we need to fill in the gaps.

And yes, children are very welcome, bring the whole family.

 

 

 

Autumn had finally arrived in northern California when I boarded a plane to head into spring on the other side of the planet in New Zealand. To say I wasn’t frightened would be a lie. I felt very much like Frodo heading out into the wide world, for I was about to be away from my family and my continent for longer than I ever had. The weather in Wellington had been pleasant until I arrived, or so I’m told, and as more and more cold rainstorms blew into the bay off the Pacific, my co-workers at Weta Workshop teased that I had brought winter with me to their beautiful island nation.

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The flight from Auckland to Wellington, NZ

Like most fans of the The Lord of the Rings films, I had long dreamed of visiting New Zealand and seeing as much of its Middle-earth landscape as I could. However, also like most fans, the cost of such an adventure always held me back. As such, if someone had told me that I would have gone to Aotearoa twice in 2015, I would’ve thought they were as full of tall tales as old mad Baggins! But step out my front door I did, each time with a little nudge.

Continue reading “A Wellington Weta Adventure!”

Tim LaunderWeta Workshop just announced that TORn friend and former General Manager of Weta Limited has passed away.

Tim was given a nice tribute from Weta that you can find here. There, Richard Taylor and his wife Tania explained who Tim was and that cancer took him.

Tim headed up Weta’s consumer products company, which handled the tourism and fans that visit the workshop from around the world and started the company’s collectibles line.

Tim was a friend to TheOneRing, setting up several party events surrounding conventions and events in the U.S. and in New Zealand. He arranged receptions and tour events with TORn staff and TORnadoes around the world.

Tim was a terrifically positive influence. It was impossible not to get swept up in his absolute enthusiasm and love for everything ‘geek’. It was a wonderful thing to see. His passing is deeply saddening, especially considering the courageous fight and victory over cancer the first time around. – Richard Taylor, CEO and Co-founder, Weta Workshop

On a personal note, Tim was a friend that I looked forward to seeing at events, meals, in emails and in offices. I know I am not the only staffer to feel that way.

I remember conversations with him about work and life and how much he enjoyed the film and fantasy environment. I also recall conversations about his family and his wife and children. Tim was willing to do hard things to achieve success and was honest and open, often explaining what he couldn’t be honest and open about. His loss is felt across the oceans and he will be remembered. Thank you Tim Launder for your kindness, courtesy and friendship.

Josh of Collecting The Precious adds:

It’s not very often as a collector that you truly feel your opinion is valued. Those of us collectors who knew Tim never felt that way. We always knew if we made a comment in person at a convention or on a message board Tim truly valued those comments. He let us know they played a part in the pecking order of what wonderful Middle-earth pieces were made.

As a collector I can’t put into words how awesome that is. For me personally he made doing the Collecting the Precious columns easier. At events like Comic-Con he would allow me to have special access cases being lifted to take pictures or video. Tim would allow me to pick his brain about what might be coming, and allow little teases I could pass on. When he left Weta it made me sad because a friendship had developed and I knew that would wain with him not being there.

Tonight, I find out that he has passed away. Sailing into the West and hopefully pain free. The collecting world lost a good friend tonight but the world lost a great guy. Thanks Tim for all the kindness you showed me and all the Middle-earth collectors.