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
In addition to the many fans that posted their reviews on TORn (see yesterday’s article: 15,084 Reviews and Counting), many of our core staff chimed in with reviews soon after FOTR opened. In this article, we bring you reviews by such well-known names as Xoanon, Tehanu, Quickbeam and Ostadan. All of them capture the magic and excitement that we all experienced 15 years ago.
To begin, one lucky staffer, Tehanu, the envy of all of us, was lucky enough to attend the film’s premier in Wellington, New Zealand. Of course, Tehanu (a.k.a. Erica Challis) is one of TORn’s founders and served as our ‘feet on the ground’ and number one Ringer Spy during filming. Here are some of her impressions from the day:
“I’ve been in Wellington for a day or two and I have to tell you, the town is in a Rings uproar. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. The streets are hung with LOTR banners, everything from the Town Hall to the Evening Post’s headquarters is renamed ‘Middle Earth’ (as is the airport, I believe, though I haven’t seen that myself.) The Rings is on every newspaper, every phone bill, every electricity company billboard, on the ads for Mastercard. There are funny billboards harping on LOTR themes everywhere (“Wellington: Full of orcs, hobbits and elves. …But enough about Parliament…..”). The monster cave troll dominates Courtenay Place from its perch on the awning of the Embassy Theatre, where the plasterers are working round the clock to finish the theatre in time for the Premiere.”
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.
Like most fans of the TheLord 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.
Wellington may soon announce the often speculated-about film museum that has been in the media rumor mill for well more than a decade. Stuff.co.nz is reporting that construction will start next year on a combination museum and convention center space.
A three-story building is expected, with top floor dedicated to a meeting space for 1100 with the bottom two floors to house the museum with 10,000 square meters of space. Approval of a land purchase is expected as soon as Tuesday for the space to build the museum. It is expected to house permanent collections as well as temporary ones.
The article says the museum will be run by The Movie Museum Limited, a company formed by Sirs Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor. The two men are cinema fans and each owns a considerable film collection that will be featured in the museum.
The story also detailed that it would be across from Te Papa, Wellington’s world-class museum and sit between Wakefield and Cable Streets, the site it was rumored to be a possibility at before, at the end of Tory Street in Wellington. Construction is expected to see completion in 2018.
The article also said, “Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said it would be “extremely unlikely” for council to not to go ahead with the complex.”
Fans of Jackson and Taylor know the duo has a knack for presentation on screen and off with previous film exhibitions at Te Papa and even at media events for films. Taylor’s Weta Workshop has the Weta Cave in Wellington to showcase props and collectibles out of his Weta Workshop.
TORn will have the latest details as this story develops.
Here’s a nice story from stuff.co.nz: Sir Peter Jackson has come to the rescue of a historic Wellington church. Jackson and wife Fran Walsh have bought St Christopher’s Church in the suburb of Seatoun for $1.06 million in a move that saves the earthquake-prone church and neighbouring hall from potential demolition. The couple made their latest purchase to ensure the buildings would not be lost from the peninsula, trust chairman Richard Stubbs said. According to Stubbs, the community would have faced a huge fundraising effort were it not for Jackson and Walsh stepping in.
“They’ve rescued it. They’ve totally relieved us of that obligation, and that means we can get on and run the facilities … their involvement here is absolutely pivotal. They’ve done this for the people of the peninsula, and indeed for Wellington.”
Read the rest of the article on the stuff.co.nz website here.
Excitement is building in New Zealand’s capital as the date for the first Hobbit film premiere draws near. Today TORN and Red Carpet Tours announced their Premiere Party to the regular media, and it’s made Wellington’s Dominion Post news already. Regular readers here are aware of this already, and tickets are selling fast! Bookings can be made through Red Carpet’s Party Page