[This article contains affiliate links. By clicking on a link and purchasing an item, I may make some money. However, it will not cost you more than going to Amazon on your own.] The Weta Workshop and its partner companies are responsible for some of the greatest special effects and movies of all time. They’ve worked on shows from “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” with Kevin Sorbo to the “Thunderbirds Are Go” reboot for a new generation. They’ve done effects for the Lord of the Rings trilogy and are working on James Cameron’s Avatar series. They’ve accomplished this from the production lot near Wellington, New Zealand, which is a complete movie studio capable of delivering everything a movie production needs.
Weta Workshop started with Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger, who wanted to make “models and props for the creative industries of New Zealand.” Their big break came from a satirical show, for which they created over 65 puppets. They didn’t just want to make entertainment, though; they wanted to tell stories that would change people’s lives.
The tour starts out in a theater in the gift shot with a video about the company’s history and the facility. This movie is run on a tight time schedule, so you need to be available when they call your token color.
The tour then heads outside to a nearby warehouse where past props are housed. Here, the process of making props is explained with visual aids and tactile experiences. Depending on the day, you could even meet someone who has worked on the magic.
As long as you’ve come along for the ride, you might as well take the extended tour. Even for someone who didn’t know anything about the Thunderbirds, it was interesting to see the sets and miniatures while hearing about the philosophy behind the new show.
Weta never throws anything away. They repurpose old computer parts, tiny wood chips are used for explosions, and the plastic pieces that are connected to model kit parts can become pipes or something else, which is great for the environment and creativity. Once the tour is finished, you have plenty of time back at the gift shop to indulge in your LotR cravings and to take photos with the trolls outside. This is a great companion tour for those who have included Hobbiton on their itinerary.