Day 39-40: Wonderful Wellington

We started off our second day in Wellington by heading to the famous Weta Cave by public bus. The Weta Cave is a small museum of the work done by the Weta Workshop–the company responsible for all the props, costumes, and special effects makeup for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, the Hobbit, and a number of other acclaimed films. The workshop is named after the native New Zealand insect the Weta, which translates to ugly little monster because when the company got it’s start it was involved mostly with horror films…making ugly little monsters.

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The trolls and Gollum are an example of something the workshop would create for the reference of their counterparts at Weta Digital–responsible for all digital special effects of the LOTR trilogy.

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The Cave displays a number of props and costumes from Weta’s various projects, with LOTR as the focus. There is also a great video they shot especially for visitors to the Weta Cave that talks about the history of the company. It explains how the company was founded by a core group of four or five New Zealanders, one being Peter Jackson who would go on to land the Director role of LOTR and, in turn, land Weta Workshop and Digital the role of digital effects, props, and costumes. It’s pretty crazy they were able to undertake this project given they were a fairly young company (under 10 yrs) and it sounded like they learnt a lot as they went. The companies have won many awards, including a number of Oscars for their work.

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We also went on the Caves “Window into the Workshop” tour. In this one hour guided tour we had a girl that works in the workshop take us through a room packed full of props they’ve worked on over the years and stopped to explain a number of the processes. The tour was super interesting and informative but also changed the way I will watch movies.

Our guide took us through the design process of any given prop–she said any given gun or sword could require up to 500 preliminary sketches before the prototyping phase even begins. She explained how costumes like intricate armour suits from LOTR are rarely from what they appear to be. Most of the suits from LOTR specifically had two versions–one primarily metal (70kgs) and one primarily rubber and other synthetics. She said that the actors only wear the real metal suits about 20% of the time for close-ups. Similarly most swords and weaponry are made from rubber. We saw props from movies like King Kong, Avatar, LOTR, Narnia, and more.

We also learned about their chain mail making process–requiring individually linking of each and every link. Another interesting thing was the sets they create called miniature or bigatures. These are models of say castles that are used to capture the shots they need for the film. The mini models are only around 5×5 ft while the big models can be up to 7m tall. Either way, no where near as big as they appear in the movies. We also saw the prosthetics they made for the elves in LOTR and the section of the workshop dedicated to making private artwork.

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We spent the rest of the day wandering the lovely shops of Wellington. There are tons and tons of cute independent boutiques; I especially loved all the home decor stores–sooo up my alley.

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Started off my last day in Wellingon with a picturesque run along the water all the way to Oriental Bay. Not bad for an inner city beach!

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It wasn’t til we got to NZ that we realized we were literally JUST missing Wellington 7s, poor planning on our part. Luckily we got the next best thing and were able to catch the opening parade today. We immediately scoped out the Canadian float pre-parade and said hi, managed to dig up my Rugby Canada jacket and everything!

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All 16 teams had floats in the parade and each float was preceded by some nationally themed act.

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For example, the Scottish had bagpipes, Samoans had tribal dancers, pretty sure Canada picked up random Canadian vacationers in Canada clothes and paraphernalia.

But leave it to the Americans to fly in the goddamn army to lead them in. They also had some cheerleaders following the army.

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The parade culminated at Civic Square where each team was formally welcomed and the captains said a few words. We managed to get a pic with a few of NZ’s very own infamous All Blacks and reigning world champs–beyond cool.

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Elai and I ended our time together with a nommy din din at a Cajun restaurant. After dinner we went to a cool local bar called the Library. It’s literally like a Library, books everywhere and you sit on cool vintage couches.

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