October 1

For other Tolkien fans, this is the first of many posts that you have been waiting for!

Yesterday, Lindsay planned an amazing day for us! I had mentioned several things that I had been wanting to do, so she set it up! First, we drove out to Miramar to go to the Weta Cave. This is the warehouse building where the props from many huge movies (obviously, including Lord of the Rings) are made.

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We drove at least 45 minutes out there, only to find that because of school vacations the tours were totally booked. We could either wait 6 hours for the next tour or come back another day (but Lindsay works two jobs and has very few days off). So we decided to watch a video on the establishment and development of the Weta Workshop and Weta Digital while we decided what to do next. The film talked about how the company evolved from making basic horror movie type props to nearly anything you can imagine, but in particular, fantasy/sci-fi props, costumes and weaponry. It was fascinating!

After mulling it over, we decided to do what any Lord of the Rings lover, faced with the potential of never seeing the Balrog’s head in real life, would do. That is, talk our way onto an earlier tour. So we did. (I won’t go into details because I don’t want anyone to get in trouble.)

So we ended up on the next tour of the Weta Workshop. It was unbelievably cool. The first thing that Lindsay noticed was that it was so much smaller than she imagined. I was completely distracted by the decorations. There were props from various movies hanging all over the walls, and so many items that I recognized. I felt so excited about the whole thing. Unfortunately, they don’t allow photography because they often reuse props from one movie for a different one. Sometimes they use them in a different way. For example, the tour guide showed us a set of curved horns that were later used as a set of pincers.

The tour guide handed around props. Many of them were so much lighter than you would have guessed. They generally make several different weights of the same item for different scenes or situations. The guide gave the example of a general leading his troops into battle. If he is extending his sword out across the field then it would be really disappointing to see his arm shaking from the weight. But if he has a lighter sword then this won’t happen!

On the technical side, they use a great deal of 3D modeling, wood carving, casting, sculpting and 3D printing to create items.

I learned several interesting facts during the tour:
Fake blood comes in three flavors–maple syrup, cherry and chocolate; weta means god of ugly monsters; Viggo Mortensen was the only actor to wear real heavy chain mail during filming, in fact, he slept in his costume outside under the trees; and (this one was shocking to me) some of the filming of Sauron in armor was actually done using foam armor! It looked so much like metal that I couldn’t believe it was foam, until the guide bent one of the spikes over! Craziest moment in the tour! The tour was shorter than I expected, but I was so happy to be on it that I didn’t mind! We had a great time!

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Afterwards, we went for a drive down the coast and around Oriental Bay. (It was actually an accident when we got lost on the way back, but it was a fortuitous accident because it gave us a photo opp with the Wellington sign!)

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When we drove through town we decided to go for lunch at a fish and chips shop. It is one of the few places that has gluten-free (which Lindsay needs) so we stopped at The Chippery. It was delicious! The “chips” were crispy and salty. The fish was meaty and beer-battered!

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Afterwards, we waddled out of the restaurant and attempted to walk down to the waterfront (the mix of being so full and the wind were tough to fight against.) Eventually we headed back to Moana Lodge. It was another wonderful day!

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