This excerpt from arts show The Edge looks at the special effects being crafted for Peter Jackson's Heavenly Creatures. It's an intriguing insight into the early days of Weta, the effects house who went on to be the world-making wizards behind Lord of the Rings, Avatar and District 9. Richard Taylor — now Weta Workshop head — crafts a sea creature; George Port gives a tour of the fledgling Weta Digital (him, a computer and a single room!); and Jackson (in a Tintin t-shirt) breaks down Heavenly Creatures scenes, and muses upon Kiwi ingenuity and taking on Hollywood.
This made-for-the-wee-kids series follows SpottyWot and DottyWot, two playful aliens exploring life on earth. In this episode, a chase around the farm sees the two stumbling upon a sheepdog helping a farmer herd his sheep, which gives DottyWot an idea about how cleaning up could be turned into a game. The CGI-animated WotWots appeared on more than 70 episodes, and screened in many countries. The show was produced by Pūkeko Pictures, a partnership between children’s author Martin Baynton, and Weta co-founders Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger.
Screened on a TVNZ arts show, this documentary looks at how the strings were pulled on Peter Jackson's low-budget puppet movie Meet the Feebles. An old Wellington railway shed fizzes with energy and imagination as a team peppered with future Oscar-winners crafts the gleefully subversive Muppets parody. Jackson muses on his influences, processes and propensity for "savage humour" in a fascinating interview. Included is footage of his childhood films — war movies and stop motion animation made with his first 8mm camera. Richard King writes about Meet the Feebles here.
In this Attitude episode, 14-year-old Sean Prendeville faces up to a complex and radical surgery: rotationplasty. For the bone cancer survivor the operation involves attaching his lower leg to the hip joint, rotating it and using the ankle as a ‘hinge’ for a prosthetic limb. The programme tracks the nature-mad Sean’s journey, from pre-surgery anxiety to rehab on his backwards right foot/knee; and the things that helped him through: his blue tongue lizard, challenge beads, Mum and family, and design student Jessica Quinn (who underwent the procedure when she was younger).
A helmet cam records the claustrophobic reactions of a rookie mercenary (Elliot Travers) as an interplanetary combat raid goes wrong in Ferand Peek's debut short. Peek produced the one-shot DIY Gravity in Wellington over five years. Audio was recorded first, then Travers (shot in a special rig), then CGI effects were forged with the help of Miramar/Weta filmmaking crew. The result was touted by io9 doyen Annalee Newitz: “All we see of the world around him are reflections in his helmet, and yet the suspense is incredible. Plus, the story [is] surprisingly moving.”
Armed with his trusty ray gun and protected by his pith helmet Lord Broadforce's exotic species search on an alien planet is going swimmingly ... until the dame gets colonial angst. The short is based on the sci-fi world of Dr Grordbort created by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore (designer on District 9, King Kong) in which Victorian steampunk meets star-trekking trophy hunting. The live action-CGI film is another impressive product of Media Design School's 3D animation programme: created by 11 students over 22 weeks under the direction of James Cunningham.
After winning attention both in The Thomas Oliver Band and with his solo lap steel guitar work, Thomas Oliver took away the 2016 APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award with 'If I Move to Mars'. The video makes the most of the intragalactic theme, with a Gravity inspired/gravity-defying video made by a pair of effects wizards from Weta Workshop. The visually impressive result sees Oliver in a spacesuit, peacefully orbiting the Earth playing a custom space-guitar as the sun slowly rises behind him.
These CGI short films are the product of Auckland's Media Design School; combining the expertise of lecturer James Cunningham (director of award-winning shorts Poppy and Infection) with the raw smarts and hard work of his 3D animation students. With established industry talents (eg writer Nick Ward and cameraman Simon Riera) helping guide the students, the results have won awards and selection to impressive international festivals, including SIGGRAPH. 2011's effort saw the screen debut of alien hunter Dr. Grordbort, originally created by Weta Workshop's Greg Broadmore.
SpottyWot and DottyWot are young alien siblings exploring life on earth in this made-for-wee-kids TV series. In each 10 minute episode, the CGI-animated SpottyWot (blue) and DottyWot (pink) inhabit live action environments, like the zoo and the beach. The show was the second production (after Jane and the Dragon) for Pūkeko Pictures, a partnership between children’s author Martin Baynton and Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger (of Weta Workshop and Lord of the Rings fame). Two series were made of the Annie-nominated show, and it screened around the globe.
This National Film Unit documentary provides a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the various stages of 40s film production at the relatively nascent unit, from shoot to post production. It was made to be screened continuously (thus the ‘loop’ title) at exhibition theatrettes. There’s genial interaction among the cast and crew (see backgrounder for who they are). Directed by pioneer woman director Kathleen O’Brien, the filming took place at the unit’s Darlington Road studios in Wellington, close to where Weta Workshop and Park Road Post now operate in Miramar.