Welcome back to part II of my adventures in Middle-earth. When we last left off we had just arrived in Wellington, home of Peter Jackson, The Embassy theater, The Green Parrot, Weta Workshop, etc.
First stop: Helm’s Deep and Minis Tirith
The Dry Creek Quarry on Hayward’s Hill Road was used as the setting for Helm’s Deep – the scene of The Two Towers’ climactic battle. This fortification was the largest and most detailed set from The Lord of the Rings. The stunning set includes details right down to paving stones and statues. Filming of the Helm’s Deep scenes took place at night over several weeks in an arduous schedule that exhausted actors and crew. Once they had all of the shots done for Helm’s Deep they tore it all down and then built up Minis Tirith and filmed those scenes.
Second stop: Harcourt Park, Gardens of Isengard
The gardens of Isengard were inside a real park called Harcourt Park. In the photo below just picture Saruman and Gandalf walking in front of Isengard. The scenery was beautiful. We even ran into a few disc golf baskets. Did you know that disc golf originated in NZ? Kiwis are very inventive.
Third stop: Fernside Gardens, Leaving Lothlorien/Deagol & Smeagol
This stop was one of my favorites. We were met by our guide on this private property. The grounds were amazing. We even saw some chickens chasing after each other. I wish the video I had taken survived the years burned onto a disc. It’s skipping. 🙁 Anyways, at Fernside Gardens the scene that was added into The Two Towers for the extended edition was filmed. Several marshy shots of friends Deagol and Smeagol enjoying a ride on a boat, falling and finding the ring. And then the killing of Deagol. This was a pretty powerful shot. Some of the men in our fellowship decided to reenact it. There is also a shot of the marshes where Deagol pulls himself out of the water.
Also at Fernside Gardens the filming of leaving Lothlorien was done. I have several views for you. One is of Galadriel waving goodbye to the fellowship and the other is from her view, watching them float away in their boats.
Fourth stop: Elven Cloak Factory
We had the opportunity to go to the Stansborough Factory where they made the elven cloaks, scarves, etc. for the LOTR movies and coincidentally for the current Hobbit trilogy. We had so much fun looking at everything they made. The unique fibre created by their flock of rare grey sheep was used to costume most of the main characters appearing in the blockbuster movies ‘The Lord of the Rings’. It was seen again in two other major Disney productions, Narnia’s – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian, along with The Waterhorse, BBC’s Kidnapped, Avatar and several others. We all took turns wearing one of the elven cloaks that Galadriel had given the members of the fellowship.
We had dinner that night at ‘Strawberry Fare’ , a restaurant near the Embassy Theatre. It was so delicious and the desserts alone were amazing!!
First stop: Mt. Victoria
Mount Victoria is within walking distance of Wellington city. The forested areas of Mount Victoria were used to depict Hobbiton woods and where the hobbits hid from the black riders. Of course we had some more reenactments by members of our fellowship. I think we all took turns looking down the trail and shouting, “Get off the road!”
We then took a nice drive around Wellington and went passed Peter Jackson’s studios on Stone Street and Park Road. I think the highlight of the day was about to come as we made our way to Weta’s Workshop.
Second stop: Weta’s Workshop
We were all so excited for this next stop. Vic had told us that we may or may not be able to get in. Richard Taylor is a very busy man and he wasn’t sure we would be able to get it. As Vic went in we all waited. I am not sure how long it was but it felt like forever. Then when we thought we wouldn’t get in for a tour Vic came back and said we were in. And it wasn’t just that we would get a tour but that the amazing and wonderful Richard Taylor would be giving us the tour. I think we all passed out! 🙂 From the outside you wouldn’t think this building was anything special. It looked like a factory. As we got closer to the steps to walk up we were hit with this cool Weta sign.
As we walked into the foyer we say full-sized replicas of Gollum, Lurtz and other lovable characters from LOTR. We saw all of their figurines lining walls, and posters of the movies they were working on. This section is going to have a ton of photos. Here is a photo of Lurtz and I at the door.
They had a table with different types of chain mail that they made for the movies. It was pretty cool to pick it up. One would think it was all the same design but indeed each of them had a different weave. Can you imagine if your job on the films was to just do the chain mail for three or four years. Wow! That is a lot of chain mail.
Richard brought us into their conference room and all around the room were glass cases filled with figurines and of course all of the Oscars they won for the movies. We each got a chance to take a picture with Richard and hold the Oscar. My ultimate geekiest moment. I do have some video where Richard is showing us stuff but I am not going to post that. I don’t think it would be appropriate.
We met a lot of the artists in the building and we got a tour of the basement where they were working on Narnia, no photos could be taken, and King Kong. Here are a few more photos of things that lined the hallways of Weta in the basement. We also got to see a wall with the facial masks of all the characters. Some of them are really easy to pick out and others were just too hard to determine.
We had the most amazing time at Weta. Everyone was so amazing. Richard even talked about his new television series called Jane and the Dragon. Which I did have a chance to see here in America a few years ago and watched it with my daughter. It was amazing. This was our last day in Wellington. We went to Te Papa Museum that afternoon before we flew off to the South Island into Christchurch where our next adventure was about to begin.
Stay tuned tomorrow for part III of my adventures. Next off is Edoras and amazing Mt. Sunday.