Weta Digital

July 26, 2014 | 8:30 a.m.

Comic-Con 2014: Sideshow Collectibles’ 20 years of genre artistry

Re-creating characters for a niche audience is always a slippery slope, and doing it for a cadre of collecting superfans is an even more daunting endeavor. But for 20 years, Sideshow Collectibles has been making detailed, scaled-down versions of monsters, heroes, comic book characters, movie icons, television legends and original creations. Located in Thousand Oaks, Sideshow sells sculptures — some of them are poseable figures but most are not — to discerning collectors through its website, through comic book and collectible stores, and through conventions like San Diego’s Comic-Con International. The pieces are made by committees of conceptual artists, sculptors, painters and more, and are not particularly mass-produced, averaging about 200 per order, so that they are coveted pieces of art. FULL COVERAGE: Comic-Con 2014 “We produce everything from 12-inch figures, retailing at $125, through to life-size figures, which retail for $5,000 […]
Jan. 16, 2013 | 2:57 p.m.

‘Hobbit’ FX wiz Joe Letteri on Gollum, the Goblin King and Azog

The visual effects world has never been the glamorous side of Hollywood, but the artists at Weta Digital charged with creating the grotesque Goblin King in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” surely have the best claim to hard labor in this year’s Oscar race. In order to craft the character’s uniquely bloated and beastly look, the team at Weta examined medical journal images of herpes, boils, gangrene, tumors and rashes. They worked overtime to make the Goblin King’s bulbous neck goiter jiggle just so, and to conserve the subtleties of an alternately comic and menacing motion-capture performance delivered by Australian actor Barry Humphries (better known — minus goiter, plus purple wig — as Dame Edna). “He’s a giant, evil goblin,” said Weta visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri. “It was all about making him as disgusting as possible, and fine tuning […]
Dec. 08, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’: 60 photos from Middle-earth

The theatrical release of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is just around the corner, but in the meantime, here’s a look at some scenes from the film — the first in director Peter Jackson’s planned trilogy based on the book by J. R. R. Tolkien. The images released so far reveal much of the film’s set design, hair and makeup, costumes and more, providing peeks at the Shire, Rivendell, the Misty Mountains and the cottage of wizard Radagast the Brown. The photos also highlight some of WETA Digital’s wizardry with goblins, trolls, stone giants and, of course, the creature Gollum, reprised by Andy Serkis. Though some of the characters and places in the photos are familiar from director Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, they were repainted with a different brush for “The Hobbit” films, said production designer […]
Dec. 05, 2012 | 7:00 a.m.

‘Hobbit’: Dan Hennah brings eastern influence to production design

Few people know Middle-earth better than Dan Hennah, the production designer tasked with translating J.R.R. Tolkien’s words and director Peter Jackson’s vision to the big screen for “The Hobbit” trilogy. Hennah has been working on the film for three years, but it’s not his first visit to the land of dwarfs, elves, hobbits and Orcs. Hennah served as art director for “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and won the art direction and set decoration Academy Award for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” along with Grant Major and Alan Lee in 2004. Hero Complex spoke with Hennah about his return to Tolkien’s world, what’s different in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and the challenges of bringing to life new corners of Middle-earth. HC: Can you start by explaining what your job entails? Production design must […]
Dec. 04, 2012 | 8:02 a.m.

‘Hobbit’: Peter King on yak wigs and the language of Middle-earth

“The Hobbit” may be one of J. R. R. Tolkien’s simpler tales, but creating 13 individual yet cohesive hairstyles (and beard-styles) for the dwarfs in “The Hobbit” was no simple task. That challenge fell to makeup and hair designer Peter King, who won an Oscar with Richard Taylor for “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” King, who has worked on all of Peter Jackson’s films since “The Lord of the Rings,” including “King Kong” and “The Lovely Bones,” spoke with Hero Complex about designing the hairstyles for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” opening in theaters Dec. 14. HC: What’s it been like to return to Middle-earth after all this time? PK: Like we’ve never been away. We had a break of what, eight, nine years and a few other films in between, but it was great. Like going back to see an […]
Dec. 03, 2012 | 1:52 p.m.

‘Hobbit’: Sylvester McCoy’s twin loves, Radagast, ‘Doctor Who’

One of the most anticipated performances in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is Sylvester McCoy’s turn as the wizard Radagast the Brown. Though the character did not appear in Peter Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Radagast is a key player in J.R.R. Tolkien’s books. McCoy, who has been acting on the stage and screen for more than 45 years, joined “The Hobbit” after finishing a Royal Shakespeare Company tour of “King Lear,” acting opposite Gandalf actor Ian McKellen. McCoy is perhaps best known for his role in “Doctor Who.” Hero Complex chatted with McCoy about wizards and Timelords. HC: Were you a Tolkien fan before being cast in “The Hobbit” films? SM: Yeah, I read them in the ’60s. It came out in the ’50s, and then it started catching on. You know, they were the books to […]
Nov. 30, 2012 | 6:46 p.m.

‘Hobbit’: Tami Lane on dwarf wrangling, silicone magic

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” won’t reach theaters until Dec. 14, but just Thursday, the movie’s visual effects team made the shortlist for Oscar consideration. Working in the non-digital realm, Academy Award winner Tami Lane supervised all of the prosthetic makeup that had to be applied for the films in Peter Jackson’s return trip to Middle-earth. It was a job that kept her in New Zealand for 18 months, but she knew the landscape well — Lane was a key part of the prosthetics team on both “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The Peoria, Ill., native recently spoke with Hero Complex about getting the tale’s coterie of dwarfs ready for their trip to the Misty Mountains and beyond and how Jackson’s decision to use the groundbreaking […]
Sept. 19, 2012 | 12:44 p.m.

‘Hobbit’ trailer: Radagast, wargs, a lighter look at Middle-earth

In honor of Tolkien Week, Peter Jackson has released a new trailer (below) for “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” delving more into Bilbo Baggins’ story and revealing first looks at several beasts of Middle-earth. The trailer, though action-packed, takes a less serious tone than the previous trailer, released some nine months ago, and certainly than “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy — a directorial decision that captures the lighter mood of “The Hobbit” compared to J. R. R. Tolkien’s later work; though we see Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins bravely wielding Sting (his glowing sword) against a goblin, we also see him running barefoot through the Shire, map in hand, bellowing, “I’m going on an adventure!” Even Gollum, reprised beautifully by Andy Serkis‘ motion-capture performance, is more comedic (and even cute) than grotesque. The trailer is more narrative-focused, describing the […]
Aug. 05, 2011 | 9:00 a.m.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’: Weta’s proof of concept scene

One of the earliest visual effects shots Weta Digital delivered to “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” director Rupert Wyatt was a closeup of the film’s lead chimp, Caesar (Andy Serkis), in a moment of guilt and confusion. Born with hyper-intelligence thanks to an Alzheimer’s drug and raised by humans, Caesar had just tapped into his ape instinct and rampaged violently through a suburban neighborhood. Serkis filmed the scene wearing a motion capture suit and head rig, and it was up to the artists at Weta to retain the look of contrition and bewilderment on his face while turning him into a chimpanzee. “We needed the audience to understand what Caesar was feeling with no dialogue,” said Joe Letteri, senior visual effects supervisor at Weta. “Andy had delivered the performance with his eyes, with his whole body, and we […]
July 07, 2011 | 9:00 a.m.

‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes’: New app asks, are you smarter than a chimp?

In “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” a reboot of the sci-fi franchise due in theaters Aug. 5, a scientist’s attempt to cure Alzheimer’s disease leads to the development of some highly intelligent — and dangerous — apes. A new app 20th Century Fox has released for iPhones and iPads makes that fantastical premise seem a lot more plausible. The app includes a game in which a user has the choice of playing the “easy,” “hard” or most difficult “ape” level. The game is based on a short-term memory test conducted at Kyoto University in 2007 in which the numbers 1 to 9 appear onscreen in random configurations and then are quickly covered up. The player has to remember those positions and touch the squares in numeric order to pass to the next round. When the Japanese researchers pitted […]
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