There are several official Weta websites, and important fan sites to check out:
Weta Digital/Weta FX (The Lord of the Rings page)
WetaHolics Website (This is the index of archives of articles from 2005-2009.)
Sideshow Weta Sculptor/Artist Checklist on the LOTRG Forums. Forum member marybluefairy compiled this post of 9 lists, noting that “Sideshow’s website doesn’t always list the artist/sculptor of their pieces.” This post includes separate lists of the statues, busts, helms, environments, medallions, weapons sets, plaques, art prints, and DVD/miscellaneous material, and those who produced them. A helpful resource – thanks!
So far, I have acquired several different Weta pieces and promotions:
- Weta Workshop/Weta FX Press Kit (2003)
- Creating Gollum/Capturing movie Memories: The Gollum “Sméagol” Collectible (2003)
- Sideshow Collectibles: The Virtual Experience, Version 6.0 (2008)
- Weta Catalog from San Diego ComicCon (2010)
Weta Workshop/Weta FX Press Kit (2003)
In 2008, I came across an ultra-rare Weta Workshop/Weta FX press kit on eBay. This was produced sometime after the 75th Academy Awards in March 2003, as it refers to the 2002 Academy Awards earned for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup in The Fellowship of the Ring. I have only seen one of these ever on eBay, in 2008.
The outer dimensions of this promotional kit measure 8.25″ x 8.25″. The design work and detailing that went into this kit is a phenomenal representation of the range of artistry typical for Weta, and the high-quality production value is everything you’d expect from Weta! The kit includes the folder case, CD-ROM, portolio folder and 10 flyers, a mini-poster, and a Press Kit booklet.
Embossed, custom-design folder case, with a foldout artwork diorama on the left-hand side and a slipcase slot for folder/flyers, mini-poster, and pressbook on the right-hand side. The case folder has been hand signed by three of the leads on the Weta concept art and design team for Lord of the Rings: Daniel Falconer, Warren Mahy, and Ben Wootten.
CD-ROM with four special effects reels, totaling almost 20 minutes of material. One side is in NTSC format and the other side is in PAL format. The menu loop for the disc lasts 55 seconds.
- The Fellowship of the Ring (3:12)*
- The Two Towers (4:10).*
- Weta Visual Effects (3:46). Focuses on effects produced for other movies, such as Frighteners, and television programs, such as Xena and Hercules.
- Sideshow Weta Collectibles (8:05). Includes various LOTR products – busts, statues, masks, helms, one-sixth size figurines, and “environments” (Orthanc, Weathertop, Argonaths) – and different techniques – carving, casting, production, mold-making, painting. The reel has music, almost no voices, except when a cast or crew member checks in on their prototype bust.
*Reels #1 and #2 include clips of digital effects, make-up, prosthetics, weapons, etc. It includes sound effects but almost no dialog (other than “My Preciousss!”).
Custom die-cut portfolio folder with 10 flyers that feature information on various services offered by Weta FX: Production, Facility, Awards, Weapons, Miniatures, Merchandising, Prosthetics, Creatures, Armour, and Design. The front of each flyer gives detailed information and a different design look. The back of each flyer shows the same design as the flyer folder, along with the Weta insect silhouette logo and the Weta FX web address.
Mini-poster showing six huge sculptures “Made by Weta Workshop.”
Press Kit booklet (24 pages) with quotes, photos, and information throughout. This booklet includes details on division of Weta, some of their more noted projects, profiles of lead team members (including Daniel Falconer and Ben Wootten), awards from 1997 through 2003, and miscellaneous facts and figures.
Autographs of Weta Designers. Daniel Falconer’s signature is very clear and clean, done in thick-line silver ink. The signatures of Warren Mahy and Ben Wootten were made with thinner silver ink that smudged on the folder case. [Note to self: Anytime, if ever, you ever have the opportunity to have Important People Autograph Cool Stuff (IPACS for short), use the fine point Sharpie, not the super-fine point. Just sayin’ …] Anyway, since these three of these long-time designers from Weta were cool enough and kind enough to sign this press kit for whoever was the original possessor of it, here’s a bit more about each of them.
Daniel Falconer is now a Senior Design at Weta Digital. He has produced a number of Weta collectibles, in addition to his ongoing design work for them. These include:
- A location map of New Zealand sites relevant to the LOTR film trilogy.
- A cartoon Weta insect used in kids’ clothing – sure to make you smile!
- The sculpting on the Legolas Greenleaf figurine (1/6th scale). The Weta site doesn’t state this, but eBay auctions note that this figurine is signed by Daniel Falconer.
- The Treebeard bust.
- He was also one of the artists on the team that created the Bag End Environment collectible, which has both an Open Edition and a Limited Edition. Mr. Falconer also produced a four-part series of articles on the production of this unusual item. Here’s the link for Part 1 on “Bag End Update.”
Ben Wootten was a Senior Design at Weta at the time this press kit was produced. He is also a sculptor. There is no profile of him on the Weta Digital site. Here is the biographical sketch that appeared in the Press Kit booklet:
Ben [Wootten] has been working in the New Zealand film and television industry for the past seven years, in the capacity of conceptual designer for Weta Workshop. Concentrating on creature, armour and weapon design Ben has played a major part in realising the now familiar images from Middle-earth.
The team of designers at Weta Workshop all have a great depth of skills and close understanding of each others’ styles and design strengths and present a huge pool of creativity that individually they could never achieve. Within the creative atmosphere at Weta, Ben’s skill base has grown to include conceptual sketching, colour illustration and on through to sculpting: allowing the realisation of a design to the level and style that the director requires.
Among other LOTR items, Mr. Wootten designed the sword of Strider, Ranger of the North (which was manufactured by Peter Lyon, Weta’s Master Swordsmith).
Warren Mahy previously worked directly on staff with Weta in concept design, but apparently has since moved into a freelance role, according to a profile on Pen and Paper, a role-playing game (RPG) fan site. (Do a search for Warren Mahy on eBay and a number of cards from Magic: The Gathering and other Collectible Card Games (CCGs) and RPGs will pop up. Related to LOTR collectibles, Mr. Mahy was:
- Artist team member on Gothmog on Warg.
- Sculptor for Newborn Uruk-hai figure.
- Sculptor for Orc Overseer 1/6 scale figure (according to eBay auction sources).
- Designer for the High Elven Warrior Sword (reproduction by United Cutlery 1373) used by Elves in The Last Alliance’s fight against the forces of Sauron at the Battle of Dagorlad (according to eBay auction sources).
Creating Gollum/Capturing Movie Memories: The Gollum “Sméagol” Collectible (2003)
The Collector’s Gift Set for The Two Towers included a bonus DVD/booklet pack that goes into great detail on how artisans created the Gollum/Sméagol figurine that was also included with the set. Images and additional details forthcoming.
Sideshow Collectibles: The Virtual Experience, Version 6.0 (2008)
I’ve only begun exploring the LOTR items on the Sideshow Collectibles virtual experience. It contains some intriguing features, such as 360-degree views of select collectibles. After I explore some more, I’ll come back with specifics on what makes it terrific, and whatever else I can find out about earlier versions. In the meantime, here are images of the covers and CD-ROM.
Weta Catalog from San Diego ComicCon (2010)
Weta and Sideshow Collectibles have produced some amazing pieces of art, and this catalog includes items from The Lord of the Rings, as well as The Chronicles of Narnia and other movies and television shows on which Weta designers have worked. More details later. For now, here are images of the cover and page layouts that show LOTR collectibles.