A “weta” is (pictured above) one of 70 species of the insect that looks similar to a large grasshopper and is endemic to New Zealand. Like most other endangered species, these have been impacted by habitat loss from human development. Some of them can bite with their large mandibles, as my friend found out when she picked up one at Zealandia! The one pictured above is a dead one that we found in the habitat boxes on Somes Island (Somes Island is a fascinating island in the middle of Wellington Bay that was used for quarantine when ships would arrive with people suffering from different diseases and for animals when brought in for agriculture and is now a park reserve).
Some of them (Giant Weta) can be up to 9 inches long! Pretty scary stuff! I imagine this is why the movie prop company was coined “Weta Workshop,” because most of their original works were pretty scary props! Weta Workshop is located in Miramar an area of Wellington near the airport. The company was started in the back of Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger’s flat in 1987. The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy with Peter Jackson took this operation to a whole new level in 1997 when they joined together to bring to life J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. Since that time, Weta Digital began, which has done special effects work on all kinds of projects including James Cameron’s Avatar. The Weta Cave is open to the public for tours and really gives some great insight to their work and the requirements for the filming industry that is strong here in Wellington and New Zealand!
Also located in Miramar is the Roxy movie theater, which was restored by a group associated with the Weta Workshop and opened in 2011. The cinema was originally opened in 1928 for silent films and then had its last movie showing in 1964. The building became a shopping area and then sat idle for a time before the restoration. Just recently a 24 hour showing of the LOTR trilogy happened and brought people from all over the world! I went recently to the Roxy to see the newest Kiwi film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, which was fabulous and written and directed by Taika Waititi! The movie is based on a book about a young boy that is troubled and bouncing from foster home to foster home and finally ends up with a couple living out in the woods. Beautifully done with lots of laughs and even some tear jerking moments! And just like the LOTR, the NZ scenery provides an incredible backdrop. Much enjoyed and can’t wait to get it on DVD to share back at home!
Oh!! And how could I leave off the Wellington Airport! This is fabulous! Check out the LOTR flair!