Wētā Workshop

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Wētā Workshop
TypePrivately held company
IndustryVisual effects, animation
Founded1987 (as RT Effects)
FounderRichard Taylor
HeadquartersWellington, New Zealand
Key people
Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger, Jamie Selkirk, Peter Jackson

Wētā Workshop is a special effects and prop company based in Miramar, New Zealand, producing effects for television and film. The company is named after the New Zealand wētā, one of the world's largest insects, which is featured in the logo.[1]


Costumes and armour designed by Wētā Workshop: Elven soldiers in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Founded in 1987 by Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger as RT Effects, Wētā Workshop has produced creatures and makeup effects for the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess and effects for films such as Meet the Feebles and Heavenly Creatures. A digital division, Weta Digital, was formed in 1993; it is a separate company and operates independently.[2]

Wētā Workshop's output was used in director Peter Jackson's film trilogies The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, producing sets, costumes, armour, weapons, creatures and miniatures.[3] It also aided in the making of Jackson's 2005 version of King Kong. It supported the creation of Reclaiming the Blade (2009), a documentary film on stage combat, historical European and Asian swordsmanship.[4]


Wētā Workshop buildings in Miramar


For the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, realistic looking PVC chainmail was made, not just for the lead actors, but also for the hundreds of extras that appeared throughout the films. PVC pipe was cut into rings, assembled by hand into a semblance of armor, and then electroplated. A total of 82.9 million links were manufactured from 7 miles of PVC pipe.[5]

The workshop now has a division, Weta Tenzan Chain Maille, making chainmaille for film work. PVC injection was used for the armor in Kingdom of Heaven, giving better results than the process for Lord of the Rings.[6] It produces aluminium or steel mail for high-impact stuntwork.[7]


The term bigature is Wētā Workshop's nickname for a very large miniature model. They are used in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, with the largest of them measuring some 9 metres high. Extensive computer graphics techniques and computer-controlled cameras were used to seamlessly mesh the Bigature photography with live actors and scenes.[8]

Bigatures used in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy included models of:

Weta Legs[edit]

The name "Weta Legs" is Wētā Workshop's name for a "low profile, professional grade reverse leg stilt" developed by sculptor-designer Kim Graham and Wētā technicians and manufactured by Performing Legs Ltd. Designed and largely hand-made[9] by Graham, these digitigrade leg extensions are intended for "creature and costume performances in movies, television, theatre, circus, street performances and other creative performances."[10]

Originally reserved for "commercial film and television projects", Wētā briefly brought them to market – in relatively limited quantities – for online purchase by members of the public in 2010. With the ability to take extra prosthetics such as layers of fur or skin "to resemble a digitigrade leg, from canine and feline to fantastical demons, dragons, satyrs and even robots", these devices are promoted as being easy to get used to, partly because they "allow for realistic and natural movement as they are jointed at the knee and the ankle."[11]

Workplace culture allegations[edit]

In 2020, Layna Lazar alleged in a social media post that she had been sexually harassed at Wētā and had been dismissed after seeking recourse.[12] This prompted an independent review by Hive Consulting; twelve more past and present employees shared their experiences of "a workplace which was often toxic" with harassment and bullying.[13] The review's December 2020 report did not mention the additional allegations. Lazar's allegations were dismissed as it was unclear whether the touching was deliberate, nor whether Lazar's had been dismissed as a result of her allegations.[12] A 1 News investigation prompted over 40 employees to share accounts of harassment, bullying, and abuse at the sister company Weta Digital, leading to a review.[13]

Special effects filmography[edit]


  1. ^ "Weta Workshop". Weta Workshop. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2020. We chose our company name after an insect, a very cool, prickly little monster, unique to New Zealand.
  2. ^ "FAQ". Weta Workshop. Retrieved 3 May 2021.
  3. ^ "The Making Of Middle-Earth At Weta Workshop". Weta Workship. 5 March 2020. Archived from the original on 6 August 2020. Retrieved 29 March 2021. no trip would be complete without stepping foot (sic) inside Wellington’s Weta Workshop. The Academy Award-winning creative design and physical effects facility is best known for its work on The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit motion picture trilogies
  4. ^ "About the Film". Reclaiming the Blade. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Removing the weakest links from chain mail: Kaynemaile". Stuff. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  6. ^ "WetaNZ: The home of Weta Collectibles and Weta Tenzan Chainmaille".
  7. ^ "2006 Costumes – Guild Forums".
  8. ^ The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Special Features DVDs
  9. ^ Weta Legs reviewed by Softpedia.com
  10. ^ "Coilhouse » Blog Archive » Inventor/Sculptor Kim Beaton's Weta Legs".
  11. ^ "Weta Legs at Weta Workshop".
  12. ^ a b "Woman whose sexual harassment complaint sparked Weta Workshop review says it's not over". TVNZ. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  13. ^ a b "'Toxic' culture at acclaimed Weta Workshop revealed by past and present employees". TVNZ. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  14. ^ "Born of Hope – credits".
  15. ^ Philip Wakefield (19 December 2009). "Close encounters of the 3D kind". The Listener. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  16. ^ "Weta works on Neill Blomkamp's Elysium". Wetanz.com. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  17. ^ "Sam Gao's Middle Earth, Wandering Earth and WETA". Radio New Zealand. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Weta Workshop Movie and TV projects » Weta Workshop". www.wetaworkshop.com. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  19. ^ "ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL - The Art of VFX". www.artofvfx.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]