Wētā Workshop

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Wētā Workshop
TypePrivately held company
IndustryVisual effects, animation
Founded1987 (as RT Effects)
HeadquartersWellington, New Zealand
Key people
    • Richard Taylor (Co-founder and CEO)
    • Tania Rodger (Co-founder)

Wētā Workshop is a special effects and prop company based in Miramar, Wellington, in New Zealand, that produces effects for television and film. The company is the mascot named after the New Zealand wētā, one of the world's largest insects.[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 (now Wētā FX), 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, armor, 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 made its American musical theatre debut in 2022 with Workshop designer Rebekah Tisch serving as the art director for the musical stage production of Other World at Delaware Theatre Company, creating a digital world for live stage.[5]


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.[6]

Wētā workshop makes chainmaille for film and creative industries using new techniques developed in-house. PVC injection was used for the armor in Kingdom of Heaven, giving better results than the process for Lord of the Rings.[7] It produces aluminium or steel mail for high-impact stuntwork.[8]


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.[9]

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


Workplace culture[edit]

Beginning in June 2020, an investigative project by Kiwi public TV broadcaster 1 News into Weta's workplace culture resulted in over 11 current and former Wētā Workshop employees anonymously sharing accounts of "bullying and harassment".[14] Another former employee Layna Lazar came public with her own allegation by social media posting the same month that she was sexually harassed repeatedly and after seeking recourse, was fired, this prompted an independent review by Hive Consulting; in December of that year. Their reviewer Ashley Benefield cleared the company of the allegations stating that "the majority of allegations in the post including the most serious allegations, have either not been substantiated or were reasonable in the context of circumstances not described in the post". The review's December 2020 report did not address the anonymous allegations of over 11 employees originally reported by 1 News back in July, and the concerned employees stated in response they were not informed of the review having finished, either, in spite of their reluctant cooperation in it. Lazar stated in response that she "genuinely 100 percent still" stands by her public allegations.[15]


Year Name
1989 Meet the Feebles
1992 Braindead
1994 Heavenly Creatures
1995 Forgotten Silver
1996 The Frighteners
2001 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2003 Peter Pan
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
The Last Samurai
2004 I, Robot
Van Helsing
2005 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
King Kong
Kingdom of Heaven
The Legend of Zorro
2006 Black Sheep
2007 30 Days of Night
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
2008 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Eel Girl
Love Story 2050
2009 The Lovely Bones
Under the Mountain
District 9
Born of Hope [16]
Avatar [17]
2010 The Devil's Rock
2011 The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
2012 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
2013 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Elysium [18]
The ABCs of Death
2014 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
2015 Krampus
Mad Max: Fury Road
2016 Remo
2017 Blade Runner 2049
Power Rangers
The Great Wall
Thor: Ragnarok
Ghost in the Shell
2018 2.0
2019 The Wandering Earth [19][20]
Alita: Battle Angel [21]
I Am Mother
Men in Black: International
Jumanji: The Next Level
2020 Bloodshot
2021 Mortal Kombat
2022 X
Thor: Love and Thunder
Avatar: The Way of Water
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
2023 The Wandering Earth 2


Year Name
1993 The Tommyknockers
1995 Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Xena: Warrior Princess
2005 Jane and the Dragon
2009 The WotWots
2015 Thunderbirds Are Go
2022 The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power


  1. ^ "Weta Workshop". Weta Workshop. 18 August 2012. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. 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. ^ Quinn, Holly. "How do you create a digital world for the live stage? Like this". Technical.ly. Retrieved 12 April 2022.
  6. ^ "Removing the weakest links from chain mail: Kaynemaile". Stuff. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  7. ^ "WetaNZ: The home of Weta Collectibles and Weta Tenzan Chainmaille".
  8. ^ "2006 Costumes – Guild Forums".
  9. ^ The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Special Features DVDs
  10. ^ Jonathon Brough at IMDb
  11. ^ "Jonathan Brough". NZ On Screen. 15 October 2021. Retrieved 17 July 2022. Jonathan Brough... is not to be confused with two other Kiwi screen figures: actor/comedian Jonathan Brugh (What We Do in the Shadows) and sometime Weta effects-man Jonathon Brough.
  12. ^ "Staring down the barrel". NZ Herald. 17 April 2010. Retrieved 17 July 2022. Another Wellington artist, Jonathan Brough (sic), who works at Weta Workshop,...
  13. ^ "Jonathan Brough (sic)". Gallery De Novo. 14 May 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2022. He works as a designer / props finisher for Weta workshop in Wellington as well as pursuing his own artistic career.
  14. ^ Hall, Kristin (28 July 2020). "'Toxic' culture at acclaimed Weta Workshop revealed by past and present employees". 1 News. TVNZ. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  15. ^ Hall, Kristin (19 December 2020). "Woman whose sexual harassment complaint sparked Weta Workshop review says it's not over". 1 News. Television New Zealand. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  16. ^ "Born of Hope – credits".
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ "Weta works on Neill Blomkamp's Elysium". Wetanz.com. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  19. ^ "Sam Gao's Middle Earth, Wandering Earth and WETA". Radio New Zealand. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Weta Workshop Movie and TV projects » Weta Workshop". www.wetaworkshop.com. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  21. ^ "ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL - The Art of VFX". www.artofvfx.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.

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