Did you know that Weta has been creating movie magic for more than 20 years? They’ve done everything from costumes to props to miniature sets. What started out in back room of the Wellington flat of owners Richard and Tania, now has over 400 employees working hard to deliver the magic behind movies such as the classic TV series Xena and Hercules and The Freighteners of the early 90’s to the more popular films like the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit, Van Helsing, Hellboy, King Kong, Chronicles of Narnia, Indiana Jones, District 9, Avatar, Man of Steel, Elysium, The Amazing Spiderman 2, Krampus, Warcraft, The Great Wall, The BFG, Ghost in the Shell, Blade Runner 2049 and Thor: Ragnarok. They’ve even won Academy Awards for Best Make Up and Best Visual Effects.
So if you’re a movie buff or you just love props and costumes, the Weta Cave and the Weta Cave Workshop Tour are a must when you’re in Wellington.
Weta Cave is in the unassuming (but pleasant) suburb of Miramar, just at the bend of Wellington Central’s harbour, past the airport. You know you’re there when you see two huge troll just outside the wall, and one inside. Entrance to the Weta Cave is free. You can take photos of the life-size reproductions, so don’t miss out on snaps with Smeagol, Lurtz the Uruk-Hai, and the opportunity to place your head under the foot of the troll in the entrance. It also doubles as a store where you can purchase professionally handmade items at very reasonable prices. If there’s one place in New Zealand here you should spend money on souvenirs, this is it.
Weta Cave Workshop Tour is a behind-the-scenes glimpse of how the magic is made. What’s interesting is that the people giving the tour are actual prop makers. So when they explain how things are done (including processes such as moulding and painting), you’re sure that they know what they are talking about. The 45-minute tour walks you through the exhibition space, which has exclusive props and costumes not usually show in public.
Tours start every 30 minutes from 9am to 5:30pm, but usually fill up fast, so it is best to book online. Each tour only has a maximum of 20 people. Please note that photography is banned for most part of the tours, but there will be opportunities for taking pictures towards the end so bring your camera.
You get to see some very interesting things such as what goes on in the armoury (a new window has been installed here so you can look in on what’s happening). You’ll also see the CNC (Computer Numeric Control) at work as well as smaller 3D printers and some products that were made with these.
There’s a nice little section where the props are divided into plastics, armours, animatronics, painting and more which you can actually touch — but no pictures yet!
When you get to the last part — where you’ll see an Orc with a hook arm (your head will fit in that hook, try it and take a snap!) — then you can start taking photos. There’s also people working on some projects there and they’re pretty friendly so you can ask some questions.
45-minutes is a bit long to take kids through but they were pretty well-behaved and even engaged with our tour guide when they were allowed to touch stuff and take pictures. The experience was highly enjoyable for the movie fan adults in the tour.