The Great Hollywood Journey, Part III
First things first, meeting Peter Jackson and his partner, Fran Walsh, was a genuine delight. All the folks at WETA Workshop and Digital were so full of enthusiasm for their upcoming Halo adventure you'd never know most of them were crunching toward an imminent,
multi-million dollar deadline
. Simply put, we couldn't have asked for more gracious hosts.
If you've seen any of the "making of" featurettes on the
Lord of the Rings
DVDs, or watched
Peter Jackson's King Kong
you likely have a sense for the concentration of talent these films required. But believe you me: there's a big difference between a documentary impression of WETA's capabilities and the sort of understanding that comes from actual, physical contact with the fruits of their labor. I went to New Zealand with the former, and returned with the latter. My brain - my capacity to imagine what is and isn't possible in any artistic endeavor - hasn't been the same since.
I'm sure some of this mind-boggling has to do with the fact that very little of the work we do at Bungie is tangible, which is to say the vast majority of things we create resides on hard-drives - requires a mouse and keyboard to "touch". Not so with WETA, especially on the Workshop side.
From the suits of armor in the smithy to the miniature trees in the greenery, to the hand-tooled saddles in the leather shop, items of exquisite craftsmanship were everywhere we looked. I never got the sense that things were on display to prove a point - cocky demonstrations of institutional prowess. Rather every row, stack, jumble of objects exuded a pride of workmanship that was as humble as it was undeniable.
But it wasn't until our day one tour veered into the aptly named "Room of Weapons" that it fully registered just how outrageously capable these folks were. In a space about 15' x 30' was one of every death-dealer WETA has ever fabricated. Sauron's mace,
, you name it. I'm talking four walls of racked armaments, gentle readers, floor to ceiling.
All this hardware was, of course, too much for Parsons who promptly dropped his facade of respectability, and loosed his inner fan-boy. I could barely restrain the man from ripping a Gondorian blade from its scabbard so that he might "paint the Pelennor with Orcish blood." By the time we made it to WETA Digital, I was so exhausted keeping Pete from trying on Hobbit feet and molesting Cave-Troll maquettes that I could only look on in horror as he wrapped an amorous leg around "his preciousss" - a rack of CPUs crunching
effects sequences - and refused to let go unless we promised him a plate of "tasty fishes" back at the
That being said I must admit my own professional resolve was sorely tested the following day when, after viewing a few scenes from Kong (verdict:
can't some soon enough) we spent the better part of an hour touring two storehouses of LOTR salvage.
That's Steve Schreck (our man in Microsoft's Franchise Development group) me and Parsons standing in front of
with the lower half of
in the background. To our left were the
and, suspended from the ceiling, a
astride his winged mount.
Black Gate of Mordor
were further back. Nothing quite gets my Otaku on like carved Styrofoam. Seeing these marvels up close was easily a top-five lifetime experience (please don't tell my wife).
Believe it or not we actually did some work on the Halo film during our stay. Among other things we had a series of good conversations about script revisions and director options. I'll have information on both fronts in my next update which, if all goes according to plan, I'll be writing during a break from my rigorous schedule as WETA's newest miniatures intern.