Twenty years ago, the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring saw remote New Zealand landscapes and our small movie effects company in Wellington catapulted on to the world's stage. With a further two films and The Hobbit trilogy following suit, these legendary films have become one of the world’s most influential series to hit the big screen.
The iconic trilogy has grossed billions of dollars, capturing the hearts and minds of Tolkien fans all over the world. Synonymous with New Zealand’s successful film industry, over 150 unique and distinctive locations across the country are featured in the films. It’s no wonder that visitors from near and far are eager to explore Middle-earth for themselves, in fact 18% of international visitors to New Zealand were inspired to visit by The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit films.
Many of these go on to visit us here at Wētā Workshop to hear about our contribution to the film series. Visit us to discover how our unrelinquishing commitment to innovation, creativity and attention-to-detail saw J.R.R Tolkien’s characters come to life – and still have people talking, two decades on.
Wētā Workshop played a big part in the making of The Lord of the Rings – working behind the scenes on the design and creation of the armour, weapons, prosthetics, costumes, miniatures and physical effects seen in the movies. Our CEO and Creative Director Richard Taylor, and a talented team of swordsmiths, prop-makers, sculptures, model-makers and more created thousands upon thousands of individual pieces for the entire trilogy. With an original team of just 36 people across five departments, we had a mammoth task ahead of us.
Whilst movie-making techniques have changed greatly since then, it was no mean feat to bring the thousands-strong armies and vast lands of Middle-earth to the big screen. There was plenty of re-inventing and constant innovation, as both traditional and new ways of manufacturing were combined to create the props we see in the films.
From the thousands of metal rings intertwined to form Aragorn’s chainmaille, to the 60 pieces of sharp and complex steel used in the Dark Lord Sauron’s suit of armour, it takes our team hundreds of hours to design, mould, paint and perform the finishing touches to every single Middle-earth piece.
Although we had a very dynamic film industry pre-The Lord of the Rings, making very beautiful films, our countries films had not really been witnessed by a large proportion of the world’s public. And so, The Lord of the Rings was our first chance to really show the world the creative capabilities of our country, and that pride and energy certainly enhance the filmmaking process.
To celebrate the 20th anniversary and showcase Wētā Workshop’s creativity, we’ve dusted off the keys and opened up the vaults to some of our most precious costumes and props, with an exciting Costume Trail throughout New Zealand’s movie capital, Wellington. Launching from 5 February – 31 March 2022, discover an array of original costumes, props and armour dotted throughout the city.
Embark on a treasure trail from the moment you land in Wellington Airport, venturing to Roxy Cinema and Embassy Theatres, and to several of the capital’s top tourist spots. Hero pieces from armies of Rohan, Gondorian, Elven, Orc and Urak-hai are on display; such as Sauron’s mace, an original orc costume, and a Royal Guard of Rohan’s armour – all first-hand creations that were used on set.
Plus be sure to check out our brand-new mural created by our Senior Concept Artists, encapsulating the journey of both the Fellowship of the Ring story and the production process to create the films. And yes, the crew in the picture are those who worked on the initial film twenty years ago – sporting a few more grey hairs but just as much creativity over two decades on.
Embark on your own unexpected journey and discover the everyday locations where some of the trilogy’s most iconic scenes were filmed, right here in Wellington. Retrace the steps of the trilogy’s actors, camerapeople and directors, and recreate some fun moments with your fellow movie buffs. Visit spots such as ‘Hobbiton Woods’ in Mt Victoria, ‘Rivendell’ in Kaitoke Regional Park, ‘River Anduin’ along the Hutt River, ‘The Gardens of Isengard’ in Harcourt Park, and the larger-than-life Putangirua Pinnacles, where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli sought the Paths of the Dead.
Check out even more filming locations across New Zealand and relive the magic for yourself.
For the ultimate keepsake – we’ve launched a limited-edition Bag End™ collectible sculpture depicting the iconic home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in vivid detail. This hand-sculpted environment features illuminated round windows, a never-before-seen backdoor, and plenty of colourful details in true Hobbit fashion.
Or pop into our Wētā Cave stores in Wellington or Auckland and peruse the extensive selection of collectibles, models and on the shelves, the perfect gift for yourself or a fellow LOTR fan. Not in one of these cities? Browse our online store from wherever you are in the world, and get your own slice of movie memorabilia delivered to your door.
Our authentic prop replicas and collectibles are designed by the very same artists who have worked on the three films, so effectively the come straight from Middle-earth.
To this day, we invite loyal fans to take a look behind the curtain in our workshop, and witness our world-class movie magic first-hand. Stay tuned to our social feed on Facebook and Instagram as we share more behind-the-scenes stories and images from the archives, as we celebrate this special anniversary with fans worldwide. We’re excited for another twenty years of sharing the magic of The Lord of the Rings, as new generations of Tolkienites and Ringers (along with the original fans) enjoy these movie marvels.