RT Tours Weta Workshop and The Real Narnia - A Photo Tour

Celebrating the DVD release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

by | December 1, 2008 | Comments

The Weta Cave

To celebrate the release of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, RT went all the way to Narnia, or at least New Zealand, to bring you back a glimpse of a world that really does seem to exist on the other side of the wardrobe.

In a tiny, suburban nook of Wellington, New Zealand there stands a simple weatherboard house. It is differentiated from the other homey cottages in the area by the fact that it is filled with enough weaponry for numerous mythical armies. That and the two wrought-iron dragons that guard its doors. Here stands the Weta Cave, home to the five time Academy Award winning Weta Workshop and one of the coolest museums of movie collectibles and memorabilia in the Southern Hemisphere.

Weta Workshop worked closely with The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian director, Andrew Adamson and the Los Angeles based creative team leaders, production designer Roger Ford and costume designer Isis Mussenden, to design and produce weapons, armor, miniatures and costuming for the film.

Some of Weta’s work included:

  • Two-hundred polearms
  • Two-hundred rapiers
  • Over one-hundred falchions
  • Two-hundred and fifty shields
  • Fifty-five crossbows
  • Soft shields and stunt gear for the Telmarine army to use with live horses
  • Stunt-safe faceplates for the warhorses
  • Faceplate helmets for the soldiers
  • Individual swords, scabbards and sculptured faceplate helmets for the Glozelle, Miraz and Prince Caspian
  • A crossbow for Prunaprismia’s room
  • Refitting and restoring much of the children’s armory after The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • New armor for Edmund and a new vambrace for Susan
  • Swords and daggers for Nikabrik and Trumpkin
  • Aged the feral rebel force that was once the grand Narnian army
  • Provided highly detailed 1/24th and 1/100th scale miniatures of Miraz’s great castle and its environment. 

RT was invited in to find out what life is like behind-the-scenes on a film like The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Join us for our pictorial tour of Weta Workshop, and some amazing locations.

Inside WETA

On entering The Cave, visitors are greeted at the door by a familiar face. Unnerving? Yes. Incredibly cool? Most definitely. Weta are well known around the world for their work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Inside WETA

The Weta Cave is open to the public. As well as giving fans the chance to see memorabilia from the Weta Workshop archive, visitors can buy collectibles and sculptures handcrafted by the Weta artists. There is a lot more here than just items relating to Weta’s enormous body of work, however, as the artists are also licensed to produce a wide range of pieces including the characters from The Muppets. Browsers will also find a collection of pop-culture products from around the world including work from Doctor Who, Alien and Halo 3.
Inside WETA

The Cave may be small but no space is left unused. Even the ceiling is a bloody work of art.

Inside WETA

You’ve got to love an actual cave inside a house. This doorway leads to the best room in the building.

Inside WETA

For those who are interested in looking beyond Narnia and Middle Earth, there are some astounding early pieces in the museum from films such as Dead Alive (Braindead), Heavenly Creatures, Meet the Feebles, Xena: Warrior Princess and The Frighteners to name a few.

Inside WETA

Some aspects of the Weta Cave are a little scary. This lovely chap, for example, can be found leering above the counter.

Inside WETA

The Weta screening room. Visitors can watch a film revealing life and work behind-the-scenes at Weta. Having spoken to a few members of the Weta family, there does not seem to be much of a division between life and work at Weta. It is exciting to speak to people with such passion for their work. It is also exciting to watch a film surrounded by swords and armoury. The local multiplex is just not going to be the same after this.

Inside WETA

Speaking of people who are passionate about their work, please meet Weta Workshop Designer, Greg Broadmore. From this man’s mind was born The Rayguns: Dr Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators. He can be seen here brandishing one of his 1:1 scale antique-styled sci-fi weapons. He was a designer and sculptor on Peter Jacksons King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and was also one of the illustrators and concept writers for Weta Workshops’ first publication, ‘The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island’.

Inside WETA

The man himself: Richard Taylor. Richard is the Director and co-founder of Weta Workshop, along with his partner and Workshop Manager, Tania Rodger. Weta Workshop is co-owned by director, Peter Jackson and editor and producer, Jamie Selkirk.

Inside WETA

It all gets a bit more corporate as we are taken upstairs to the offices to meet some of the artists. If you were wondering, the weta is an oversized insect native to New Zealand. According to Wikipedia it is a cross between a cockroach and a cricket with the addition of large legs. Nice.

Inside WETA

Beige walls? Check. Nondescript furniture? Check. Desks laden with broadswords, helmets and Narnian vials holding life-giving cordial? Offices at Weta really aren’t like other offices.

Inside WETA

Sitting on the desk, Susan’s horn looks like it has been carved from ivory. On picking it up, however, it feels very much like the urethane prop it is.

Paul Tobin and Christian Pearce, two designers from the Weta Workshop, created many of the children’s gifts for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, including Susan’s horn which then re-appeared in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The concept behind this horn was that it should look as if it were a pair with Susan’s other gifts, the quiver and the bow. They decided the design should indicate that they were all carved from the same ivory tusk and when slung on her back, become one unit. The very tip has a mother of pearl inlay while the horn itself is carved in Aslan’s likeness.

Inside WETA

Also lying on the desk for our grubby mitts to play with was Lucy’s vial. Lucy received this vial of life-giving cordial as one of her gifts in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It was designed by Weta Workshop designer, Christian Pearce.

The stopper is a lion’s head, much the same as Peter’s sword and Lucy’s dagger. The colours are red and gold which are the colours used to symbolise Aslan. Amazingly, when you open it up, on the inside there is delicate design and illustration that will never be seen in detail in the film. Weta Workshop designers don’t create something just to be pretty; it must have a reason for existing. The design has Lucy’s monogram, surrounded by a stylised image. In order for the designer to construct that image he had to think about the justification for it. In one of the other Narnia books, it is mentions that the contents of the vial are made from fire-berry flowers. The fire-berry flower only grows in the Mountains of the Sun so part of the illustration is of a bird bring the flower back from the mountain.

Sadly this is as far as we could go at Weta, despite asking, then pleading, closely followed by attempted acts of subterfuge, we could not get ourselves into the privacy-clad workshop.

Never-mind, the next step on our behind-the-scenes tour of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian would prove itself to be quite the adventure…

Inside WETA

This is the moment where this Rotten Tomatoes Editor became all action. A number of locations for The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian could only be reached by helicopter so, thinking not of our own safety but only of the pursuit of behind-the-scenes knowledge for the RT reader, we took to the skies in our little, physics-defying bumble-bee helicopter.

Inside WETA

As we soar over the breath-takingly beautiful waterways of New Zealand, slowly coming in to land at one of the pivotal locations of the film, this RT Editor was repeating the same question over and over in her head: “How does this thing stay in the air?”. Seriously. It doesn’t make sense.

Inside WETA

Welcome to Narnia.

Otherwise known as the Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Inside WETA

This is where the children first stepped back into Narnia by way of The Strand tube station. It is not hard to understand why director, Andrew Adamson, chose this location. Even on a warm afternoon, the beach is strangely unaffected by the human world.

Inside WETA

Inside WETA

After yet another helicopter ride, bus trip and hike, we reach the site of Cair Paravel. Looking at this empty, green plot of land it is at first hard to imagine this as a place of ruins of the four thrones of High King Peter Pevensie the Magnificent, Queen Susan Pevensie the Gentle, King Edmund Pevensie the Just, and Queen Lucy Pevensie The Valiant.

Inside WETA

And yet, the moment you peer over the side and see the cliffs rising above the flat, turquoise sea, you know you could not possibly be anywhere but on an island by the Great River of Narnia.

The site feels pristine; like it may indeed have been left alone to ruin over many centuries. In reality, it is just under two years since this site was a filmset teaming with people. While we hiked up the hill, the crew built roads over the private property in order to facilitate filming. Once they left, however, the roads were lifted and slowly consumed by nature.

There is something undeniably Pevensie about standing on a beautiful hilltop and feeling like you may be the first Daughter of Eve to ever have done so.

We hope you have enjoyed RT’s behind-the-scenes visit to Narnia. While we were there we were lucky enough to speak to some of Weta Workshop’s talented designers.

Read more about RT’s behind-the-scenes tour of the Weta Workshop

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RT Interview: Richard Taylor on Weta Workshop and Prince Caspian

Richard Taylor talks about creating new worlds, the importance of good weaponry and how his six year-old son became a king.

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