After the debut of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, New Zealand’s news magazine SevenSharp produced a segment featuring, for the first time, a look inside Weta Workshop, presented by Sir Richard Taylor.
Reported by Jehan Casinader. Published on Dec 16, 2013.
A week earlier, Richard and his team installed a couple of Giant Eagles, with Gandalf riding one of them, suspended above the food court at the airport in Wellington. They each weigh a ton and have wingspans of 15m. Weta uploaded a “Making of” video on December 17:
Here’s a time lapse from Wellington Airport, uploaded December 1, 2013:
That same day, Mark Mitchell of The New Zealand Herald uploaded his report:
“Two giant eagles, one giving Gandalf the wizard a ride, have been unveiled at Wellington’s airport today. The massive creations, which were made by Weta Workshop, accompany an enormous Gollum in welcoming visitors to the capital. The latest features each weigh a tonne and have a wingspan of 15m. Weta head Sir Richard Taylor said the team took three months to build them.”
Transcript of Richard’s dedication of the Eagles at Wellington Airport:
“It’s fantastic to be here on the 2nd year having installed something like this in this amazing building to celebrate the [Desolation] of Smaug. It’s a wonderful thing that we actually have a company and a group of people in Wellington City that are keen to do things such as this.
“It’s a very rare thing around the world that a film company such as Warners, a director such as Peter Jackson and then a independent company from all of the film procedure would get behind a film to this degree and allow a company such as ours to get to make this. For us it’s a huge celebration.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have creative sculptures on this scale in the world and to know that there’s now three major ones right here in the airport in Wellington is fantastic.
“As I’m sure you can appreciate standing here this is no small endeavor. They may not look that complex but of course inside side them is a significant level of engineering designed by our team in the workshop, and then skillfully put together by our engineers. Then the sculptors, the milling department, we use robotic milling machines to mill out the birds from digital models that Jamin [Vollebregt] put together. Once we milled them out we then use hard coat materials and we encapsulate the engineering within the sculpture.
“But all that was relatively easy even doing the detail of the mouths, the eyes, the claws, was fairly standard stuff compared to doing the feathers, trying to come up with a way to make the feathers look realistic and achieve the level of dynamic structure that we wanted, proved to be a bit of a head-scratcher for all of us at the Workshop. Rob Gillies, our workshop supervisor, set about with the team in the 3D Department–led by Jamin in this case–to figure out how to do that. We ultimately modeled every feather in 3D in the computer and then we milled them individually into huge plates of acrylic and then poured individual feathers with their own shafts into these molds and in turn generated all the feathers that you see on the creatures here. Those were then painstakingly applied by a team of people using contact adhesives and nail guns to ankle all the feathers on, stapling every feather as you went, and that role fell to Masa and Richard and their team in the feathering department.
“And then finally, of course, the paint job in this wonderful color scheme that matches the eagle Gwaihir [Lord of the Eagles] here and the eagles of Middle Earth was done by Sourisak and his team in the paint department.
“So, as always, it’s a huge collaboration of an amazing group of people.”
[Special thanks to Magnus Hjert]