Weta Workshop

Weta Workshop is a special effects and prop company based in Miramar, New Zealand, producing effects for television and film. The company is named after the New Zealand wētā, one of the world's largest insects, which is featured in the logo.[1]

Weta Workshop
TypePrivately held company
IndustryVisual effects, animation
Founded1987 (as RT Effects)
FounderRichard Taylor
HeadquartersWellington, New Zealand
Key people
Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger, Jamie Selkirk, Peter Jackson
Costumes designed by Weta Workshops, Elven soldiers in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


Founded in 1987 by Richard Taylor and Tania Rodger as RT Effects, Weta Workshop has produced creatures and makeup effects for the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess and effects for films such as Meet the Feebles and Heavenly Creatures. A digital division, Weta Digital, was formed in 1993.

Weta Workshop's output was used in director Peter Jackson's film trilogy The Lord of the Rings, producing sets, costumes, armour, weapons, creatures and miniatures. It supported the creation of Reclaiming the Blade (2009), a documentary film on stage combat, historical European and Asian swordsmanship.[2]


Weta Workshop buildings in Miramar


For the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, realistic looking PVC chainmail was made, not just for the lead actors, but also for the hundreds of extras that appeared throughout the films. PVC pipe was cut into rings, assembled by hand into a semblance of armor, and then electroplated. A total of 82.9 million links were manufactured from 7 miles of PVC pipe.[3]

The workshop now has a division, Weta Tenzan Chain Maille, making chainmail for film work. PVC injection was used for the armor in Kingdom of Heaven, giving better results than the process for Lord of the Rings.[4] It produces aluminium or steel mail for high-impact stuntwork.[5]


The term bigature is Weta Workshop's nickname for a very large miniature model. They are used in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, with the largest of them measuring some 9 metres high. Extensive computer graphics techniques and computer-controlled cameras were used to seamlessly mesh the Bigature photography with live actors and scenes.[6]

Bigatures used in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy include:

Weta Legs

The name "Weta Legs" is Weta Workshop's name for a "low profile, professional grade reverse leg stilt" developed by sculptor-designer Kim Graham and Weta technicians and manufactured by Performing Legs Ltd. Designed and largely hand-made[7] by Graham, these digitigrade leg extensions are intended for "creature and costume performances in movies, television, theatre, circus, street performances and other creative performances."[8]

Originally reserved for "commercial film and television projects", Weta brought them to market – in relatively limited quantities – for online purchase by members of the public in 2010. With the ability to take extra prosthetics such as layers of fur or skin "to resemble a digitigrade leg, from canine and feline to fantastical demons, dragons, satyrs and even robots", these devices are promoted as being easy to get used to, partly because they "allow for realistic and natural movement as they are jointed at the knee and the ankle."[9]

Citing low pre-order numbers, Weta unceremoniously canceled the commercial production of Weta Legs by informing those who did pre-order by email. The Weta Legs page has since been removed from Weta's website.

Special effects filmography


  1. "Weta Workshop". Weta Workshop. 18 August 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2020. We chose our company name after an insect, a very cool, prickly little monster, unique to New Zealand.
  2. "About the Film". Reclaiming the Blade. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  3. "Removing the weakest links from chain mail: Kaynemaile". Stuff. Retrieved 22 January 2020.
  4. "WetaNZ: The home of Weta Collectibles and Weta Tenzan Chainmaille".
  5. "2006 Costumes – Guild Forums".
  6. The Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition Special Features DVDs
  7. Weta Legs reviewed by Softpedia.com
  8. "Coilhouse » Blog Archive » Inventor/Sculptor Kim Beaton's Weta Legs".
  9. "Weta Legs at Weta Workshop".
  10. "Sam Gao's Middle Earth, Wandering Earth and WETA". Radio New Zealand. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  11. "Weta Workshop Movie and TV projects » Weta Workshop". www.wetaworkshop.com. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
  12. "ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL - The Art of VFX". www.artofvfx.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2018. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  13. "Weta works on Neill Blomkamp's Elysium". Wetanz.com. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
  14. Philip Wakefield (19 December 2009). "Close encounters of the 3D kind". The Listener. Archived from the original on 22 May 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  15. "Born of Hope – credits".
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