Tuesday, 30 March 2010

New Weta Miniatures on the horizon?

I was talking to a guy in the last week who brought news from Hong Kong (my spies are everywhere!), where Greg Broadmore's exhibition of his Dr Grordbort range of guns and accessories are being displayed. This travelling exhibition was originally set up in mainland China, in Chengdu. All the proceeds for the exhibition there went to support the victims of the big earthquake in the Sichuan province in 2008.

I haven't spoken to anyone who saw the exhibition in Chengdu, but I was shown some very interesting pictures (although very briefly, and very small photos) of the displays in Hong Kong. Specifically, I saw a new LOTR miniature that I hadn't seen before, of Gollum creeping up a precipe of some sort. I would approximate from the scale that the statue was roughly the same size as the one that came with my The Two Towers (Extended Edition) DVD boxed set, way back in 2003, so about 15-20cms tall. He looked pretty awesome! Is this Weta's new miniature, after the soon-to-go-be-released Pillars of the Kings? Btw, if you want that one, be quick, since it's apparently very close to sold out already, through pre-orders.

Unfortunately I don't have copies of the photos, but I'm more than happy to publish any sent to me (hint!)...

So, I did a bit of a search online, and although I couldn't find any Gollum miniature photos, I did come up with this picture, of Dr Grordbort's range, specifically the previously announced (but never mentioned again) Goliathon 800 Moon Hater miniature:

So, apparently it does exist already! It wasn't clear to me whether these displays were in the Exhibition or in the attached Weta shop, but it would have been awesome to see them!

This piece I didn't recognise at all - it may have come from a graphic novel or something. It certainly looks stunning though![Update: according to the good folks at the Weta Collectible forums of The Shadow And Flame, they represent the Earth elite forces, from the Victory book.

I did see Gollum amongst the photos though - but this one is fullsize, and is either the faux-bronze or the actual bronze - I suspect the faux-bronze since it's had to be hauled to Hong Kong!

I also recognise this piece - this was done in full-size, outside Blizzard Entertainment headquarters in the US (thanks to The Shadow And Flame for the info).

It seems to be a much smaller version of the giant statue. Merchandise? Faux Bronze? Artist Conceptual Proof of the real one? Your guess as good as mine!

But the best is still to come - I searched further online, and found this - it looks to be a new range called "Guardians of the Garden".

Quote : "A Weta original. A range of small bronze sculptures of fantasy creatures riding on Eurocentric forest animals, getting up to mischief in your garden. They bring alive your garden with irreverent humor, childhood fantasy and beautiful art". Gorgeous!

NB - I love the "not approved" comment on the photos - I wonder how my source came by them then? Weta Ltd is usually VERY careful about what they let out of their sights!

It certainly looks like Weta is beavering away in the background, and is certainly not sitting still while they wait for The Hobbit to go ahead!

  - Jack

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Merry and Pippin return to Loth-Lorien?

Warning : this is a human interest story, and may contain kittens. You were warned.

I'd love to give you some actual news, but the studios are a bit silent at the moment, and we're stuck with "fireman rescues kitten from tree" stories.

Last week I took a group around the region on a LOTR tour, and discovered that there are new tennants at Loth-Lorien. It appears that the owners of the gardens at Fernside (the property where Peter Jackson filmed the Loth-Lorien scenes as well as the Gladden Fields scenes where Smeagol strangles Deagol) have obtained two kittens. They were incredibly friendly (unless you're a butterfly), and followed us all around the property, right from the carpark through the gardens, around the lake, and back to the car again. All up, I would estimate at least a couple of hundred meters.

Note the bridge in the background - you'll see the same bridge in the Fellowship Of The Rings, for instance where Legolas tells Merry and Pippin, already in the boat, that "a small bite of Lembas will fill the stomach of a grown man", as the two are picking their teeth clean of a good second breakfast.

Anyway, enjoy the pic, in liue of actual news. If nothing else, it may reassure you that I'm still here. :)

  - Jack

Roundup of lesser things

Another two weeks have passed since the last entry, and not a lot of official stuff has happened. The green light on The Hobbit still hasn't been lit, and although there's some movement in some of the actors (notable Sir Ian McKellen), nothing official has been announced. Frankly, from a news perspective, there's nothing going on at the moment - but at least I'm honest and up-front about that.

The local newspapers, both Wellington's as well as Auckland's, have been busy sensationalising things even more than usual. I can't believe people buy papers anymore, when the truth is so easy to find these days, online.

The announced Wellywood sign

The first botched newsreport of course was the announcement by the Wellington Airport that they are in the final stages of putting up a big "Wellywood" sign in the Miramar hills. The required Resource Consent has already been granted by the Wellington City Council, so apart from a high court appeal (fairly unlikely), it looks like it's all going ahead, and around June we will have ourselves something to actually photograph with pride. The airport's lawyers seem quite certain that all the legal requirements have been met as well, so I can't see anything else in the way.

I think they're planning on "Wellywood" but this has appeal, no?

The Dominion Post however, decided to make it a huge public spectacle, with online surveys and by opening comments on their website (through stuff.co.nz). Of course, there was a lot of backlash from the Great Unwashed, but that's always going to be the case. The Beehive (NZ's government building) was treated in the same way when it was first announced (well, similar anyway; that was pre-blogging), and now nobody talks about it anymore, but tourists come daily to photograph it. The national Museum Te Papa caught a lot of flack at the time of construction, but that's quitened down. Hell, I'm sure the Eiffel Tower got a lot of complaints when it was first announced/built, and now look at it. Hard to imagine Paris without it.

My personal pie-in-the-face award goes to local yokel (and mayoral candidate, no less) Jack Yan, who decided the best way to run for Wellington mayor would be to alert the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce about it, so they can sue the current Council. Nice going, mate - that's one less vote for you. You're costing the city money and tourism before you're even elected.

There are a number of anti-wellywood pages on Facebook by the uninformed, but here's a "pro Wellywood" page instead.

The Hobbit in 3D

Probably not going to happen. At least, nothing has been decided but the local rag (DomPost) decided it was a slow news day and stirred things up again using old quotes from TheOneRing.net forums, where Guillermo del Toro earlier this month mentioned that a conversation has been started about whether 3D would be considered or not. He didn't give any answers to anyone, but that didn't stop the local newspaper (and virally, the rest of the world) from waiting for two weeks before coming up with their own "source", an insider! Possibly as high up as either the cleaning staff or the courier who dropped some parcels off that morning, I reckon! Their article adds nothing but more confusion to the already tumultuous grapevine. I expect truth from newspapers, and actual researched articles.

Matthew Dravitski (Peter Jackson's spokesperson) denied that any new information was known, and he's likely to know, I'd think. If he says there's no decision made on 3D, I'll believe that. Matt's track record on keeping us fans informed is pretty solid.

Props Collector
Next, there was the matter of the "fraudulent" Lord Of The Rings props. The Auckland Herald reported that a collector had probably been sold shoddy goods when he paid his us$50,000 for an original Sting sword, and promptly got the studios to quote on half of the information as well. A few days later, the whole sorry mess was debunked by the people who should know the facts better than anyone - OriginalProp.com - who did a throrough investigation into the actual story. Turns out, the collector in question (Troika Brodsky) had actually bought the genuine props off the legal owners who won them in a contest.

The contest was well described in Peter Jackson's biography - apparently NewLine was giving away swords and various other props without telling the NZ makers about it. PJ put a stop to this when he reminded them that the ROTK's extended cut hadn't actually been completed yet, and they might not want to get rid of the props just yet. If I recall correctly, he ended up accepting the remaining props as payment for the extended cuts.

So, another pie-in-the-face award to "reporter" Joseph Barratt from the NZ Herald.

Lies, damn lies, and newspaper articles

From a personal perspective, I was involved in the story about the sinking of the Venture (as I blogged about earlier). I was called by Radio NZ, who interviewed me for about 4 minutes. I asked beforehand if I could hear the story before it went out but apparently that's not the "done thing", so I requested that he use positive soundclips, however, by the time it was on the air, all he'd managed to retain was the most negative and out-of-contexts statements possible. That's the last time I'll trust the traditional press.

  - Jack M.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Shane Rangi in Rivendell - with a sword! (photos!)

Earlier this week, I was at the Kaitoke Regional Park - better known here as Rivendell - and as we were walking across the bridge, I couldn't help noticing a group of people standing about 30 meters away. One had a good sized video camera (larger, for instance, than most tourists cameras), one had an official looking clipboard in his hand. The one that stood out the most though, was the big muscular looking gent with no hair and carrying a sword, who I immediately identified as LOTR's very own Shane Rangi!

Shane has appeared many times in our favourite trilogy, often as a stunt double, although most famously in The Fellowship Of The Ring as the Witch-King of Angmar. Apparently he has a T-Shirt he wears to conventions that boldly proclaims "I Stabbed Frodo!", something only he (and Shelob, I guess) could get away with. Shane also played the Harad Leader on top of the Mumak who was dispatched by Eomer's spear. In fact, the first time I met him, I was waiting for someone at Weta Digital to come to lunch with me, and I approached Shane (he also doubled as Weta Digital's receptionist at times), saying "I'm sure I recognise you from somewhere", to which he replied "picture me with a spear sticking out of my stomach"... Nice. :)

Soon, Shane crossed the River, with the others looking on from the near side. We left them to it.

Anyway, as I took my guests for a stroll through Rivendell, Shane's group was walking back to the carpark again. I know better than to ask a group of film-industry people what they're working on - their affairs are subtle, and they are quick to anger, and all that. Closed questions are even worse - they will say both "no" and "yes". (ed: enough with the Tolkien misquoting already!)

I was told that they were scouting for a new production, and one of the group knew the question on my mind - it must have been pretty obvious - and offered "sorry, we're definitely not working on a JRR Tolkien project", something Shane has since confirmed as well. So, it's apparently not The Hobbit then - so what else could it be? What sword carrying production is soon to be filmed in the Rivendell area? Are we getting another Narnia movie here? Shane has just returned from the new Narnia production in Australia, Voyage Of The Dawn Treader. Is the next one to be filmed here? Or will it be a locally made TV series, like Legend Of The Seeker perhaps?

Here's another photo of the rest of the group - if anyone can identify any of them, maybe that could give more clues to the purpose of the scouting trip!

Who are all these guys?? (click on the picture for a bigger version)

Let me know what you think!

  - Jack M.

PS - a BIG thanks to Andrew B. for the great photos!