Saturday, October 17, 2009

WETA Digital

Try to recall a movie that strikes a particular cord amongst the female audience. Here's a hint: it's about a sinking ship and it involves nude model sketching. It won 11 Academy Awards in 1997 and is known for the song "My Heart Will Go On". By now if it is not obvious (especially with the picture below), I should smack you. It's Titanic! Now who's the director? You get a cookie if you know this...

James Cameron! (I just discovered that he's Canadian! Those Canadians, always keeping it on the low but are just amazing contributors to the arts! Let's give them a hand!) Guess what his next movie is about? Another heart-breaking chick flick? No! A tragic love story? Think again!

He's actually spent the past ten years making a sci-fi live action film called Avatar (I guess Yuri Norstein and Alexandr Petrov weren't the only ones spending years on a single production). It's about a paralyzed ex-marine who agrees to get a "body transplant" in the Avatar Program (hence the title). Here's the catch---he get's an alien body! And not just any alien, but a naked blue alien with an enlarged nose and a tail! I know it sounds strange... but look at the preview have you ever seen CG done like this? It's like watching those insanely detailed matte and 3-D concept paintings come to life, like an extremely fancy video game, if that makes sense. Even the live actors look like they are covered in a film of magical digital dust. I can't wait until they put up articles on how they made this looks very promising. To clarify, this movie is NOT the live action adaption of the Nickelodan cartoon series. In fact, because this movie already claimed the title Avatar, M. Night Shyamalan had to call his live action adaption the Last Airbender. Confusing isn't it? Especially for the die hard fans of the cartoon series. I wonder how they would react when they go to the theater in their cos-play and see two posters, one for Avatar and one for the Last Airbender. That would be fun to watch. Here's the preview to the Last Airbender: This also looks like a large CG investment... though not as monumental as the amount put in Avatar. I have a feeling the Last Airbender is going to be corny and it won't be as great as the cartoon series, as is usually the case when trying to condense a popular series into a 90ish minute movie. And yes, Dev Patel is playing Zuko Lol.

Anyway, back to Avatar, the one with the naked blue aliens with tails. The visual effects (vfx) in that film are done by WETA Digital (, a studio in Wellington, New Zealand that was found by Peter Jackson, Richard Taylor, and Jamie Selkirk in 1993 to produce special effects for the film Heavenly Creatures. WETA Digital later won the Academy Award for best visual effects after their work on the Lord of the Rings series and has been making visual effects for all of Peter Jackson's recent films like King Kong and District 9. WETA also did work CG loaded films like I Robot, The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Chronicles of Narnia:Prince Caspian, Bridge to Teribithea, and X-Men: the Last Stand.
WETA Digital worked on the Hobbit (Peter Jackson is one of the producers, Guillermo Del Toro is the director), the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (about time too!) According to Wikipedia, there is a Hobbit Part 1 and a Hobbit Part 2. Unlike the trilogy, I actually read the Hobbit. For me it was a lot easier to read than the trilogy, and it wasn't as long. So why two parts? o.O wow I wonder how long it is...

WETA Digital also worked on the Adventures of Tin Tin: Secret of the Unicorn (why Unicorn?, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson (wherever he goes, WETA goes)and is now under post-production. My good friend Shivani lend me her Tin Tin comics a few years back, so I got a chance to read the original series before I knew about this. It's a Belgian comic book by the artist Georges "Herges" Remi that was made from 1929 to 1983
If you visit WETA's website, check out their amazing commericals. They are funny, creative, and just as inspiring as their films, only shorter in time frame. Hooray for WETA Digital! I love what they do!!!

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