There is a familiarity with Wellington, that has built up over time due to all the kiwi movies and TV shows based here. Some of Peter Jacksons earliest movies were cult hits and were filmed in and around Wellington like the zombie flick “Braindead” and his first Hollywood film starring Michael J Fox was the “Frighteners”, with many scenes consisting of ghost chases through the hills of Wellington. Then today as I’m wandering the streets, they all felt familiar, mostly due to more recent movies like “What we do in the shadows” and the spinoff TV series “Wellington Paranormal”.
I walked down to the waterfront and visited Te Papa Tongarewa. Here in NZ they don’t use pompous titles like The National Museum of NZ. Even translated the Maori words mean “Our Place”. The first exhibition I saw was a really well done Gallipoli exhibit. At first, the large 2.4x scale figures of people from the war can be confrontational, but it brings out emotions fitting fro such an exhibit. Another cool display was the three-dimensional models of the battlefields, with projectors and text show how the battles were won and lost. It shows the ANZACS taking the various vantage points only to have the Turks fight them off. They also covered the battle of Chunuk Bair in August of 2015. Its a shame it was crammed into a small exhibition space.
I also went and saw the galleries that covered the history of NZ mostly focussing on the Maori who settled New Zealand about 700 years ago. When you think about it, that was quite recent and other than Antarctica I don’t think there were any bigger islands in the world without humans at that time. Another point I found interesting is that over half of NZ was deforested by the Maori, as wood was a valuable resource for them.
In the afternoon I visited the Weta Cave and workshops in “Wellywood” (The locals pronounce it Willywood, which just doesn’t sound cool). Peter Jackson and a few other are an example of how to build a thriving business. Weta remains in Wellington, rather than moving to the USA and continues to do special effect, props and CGI for a lot of movies and TV shows. They even admit to working on “The Meg”. The first part of the tour was going through the workshop looking at props and how they are made, with a heavy focus of course on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Its quite hard to tell these days, what is CGI, what is a prop and what is a model.
The highlight for me was the second part of the tour. A tour to visit the models used in filming the new “Thunderbirds are Go!” TV series. Despite there being no marionettes in the new series, they still built large models for the sets. The characters and thunderbirds are all CGI. Quite why half a dozen Americans did this tour I’m not sure. They openly admitted having never seen the original or the new series. A fun fact I did find out was in the original series someone noticed that a lemon squeezer was used somewhere in the models. A person complained, so Gerry Anderson used more lemon squeezers in Thunderbirds. I’m now going to have to rewatch the series to play spot the lemon squeezer. Oh and those 2.4x scale human figures at Te Papa, were all done by Weta. I think Weta probably owns the city.
After all that excitement, I stopped by Black Dog brewery to try a sample paddle of 6 beers. The Mocha Stout was easily my favourite, although they had a smoked beer that was unusual but also good. Luckily the walk to the Wellington cable car, helped work the alcohol off. It was a bit of a letdown though, the views up top were obscured by annoying things like houses and large ferns.
I feel I could spend a few more days here in Wellington, but I’m off on a road trip for the next week.