Tag: Lord of the Rings

Thunderbirds Are Go!

During the Christmas holidays, our family visited Weta Workshop in Wellington. As well as being the home of hobbits and all things Lord of the Rings, it is also the studio for the reimagined Thunderbirds TV series, which combines traditional model sets with digital animation.

For those of you who have suffered a deprived upbringing, Thunderbirds was a 1960’s TV show brought to the screens by husband and wife team Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, using their original puppets and the wonders of Supermarionation. The Thunderbirds are the Tracy brothers, Scott, John, Virgil, Gordon, and Alan, who travel the world in their high-tech machines, saving the lives of those caught in disasters.

The 1960’s series has now been reimagined by Richard Taylor of Weta Worskhops, and we were privileged to be able to see inside the magic of Tracy Island. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photographs because the images are all copyright (and because we actually got a sneak peek at some of the as-yet-unseen sets from the upcoming second series). However, I did find some cool images on Google from various promotions for the show:

Thunderbirds Are Go 1

Thunderbirds Are Go - Tracy Island ©2015 ITV Studois/ Pukeko Pictures
Thunderbirds Are Go – Tracy Island ©2015 ITV Studios/ Pukeko Pictures

There were two things about Thunderbirds Are Go! which surprised me.

The first was that Thunderbirds Are Go! is more than just a Weta Workshops production. It’s actually a joint production between Pukeko Pictures (part-owned by Richard Taylor of Weta Workshops) and ITV Studios. Weta Workshops has constructed the sets, including two different versions of Tracy Island (as an aside,the books on the shelf are all real current books. Our guide made them, using book covers she downloaded from the internet).

But it’s not solely a Kiwi production. This version has digitised characters, not puppets, and the animation is done offshore. As are the scripts. And the voices. The New Zealand end of the show brings everything together, but it’s a global effort (kind of like writing a book).

The second thing was even more surprising. It was the sets. They looked great even under the standard lighting. I could see they’d look even better under proper studio lighting.

But they were made of junk.

Not everything was junk, but there was a lot of junk, and our guide took a lot of pleasure in pointing out all the junk.

For example, The Hood is the main evildoer in Thunderbirds. He’s got longstanding issues with the Tracy family. And because he’s a bad guy, he has a lair that’s largely decorated in shades of black and grey.

It’s junk.

The Hood’s lair includes the insides of two washing machines, the casings of old desktop computers (from back when computer screens were as deep as they were wide), razor blades, fans, the leftover plastic bits from after you’ve constructed a model airplane . . . junk.

But add a fair dose of creativity, a few dozen cans of spray paint and some clever lighting, and you’ve got an ultra-cool lair fit for an evildoer. All from junk I’d have chucked out years ago.

It made me think of us. And God.

Sometimes we think we’re junk. That there’s nothing useful in us. That we’re only good for the rubbish tip.

But we’re God’s junk. He redesigns us, repurposes us, redirects us. Shines His light into us.

And turn us into ultra-cool sons and daughters fit for the King.

The Department of Lies

Christmas in NewTickets to the Weta Cave Zealand is in the summer, so it’s the time the kids have their long summer holiday, and the time businesses reduce or close their operations and we all go off on our summer holidays.

This year, we went to Wellington for Christmas. While we were there, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Weta Workshops, the world-famous home of hobbits, trolls, and all things Lord of the Rings.


While Weta Workshops is most famous for their work on the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogies, they actually make physical movie props for a range of movies, from District 12 to Avatar (although that was largely the work of their associated organisation, Weta Digital, who do all the computer animation).

Our guide took us through the design process, showing us how it could take dozens or hundreds of sketches before a design was approved. How a plastic mould was then created—over 80% of the props, from the firearms to the swords to the vehicles, are made of plastic.

She then told us how the plastic models were turned over to the painting department: The Department of Lies.

Why the Department of Lies?

Because they take shaped white plastic and turn it into something it isn’t: a wooden gun, a leather shield, a metal sword. They can make it look new, or they can make it look old. It’s all just spray paint and plastic.

Plastic looks good, but lacks any functionality. A plastic sword won’t cut anything. Won’t hurt anyone. A plastic shield won’t protect an actor from anything other than plastic sword.

The plastic looks good, but it’s not perfect. Modern digital cameras are so powerful, they still need to use real props for the close-up shots. Real swords. Real knives. Real shields.

It struck me that the Father of Lies takes the same approach. He takes the real thing, and substitutes it for a fake. We can only tell the difference if we look carefully, and if we know what the real thing looks like.

And only the real thing will protect us.

That means spending time with God, in His Word, ensuring we know the real thing so we can see the lie. It means spending time with other Christians, learning from them, as iron sharpens iron.

Because we don’t want to be stuck with a plastic sword when the Father of Lies comes against us with the real thing.

Orc Army

Meanwhile, now I know it’s all makeup and plastic swords, it’s going to be difficult to be afraid of those orcs!