The Dominion
January 15, 2001

Kiwi Staff Cut as Weta's Rings Work Finishes
Jonathan Milne

Wellington's Weta Workshops, where armoury and miniatures for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were created, has "downscaled" its New Zealand staff by more than 50 as the movie starts post-production.

Spokeswoman Melissa Booth confirmed that staffing had been cut from more than 100, to fewer than 50 through the final months of last year as most of the Weta Production work was completed.

Earlier this month top United States visual effects guru Mark Stetson left Weta Digital amid reports of creative differences with film director Peter Jackson.

Ms Booth said producers were in the process of replacing Stetson, who was nominated for special effects Oscars for movies 2010 and The Fifth Element.

Production resumed on the Lord of the Rings set yesterday, as New Zealanders got their first glimpse of the two-minute movie trailer via a pirated copy on the Internet. A new website for the production was launched on Friday, and still had Stetson listed as the visual effects producer.

Ms Booth said the movie trailer would be in New Zealand cinemas from Thursday, ahead of the movies What Women Want and The Cell.

"People are travelling extremely long distances to see the movie, so it will be interesting to see the extent that happens in New Zealand."

She expected to see the phenomenon of people paying to see the trailer and then leaving before the actual movie.

"It would be kind of cool, wouldn't it! That's certainly what I'll be doing, and I'm sure many of the crew will as well," Ms Booth said.

The trailer for The Phantom Menace, George Lucas's episode one for Star Wars, was dubbed "the $9 trailer" after people flocked to see it, then left before the main feature movie started.

According to Chicago Sun-Times business editor Dan Miller, "the trailer reveals that Jackson is relying on depth of character and a compelling story", and was on track to do justice to J R R Tolkien's famous fantasy trilogy.

"With suitably heroic music swelling in the background, the longest section of the trailer introduces the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring one at a time as they crest the snow-capped Mountains of Moria on their quest to destroy the ring.

"In the faces of the travellers, we see their destiny.

"These are no two-dimensional cuddly cartoon characters. They are living beings of substance, and it's evident in their ragged, dirty dress and their bearing.

"In a quieter scene, Cate Blanchett personifies the ethereal beauty of Lady Galadriel as she whispers to Frodo that even small folk can do great deeds. No wonder Gimli Gloin's Son fell under her spell."