Weta Workshop has arrived in Auckland with an experience bursting with creativity, colour and fantasy.
In true Weta-style, the company's latest project has taken over a floor at SkyCity, starting with a massive 65-metre mural on what was once a blank foyer wall.
Weta Workshop Unleashed - which will open to the public on Tuesday - is a big move for the Wellington company and the first venture of its own outside of the capital.
Thousands of hours of work and hundreds of pairs of creative hands have gone into building the experience.
It's a part creative workshop and part film set, with the company making three film concepts especially for the experience - a horror, fantasy and a science fiction film.
The 90-minute immersive guided tour throws guests into the fantastical world of Weta film-making, moving from small rooms that are not at all what they seem, into a Weta creative "vault", an old-school 80s reception area and beyond.
At the reception, guests are greeted by the first "character" of the experience, head of health and safety, Jeff.
Effects at Weta Workshop Unleashed, a new immersive film effects facility, inspired and built by Weta Workshop. Photo / Sylvie Whinray
Jeff's a life-like computer-controlled, animatronics creature that took 11 months to develop and was handcrafted by a team of almost 60.
Weta Workshop co-founder and creative director Sir Richard Taylor said most of the work the company does is about realising other people's visions, while this latest project is the company setting free its own creativity.
"We have been creating fun, educational and engaging experiences like this for our clients all around the world – and we really wanted to do something for ourselves – here in New Zealand.
"We wanted the opportunity to unleash our own creativity and share the things we love doing for ourselves, what we do in our hobby time.
"This is really the creative prowess of the artists and technicians within the workshop unleashing their own creative inspiration and sharing it with others.
Taylor said behind the project is a "desperate desire" to ensure creativity and craftsmanship are at the forefront of people's minds.
Weta Workshop's head of tourism Jake Downing said he hopes people leave the experience want to create things at home.
"[I want them to leave] wanting to unleash their creativity, going home building something, making something, drawing something, doing something."
With the borders shut, Taylor understands how crazy opening a tourism business in the middle of a tourism downturn sounds.
"It sounds a bit crazy doesn't it, but we all felt committed to seeing this through in the hopes it brings something a little different and special for locals in Auckland and visitors to Auckland.
"When Covid hit, we did give serious thought to delaying this project – but then we made the call that we are in this for the long haul.
"And it's delightful to us that the first people to experience Weta Workshop Unleashed will be fellow Kiwis.
"We also thought that we all need something that's fun and a little bit bonkers right now. And that's exactly what Weta Workshop Unleashed is."
Weta Workshop Unleashed opens on December 15 at SkyCity in Auckland CBD.
text by Julia Gabel, NZ Herald