Monday, February 26, 2018

Day 11 - Mon Feb 26, 2018 (Wellington, New Zealand) - Crystal Symphony - Sydney to Tahiti

Day 11 – Wellington, NZ, Feb 26, 2018

Our stop today is in Wellington.  This is our first stop on the North Island of New Zealand. The Cook Strait between the South Island and the North Island is only 20 miles wide, but it has very strong currents, choppy seas, and is a wind tunnel.  We were tethered to two tug boats as we sailed in.  

We were up bright and early walking on the Promenade Deck.  Julie had gotten about 2.5 miles in when it started to sprinkle, and before she could get indoors, it was pouring rain.  We’ve been very lucky and had beautiful weather thus far, but it looks to be a rainy all day.  Our morning plan was to walk to the Cable Car, ride it up, then hike down through the Botanic Gardens and the Lady Norwood Rose Garden.  We scrapped that plan and are remaining on the ship this morning until our organized tour.

The population of Wellington is about 350,000.  Wellington is the seat of the New Zealand government.  It is a very modern city, often compared to San Francisco. 

We were able to make a couple calls home to talk with our kids via wifi calling while on the ship.  It worked great.  Having unlimited internet included is very nice.

What a stroke of luck. Our tour of Lord of the Rings Locations and Weta Workshop was originally scheduled for this morning.  A group bumped us off our tour and our time was rescheduled for 1:15 pm.  It sprinkled for a few minutes as we walked out to the bus, then it cleared and stopped raining.  

We took a few pictures along the way to Weta. The sign symbolizes the massive winds that they get constantly in Wellington. They said that it blows about 40 kph about every other day and over 100 kph about once a week. It is the core of film making in New Zealand. 

The first stop was at Weta Workshop where they showed us the process in detail for making makeup prostheses, and props.  They are a company that works globally for the movie industry.  The props that they demonstrated were amazing and so realistic-looking.  Peter Jackson owns Weta Workshop (about 75 full time people) that does the props and "stuff", Weta Digital (about 1000 people) that does all of the CGI for the films, Park Place (about 750) that does post production. He also owns Stone Street Studios (sound stages) and Portsmouth Road film equipment company. He essentially has created an end-to-end complete set of companies for making any film. When they are in the middle of a project, they roughly double in size with contract workers (who work hard to try and get hired full time). There are apparently other film companies in the area as well.

Most of the props and even the costumes are made out of heavy duty plastic (even the chain mail is now made of plastic). Their process is they do a ton of concept drawings until the get something that looks like they want. They then take those images and create a 3D model using ZBrush. They then use a CNC machine to create a physical prop (the material is similar to very lightweight wood). They then make a mold of model and from that cast the actual prop in plastic. They then paint it. The props were incredibly light weight, but they would often embed a steel rod in the middle to give them sufficient heft so the actor's muscles had to get involved in holding the object. When they need an extreme closeup, they will actually make a real object out of metal (such as a sword), but mostly they use plastic and paints.

Unfortunately they explained that all of the props and stuff inside of the tour area was owned by the companies that paid for them to be created. So they no pictures. But they did allow us to take a few pictures in the lobby.

The wall of many many awards 

The second part of the tour was to Mount Victoria where we walked in the Wellington greenbelt to view some of the locations for the opening shots of Lord of the Rings.  This is where we were really happy that the rain had stopped.  The “haunted woods” area is on a fairly steep slope and it would be slippery in the rain.  The Monterey Pines are imported trees and were planted too closely together for them to grow properly.  This gives them the haunted appearance.  The tour guide also talked a lot about the issues with filming LOTR – one of the major ones being scale.  The hobbits were supposed to be 3”6” tall and they had to deal with making them look that size.  They used different photographic tricks as well as hauling in very large tree stumps so that they looked dwarfed next to them.

The early scenes from Fellowship where they were escaping the Shire.

Tumbling down the hill in search of mushrooms.

We should not be on the road.

Views from the top of Mount Victoria. The cruise ship is on the right.

Peter Jackson (Director LOTR) is a resident of Wellington and has done so much for the film industry here.  The Miramar peninsula has be nicknamed “Wellywood” as it is the center of the NZ film industry.  The New Zealand tourist industry has really benefited from the LOTR movies. Tourism is now NZ top industry followed by Dairy, Agriculture and Wood exports (this is evidenced by all the logs awaiting shipment in each port we visit).

Dinner tonight was in the Waterside Dining Room.  Julie enjoyed the Fillet of John Dory with Porcini Ravioli in a Truffle Veloute Sauce for an appetizer and Crabcakes for her entrée. Pecan Pie was dessert.

Bob had Potato Cream Soup, Green Salad with Jalapeno Poppers, and Prime Rib of Beef for his entrée.  Caramel Apple Trifle for dessert.

The show tonight was 5 6 7 8, a dance production show and is always enjoyable.

Afterwards we attended the Big Band show in the Crystal Cove.  The Crystal showband played, Sarah Hayes sang and many people danced.

The crystal cove is just below the bistro.

We walked 5.81 miles, 13,916 steps and  36 flights of stairs.

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