Weta Workshop sits under the hills and near the sea, up the road from Peter Jackson's Stone Street Studios and post-production lab and the Stone Street Film Studios. There are no signs or overt security; it's easy to wander right past and end up in a local chip shop begging for directions. People in and around Weta are friendly, and they're in all shapes, sizes, types and colors. The artwork, sculptures and miniatures are, well, it's a helluva candy store all right.
Richard Taylor, a kiwi with a serious gleam of insanity in his eye, formed Weta Workshop with his partner, Tania Rodger, in 1987. The idea of a dedicated special effects outfit in New Zealand was crazy. What existed of the local film and TV industry at the time was notoriously changeable, with surges of work as projects came through then a hard unemployment bump right after. Weta formed an early partnership with Peter Jackson and film editor Jaime Selkirk that went from psychotic Muppet variants (1989's Meet the Feebles) to Lord of the Rings, King Kong and, well, everything: worldwide acclaim, five Weta Oscars and several hundred million dollars and counting in regional economic impact.
Acevedo's a skin, fangs and eyeballs man, the Workshop's Prosthetics and Creature effects Art Director. Growing up in Arizona, he loved two things: animals and monsters. Classic monsters, Creature From the Black Lagoon era. Vet school was an option, but monsters really weren't, until he got a Hollywood-style break. Working at a Halloween mask company, he met several special effects artists, said the right things at the right time and got into the picture business.
As a veteran of the American film industry, Acevedo is clearly aware of the odds he played, that in a very real sense he won the lottery to get from Arizona to Los Angeles. The move across the Pacific Ocean to Wellington was simpler - Richard Taylor took a liking to him. "Yeah, the usual rules don't really apply down here."
Between them, Weta Workshop and Weta Digital (sister but separate companies, physical effects on one side and CGI on the other) now have their fingers into every orifice of entertainment that's going, from big films (Peter Jackson's Dambusters and James Cameron's Avatar) and live-action anime remakes (Neon Genesis: Evangelion) to a whole pile of game-related projects, including figurines for Hellgate: London, motion capture work for the recent Heavenly Sword, a new Halo game that seems to be happening and the Halo movie that keeps getting abandoned like a diseased orphan. There's even a sideline chainmail business and children's television arm set up by Taylor.
It's varied work that involves mixing many things, some with pyrotechnic results that I've heard from my house. "We've never actually destroyed anything," says Acevedo with a look of pure, evil innocence on his face.