Welcome to Wellington
Living in Wellington, New Zealand, just up the road from Weta Workshop, is like having your nose pressed against the glass at the weirdest candy store on Earth.
It's a pain in the ass of the highest order.
The selection used to just be elves, orcs and the odd giant ape, but now things are multiplying like a virus: Everything from 1940s warplanes to Master Chief is in the air. Weta and the Peter Jackson industries are big business in our small city. You can hear them sometimes, at night, loud explosions in the hills. You can run into James Cameron or Bungie employees down at the local dairy. You can smell the chemicals that hold imaginary creatures together while their sculptors inhale and gibber.
Can I has some? Please?
Sounds like our kind of town, said The Escapist. Get into Weta, grab them by the curlies, find out about convergence - mushing movies, games and everything else into one big sticky whole. See what it's like to work in a genuine south seas dream factory. And if you're shot by security or get pictures of Peter Jackson en flagrante with a midget in a monkey costume, there'll be a bonus in it for you.
Security would indeed be a problem; dobermans, lasers, helicopters, instincts honed by a decade of keeping intrusive assholes away from Lord of the Rings and King Kong. Shoot first, feed 'em to the man-eating penguins of Rocky Bay later, never get around to asking questions.
"Sounds fun," said Rachel at Weta Workshops on the phone. "You promise not to ask us for the thousandth time about Hobbits or continuity errors or what Jack Black's really like?"
"What about Wellington and videogames and how doing what you love isn't what it used to be?"
"Great. Come in for a chat. And bring chocolate."
The Far Side of Nowhere
Flying into Wellington airport, you can see where the old gods went mad. As you clutch your seat, you feel Tawhiri the wind-lord blowing up the plane's tailpipe. To the right, Papatuanuku the Earth-mother bashes the hills into shape, and just over there's the earthquake fault-line where she'll go for The Big One someday. Tangaroa the sea-master hurls storms into the harbor. Out to the east is the spot in the Pacific Ocean that medieval Europeans thought of as the end of the Earth.
The whole place is tiny and mad, a mini sandbox of hills and hurricanes and forests and rocks, cute little houses and the seat of the New Zealand government.
Gino Acevedo got the tailwind his first time, but he also noticed something else.
"Richard [Taylor, Weta workshop founder] had warned me about flying into Wellington, that it gets a 'bit' windy, so just be prepared. I came in and it was a really gusty day, very ... memorable," he says as the terror scars cross his eyes. But the memory that stuck was the rooftops - "they all had different colors, that's something I'd never seen before. Then coming into town and looking all around, it seems like everybody has a bit of an artist side. Even the manhole covers have a koru [fern] design on them. There's lots of art here, lots of creative people."