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The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of WETA Book Review

The Art of Film Magic- 20 Years of WETA Book

Film books don’t get much better than “The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of WETA.” 

When it comes to motion picture special f/x, WETA has been a pioneer in the field. From the “Lord of the Rings” films to “Avatar,” their imaginative work has certainly stood out to cinema fans across the globe. Now, thanks to Harper Design, fans get a peek at the company and its impressive body of work in the 2 volume hardcover book set titled “The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of WETA.”

In the first volume (dubbed “WETA Digital: 20 Years of Imagination on Screen), writers Clare Burgess and Brian Sibley essentially pay tribute to the various WETA companies, the company’s visual f/x work on such features as “King Kong,” “The Avengers,” and “The Adventures of TinTin,” Peter Jackson’s filmography (including early work like “Bad Taste” and “Meet The Feebles”), the revolutionary motion capture work, certain departments (such as marketing and production engineering) as well as various technical aspects including previz, lighting, software, Stereo 3D and Digital film. On top of that, readers can expect to see a WETA timeline, a foreword by Peter Jackson (which is basically a personal thank you to the WETA Digital artists), an intro by visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, and a brief rundown of visual effects pioneers.

To say volume one contains an overwhelming amount of information, employee quotes, photos, and CGI detail is an understatement. No stone is left unturned as the authors give readers a look at the company’s massive amount of work and achievements. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the book, however, are the behind-the-scenes stories. Whether you’re learning about how a pizza inspired the lava in “Return of the King” or getting the scoop on a CGI error in the “Avatar” production process, “WETA Digital” is nothing short of fascinating.

In volume 2 (AKA “WETA Workshop: Celebrating 20 Years of Creativity”), author Luke Hawker focuses on the department responsible for all of the incredibly detailed physical creations such as creatures, costumes, maquettes, weapons, miniatures, prosthetics, gore f/x, sculptures, and puppets for shows and films such as “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “Braindead/Dead Alive,” and “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe,” “Lord of the Rings,” and yes, even smaller productions like the horror-comedy “Black Sheep.” Also touched upon here are the drool worthy line of collectible figures and the esteemed publishing outfit.

If all of that wasn’t enough, this volume also includes a map of the WETA workshop, a history of the company, another foreword by Peter Jackson, and an intro by WETA Workshop supervisor Richard Taylor in which he talks about he and Tania Rodger’s journey (and life) before WETA.

While WETA’s CGI work is often nothing short of breathtaking, I’ve always been more partial to the handmade creations from WETA Workshop. To me, the handcrafted masks, props, costumes, and so forth help audiences buy into the universe the filmmakers are trying to create. Even though it’s all movie magic, it makes everything feel more real and believable. Seeing pictures of these artistically made objects only solidify that fact. Whether you’re peeking at the neat weaponry of “District 9” or marveling over the 2 page spread of prosthetic Orc masks, it’s near impossible not to glow over everything in this volume.

Overall Thoughts: If you love the work of Peter Jackson, are a special f/x guru or simply love cinema, “The Art of Film Magic: 20 Years of WETA” is a must buy set that is worth every penny.

December 19, 2014 - Posted by | Book review | , , , , , , ,

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