Weta Workshop’s Richard Taylor Talks Creating the Dwarves, Developing the Film’s Weapons, and More on the Set of THE HOBBIT

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If you’re a fan of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you are very familiar with the work of Richard Taylor.  That’s because as the head of Weta Workshop, Taylor was instrumental in bringing Peter Jackson‘s films to life by producing the many sets, costumes, armour, weapons, creatures, and miniatures in the films.   For The Hobbit, Taylor and his team of artisans are once again bringing Middle Earth to life.

Earlier this year I got to visit Weta during my set visit for The Hobbit.  In a room filled with Academy Awards and tons of amazing movie props, a group of us got to talk with Taylor.  He discussed how he’d been working on The Hobbit for over three years, how they weren’t creating any miniatures for The Hobbit, that his team created eight hundred weapons in the seven weeks leading up to the first day of filming, the way 3D printing has helped build some of the props, how HD filming has changed the way they create the prostheses, 48fps, and so much more.  Hit the jump for what he had to say.

Note: When we first sat down Taylor started talking about the weapons that were on the table in front of us and his backstory on how The Hobbit came together. 

richard-taylorRICHARD TAYLOR: I probably get a bit moody on it because I’ve got a limited number of subjects I can talk to you about. So, I’ll tell you a bit about the technical challenges of what we’ve been doing and also the design things that we’ve been doing as well. This is Tracy, who looks after The Hobbit design team. So, we have been on the project, I think about three and a half years. We obviously have had about a ten-year wait for this to happen. We couldn’t have imagined in our wildest dreams, five or six years ago that The Hobbit would ever come to be. And to actually have it in the workshop is beyond our– It’s just incredible for us. We’ve been looking after the design of costume with armor, weapons, creatures, special make-up effects, some of the hair and general looks of the characters and environments. And on Lord Of The Rings, I think we probably did about five hundred illustrations to conceptualize the three movies. Maybe more, but probably five hundred primary illustrations. At this point, I think we’ve almost clocked eight thousand digital paintings to realize the piece of the world that we’re doing. And we’ve had five conceptual designers from our twenty-six strong design team working over the whole time on the project, although almost everyone’s done some small part of it, with two or three people being the primary leads on the project.

richard-armitage-the-hobbit-thorin-oakenshield.I’m going to talk about the dwarves with you. That’s the subject that I can discuss. And the dwarves are a unique challenge, as is every new character that you tackle on every new film because the great challenge with any character is trying to create an iconic and unique design that an audience will acknowledge and recognize their differences on screen. But of course beyond the screen, the characters carry enough of an iconic statement and signature into the sort of massive dearth of popular culture that’s out there, that they have enough of individualism that people will remember them. That’s challenging enough when you’re working on a film that’s got a minimum number of lead characters. But when you have fifteen leads, of which thirteen are all of the same species, ultimately almost around about the same height and size, wearing similarly aged clothing, it becomes a great challenge. But a wonderful challenge all the same. A lot of that signature comes about through what the actor brings ultimately to the character, how they carry themselves, their posture, their attitude, their poise, their pose. But we need to compliment that by finding, firstly, the signature silhouette, and then the details that make them individuals amongst the group. And hopefully you can see that portrayed in this line-up.

A character such as Ori, a mummy’s boy, is a very different character to the war-hardened soldier that Dwalin is. Or, say Dori, who keeps control of the money on the trip. And this goes right down to every small detail, and as you can see with some of the weapons on the table, how we find signature designs within their weapons. And if it’s taken to the absolute of what we’re hoping for, we’re hoping that when the young child opens their toy box, even, and looks into that massive plastic injection molded toys, they will immediately recognize the character and pluck it out, knowing that that is their much loved character. So these thoughts and ideas have to come through all of the work.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-dwarvesOne of the great challenges with this movie has been making people of almost– No one’s quite my height out of this line-up, but people are very close to being my height. I have an eight-to-one head-to-body ratio, being as haut tall as I am. Someone that’s a foot shorter than me has a six-and-a-half to seven head-to-body ratio. That means that my head will fit into my body length eight times. And that’s indeed the case with these two characters and almost the case with him and of course Oin. And it gets less and less. But, of course, a dwarf, as we know a dwarf from our own world, is averaging about a five-to-one head-to-body ratio. So what we’re trying to do with all endeavors, is give the impression that they have a larger head to a more truncated and stout body. And the easy way to achieve a great deal of that is through body padding, and giving them large suits that they wear under their clothing. But of course, it’s one thing to increase their body, lower their waist-line, drop their knee-lines down, make them look thicker in their limbs and heavier. But, of course, it’s a whole other challenge to start tackling their prosthesis, their hair, their hands, because, of course, if you increase their head in size, you in turn have to increase all the other naked parts of the body, such as their hands and their feet, if we see their feet. And I’ll show you how we tackle that in a moment. We’ll just walk through some of the characters.

hobbit-movie-image-oin-gloin-01So we started designing the characters quite a long time before we actually met the actual actors. We access the actors about seven weeks out from the shoot, and at that point we could start to incorporate the actors’ characters into the roles. We started to hear about who the actors were sooner than that, and started pulling images off the internet. One of the challenges that Peter set us was that he wanted us to increase the head size of the character, and therefore, change the dimensions closer to a dwarf. But never to bring prosthetics down below the crow’s feet and the line of the nose. Because if we were to bring prosthetics down onto the lower face, which would have made our job much, much easier, because you can proportionally increase the overall size of the head– We then would have had a much longer application time, and we would have restricted performance in the lower face. So we set about coming up with a way that we could realize these larger heads without having to drop onto the lower face. And that was a surprisingly large challenge. Ultimately our actors wear a full foam latex head cowl that increases their heads, either a small amount for some, significantly for others. And then their ears are sitting out on stems. If you see them without their hair, they actually look quite comical. But we’re giving the illusion that the ears are dictating the width of the Dwarven head, and then we use hair to bridge the gap.

hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyAnd of course, every character not only needs a signature through his body type, through his weapons, through the detail, it also goes into his facial type and how we design the hair. And you can see in the case of Dori, he likes to groom himself quite beautifully and even though he’s on the road, he chooses to keep his hair dressed in a very elaborate way. This was an idea of Peter’s which, you know, it’s one of those ideas where you go, “Really?” But invariably, I’ve learnt over the twenty-odd years I’ve had the privilege of working with Peter to trust every idea, no matter how, initially, it might seem a little out there. And this idea has played out beautifully. He’s got an Orc axe buried in his cranium and this is pre-surgical skills that could’ve removed it, so they’ve just decided to leave it alone. But, of course, it’s caused a bit of a nervous tic in him, in fact, a bit of a mental impediment. So, this character is played beautifully by the actor, and he plays to this wonderfully. But once again, trying to find dramatic signatures within the design of his beard, his hair, his prosthetics.

hobbit-bombur-stephen-hunterOkay. Now, this is the one character that is not playing to the role that I told you about. Bombur is played by a large actor, but nowhere near as large as this. So, we always wanted Bombur to be extremely heavy. And this has required this poor actor being in full prosthetics all the time. Massive throat prosthetics, full facial prosthetics and head, all in silicone. The idea that we came up with the beard was that, even though Bombur, when you see him at first, he may appear quite incapable because of his massive size, he’s actually got huge strength. And he uses his beard to garrote his enemies by throwing his beard over the heads of his enemies and pulling them into his tummy. Gloin, of course, has to have an antecedence through to Gimli, that we saw in Lord of the Rings, and Nori is the most dramatic of silhouettes that we created. And this is where, in an effort to try and find unique and new designs, you walk that very fine knife edge. Some will argue, I have no doubt, that we fell off the knife edge. I’d like to think we’re teetering right on it. Because you’ve got to be bold and you’ve got to be brave and you’ve got try these things.

hobbit-movie-image-balin-dwalin-01And this actor, who is a very dear friend of ours, of the workshop’s, this gentleman played more parts in Lord of the Rings than any other actor, I believe, Jed Brophy. And we’ve worked with him on almost, I think, almost every film that we’ve worked on in time here in my twenty-five-year career. So, getting to interact with Jed in the senior role has been incredible. And his character that he has developed for this role is incredible. And he carries off this wonderful facial attire, too, with a plume. Okay. Ultimately Balin didn’t end up with a moustache, but Ken Stott’s character now is clean shaven on the upper lip, which I certainly challenged because I thought he looked lovely with this big, thick, heavy, mustached face, but it’s certainly given him a signature. It’s always great getting to do older actors because you can play to a far more dramatic sculpture within the prosthetic. Jimmy Nesbitt as well, has been an exceptional actor. He obviously has got an exceptionally expressive face, and one of the challenges that we were struggling with was how not to overshadow his bright, cheerful, cheeky expressions through the prosthetics and the hair, but I feel we got there in the end. In some cases, we got the character in one go. In other cases, it took six, or maybe even seven prosthetics. That means, a face cast, sculpting, molding, casting, painting, hearing, running, testing, photographing, showing it to the client, and then again and again and again, seven times. I think maybe six, maybe seven, I can’t remember now.

richard-armitage-hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyDwalin, obviously, carries his war-wins clearly on his face, and he was an amazing character. We started developing the idea of this almost lion mane-like quality. And the younger members have very, very subtle prosthetics. And of course, poor old Ori still carries the little purple bows his mum has pleated into his hair before he’s gone out into the world. But then we have Oin as one of the old battlers. Thorin has been our single greatest challenge, both at a prosthetic design level and an armor costume level. When people get to see the movies, they’ll come to appreciate how significant the number of costume changes these characters go through. When you’re designing a film, normally your lead characters may go through, sometimes no costume changes, maybe one, at most usually two. And these thirteen dwarves go through a significant number of costume changes as they travel through each point of the story. And Thorin, his character transforms during that journey. And capturing the nobility, yet darkly held concerns and weight of the world in his face and his character, and complimenting Richard’s amazing stature as an actor through our work was very, very challenging. But I feel that we’ve got it working well with him, and it’ll be delightful to see what people think of this character as he is, obviously, so fond in the hearts of so many people across the world. And that’s sort of the master of them all.

the-hobbit-image-martin-freemanAnd here we got some weapons. And if I’ve got this right, I think in the seven weeks leading up to the first day of shoot, we made nearly eight hundred individual weapons for the thirteen dwarves because for each dwarf, of course, we have a scale double, a stunt double, a picture double, sometimes a riding double. But then we have soft weapons, hero weapons, cut-off weapons for CG shots and so on. Every weapon has to carry its own signature style look and treatment. Some of them had very little stuff, which was very easy for us, but others were encumbered with lots of stuff, which we love to see the weapons, ’cause in that final push to the first of shoot trying to get some of these guys– We called this the ‘pig-sticker’. The idea of, if a boar is running onto him, he’d foot the spear and stand resolute as the animal would come on to the end of the spear. Cool. What’s funny, as the actors started arriving, they’d all start tussling for what weapons they could have, and many of them asked for more and more weapons. And I’m sure, three weeks into the shoot, they’re all greatly regretting having been so keen. This guy especially, he carries all of this and he’s just weighed down by the stuff. So, cool.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-martin-freemanSince we made Lord of the Rings we’ve, of course, gone on and done a number of other films, and while we have been developing those films and developing our work processes, we have continued to look for efficient ways and quality ways to do our work and improve our craft. And all that has proven to be very, very thankful when we’ve come to do The Hobbit, because we’ve tried to lift again the level of craftsmanship and quality within the items that we’re making, so that the world feels rich and as if it is populated by a group of artisans and craftspeople that are making the things. As I’m sure you appreciate, one of the great challenges of making props for any film, especially historically, films that are representing a period of even fantastical history, is that you’re trying to emulate a level of craftsmanship that would take a person their whole life to learn, and possibly months, if not years, to execute. And you’re having to make it in a matter of days or weeks, while still suggesting that same level of craft. So to make this item, of course, in steel and to hand-beat it and hand-tool the leather, would be a significant undertaking, and especially if you’ve got to do a hundred of them. So, of course, we turn to modern day model-making technology.

And over the years, we’ve invested heavily through time because we’ve almost exclusively custom-built the machines here in the workshop, in 3D printing, laser-cutting and 3D milling. And right now we have seven 3D milling machines, one of them in China and the rest here at the workshop. Milling items alongside the handmade crafts that go on in the workshop. That extends to even things like our mechanisms. Once we would have handcrafted every element of an eye mechanism made out of brass, and you can see here, this is a little lip articulation mechanism. But all of this is being laser-sintered on a 3D printing machine.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-ian-mckellanQuestion: If I can ask you real quick, what’s the biggest item you can make in a 3D printer now?

TAYLOR: A 3D printer, in the true sense of the word that prints, for us, probably only something about twelve inches, acute. But we’re also utilizing extruded printing. We don’t have a machine here, but you could, in theory, extrude a house. You could, in theory, extrude a car, because it’s all dependent on the size of the robot. And in fact, it’s interesting you asked that question because less than fifteen minutes before I came into this meeting, I was with one of our staff, who have just built us another amazing 3D printer. A hundred-plus-thousand dollar machine that we’d have to buy from the states and import. He said, “Please, just give me a couple of weeks and I’ll see what I can do,” literally. And we’ve got it working downstairs. It’s amazing. I challenged him yesterday to do a test, to see if he could extrude a thicker product faster and he’s just told me he can extrude six meters of product a minute at one-point-five millimeters. What that means is that we can actually rig it to the end of a robot and start printing it as big as this table if we chose. So that’s exciting. Because I’d love to see us get to the point that we could 3D print large-scale props, even, imagine if you could start 3D printing sets.

I was wondering if you did something like that. Because I’ve seen what those rapid prototyping things can do, and it’s amazing.

ian-mckellan-hugo-weaving-the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyTAYLOR: But that sword, if you wouldn’t mind holding that sword up in front of you, the whole of that hand grip and crossbar– Just slide that scabbard off. So the blade has been 3D milled, then tooled by our sword smith and then the whole of the hand grip and crossbar is completely 3D printed. Now if we were to tackle that at a model-making level, with the amount that we had to get done, we couldn’t have done that in time. So, it’s very thankful. Yeah, you can test if you like!

How many do you have at your facility, just two or three? How many printers do you have?

TAYLOR: We only had one for a long time, but we’ve just built two more. As the first one that we bought from the States for an awful lot of money, went in the skip, because it finally died. But the challenge with the early printers is that they were prototypes, really. But being eager to discover this new technology, I jumped in early. And I don’t regret it, but as the thing started to die, it’s as if you’ve bought a brand new Mercedes and you see it on the side of the road and then, “God, I’d love to drive that thing!” But it’s buggered unfortunately. So, yeah.

And that’s not used for make-up, you just use it for props?

TAYLOR: Interestingly, we’ve just finished a science-fiction film where we actually have done some prosthetics with that machine. I won’t say that, but it’s completely feasible now, that is possible in some cases. So, jumping onto prosthetics, that was probably a good– I talked about the fact that we had to increase and change the actors’ appearances. And I’ll firstly talk about the hands and the feet. So one of the things was trying to increase the size of the hands, so every actor wears silicone hands or silicone arms, in some cases right up to here, to change the overall proportion. I’ve got fairly large hands, and you can see that is a relatively modest hand increase on this particular dwarf. Now when we take our hands out of gloves, tight fitting gloves, we have the ability to do that to extract our hand. But, of course, a core doesn’t do that. So one of the things that we’ve had to come up with is collapsible cores, where we have magnetic interlocking cores. That’s easy on a hand and we’ve been doing that for a fairly long time. The real challenge started when we decided to try and improve on our feet for The Hobbit. If you remember, on Lord of the Rings, our feet used to prosthetically glue along this line. Very, very challenging because you have, as you’ll acknowledge from your own foot, you have very crêpey skin just here and that’s really difficult to glue onto. And a modern living LA actor, who’s never walked around in bare feet, obviously has very sensitive lower feet. So, between here you’ve got cast a piece of rubber of incredible density and here of incredible flexibility. And then you got to spend an hour and a half gluing the bloody things on.

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-martin-freemanSo, when we heard about The Hobbit, we decided that the very first thing we’d challenge ourselves on was to try and improve and move beyond those feet. And that set us up with a very, very significant challenge. What we’ve ultimately done is created slip-on gumboot-like silicone legs. And we have turned to a modern, recently on our market, they may have been on the other parts of the world for a while and I’m sure you’ve all seen them They’re the multi-toed ninja shoes that suddenly came on the market a couple of years ago, with a very beautifully formed instep-supporting foot and open top and I think they were developed for running. We utilize those inside our silicone prosthetics. And then, of course, we had to create the core to achieve that. So, in the case of– This is Bilbo’s large-scale leg, but we’ve got the same problem that we have to extract the whole of the core out of this tiny, thin area. Obviously, the actor’s leg is not this thin, we under-sculpt it as we have here, so that when they put them on, they suck onto the limbs so that they’re as tight as possible. And you can see in the case of a foot, we have the leg, the ankle, then this has to come apart, and then these two components. So, it’s a jigsaw of 3Dimensional components. This is just one foot for one character, who has a scale double, a picture double, a stunt double. And all of The Hobbit cast, they’d all require this level of development to achieve their prosthetics to do their feet. But that is relatively simple compared to this challenge, and that was how would we produce the, between thirty-six and 48 prosthesis needed every day. We never have produced less than thirty-six, I think, but sometimes up to 48 prosthetics needed every day.

hobbit-an-unexpected-journeyThis is a silicone prosthetic which is an acrylic encapsulate. You’ve probably, you may have seen them on other movies that you’ve been doing work on. But this is a very, very, almost liquid silicone encapsulated between two almost impossibly fine skins of acrylic. That acrylic ultimately has to come to nothing right on this edge, because when it’s applied to the actor, it’s the melting of this edge and the capillaring of that edge into the skin texture of the actor that hides the prosthetic. But, where once foam latex used to be our core material, today because of 3D, 6K, high-def digital film-making, the level that the camera sees, versus the ability for film to trick the eye, has become a critical challenge for us. In the case of these prosthetics, we’ll even impregnate the silicone with corpuscle. It’s flocking laid into the silicone, so that when the light penetrates this surface and sub-surface scatters inside the silicone, it illuminates back out of the skin with exactly the same luminance as the actor’s skin down here.

And the great challenge of sculpting a prosthetic is to try and get the most dramatic facial or body change possible with the minimum amount of material. And if I hold that up backwards to you, you can actually see how slight the sculpture actually is on this actor’s face and see how tiny– It’s actually probably less than point-one of a millimeter thick on the eyebrows, so that we retain all the mobility that’s necessary in the emotion of the eyebrows. And a very, very challenging undertaking. That’s a Thorin prosthetic, and this actor actually has quite a– His face carries a lot of character. And we’ve tried to make him put this level of nobility into the prosthetic that’s straightened his nose and hardened the lines within his face and given him the slightly more acute focused quality to his facial features. So, great fun. And of course, it all has to come out in molds, and in the case of the molds this is an amazing technology that was developed a number of years ago in the American effects shops using a product called syntactic dough, which is an extremely light-weight, very, very strong material. This technology has allowed us and others to lift our game in the area of prosthesis to this quantity of turnover and the necessary results that come from it.

hobbit-movie-image-fili-kili-01I have a question. Do you have a lot of these? Do you make a lot for each actor, or is it like a one off?

TAYLOR: If we can’t, it’s all an evaluation– That’s a good question. If we can meet the deadlines, the weekly turnover with just one, we’ll only make one, because the investment in this is significant. This takes a lot to make, and the material is just hugely expensive. But if we can’t meet the deadline, yes we will gang-mold it and start to replicate it, and in some cases, make three, four, five. In the case of Elven ears, we’ve just been asked to deliver six to eight hundred Elven ears. A new order came and we were like, “Oh!” So we gang-mold the ears, so we can just mass– start manufacturing them. But you need an almost zero failure rate, because if you get a tiny bubble or a ripped edge, then you throw it away and you got to start again. The lovely thing about this material, unlike foam latex, is we can actually turn around the pieces quicker, even though it’s more complex and more challenging and far more expensive, we can get the pieces out quicker, so we can do more per day. And interestingly the head of our prosthetics departments’ wife, who use to be a chef, came on, on The Hobbit and just mastered this. Absolutely got it in one, and she now runs this department and has run every prosthetic for the movie, having had no training or worked with anyone within this area before, but she just had the right recipe, I guess, in her hands and her mentality to do perfect work all the time. So, amazing.

Do you guys have any sort of say and, or help make a judgment call on the casting of actors? Let’s say, it’s down to a couple of people, do they show you, like, headshots, you know, kind of look at their face and say, “I think we can get a more expressive–”

the-hobbit-peter-jackson-martin-freemanTAYLOR: No, never. Never, and rightly so. Because I think, testament to that is the fact that Peter cast Elijah Wood and Sean Astin and Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan as Hobbits, where before the movie was cast, the world thought that Peter would turn to the casting fraternity of people have reduced stature in the world, and cast from that pool of people. But Peter cast from the world’s acting pool of male actors to find those four people, and then built a technology pipeline around how to make them look small. And it’s the same with every actor, their cast for their acting prowess, first and foremost, and then it’s up to all of us to change them into the characters as scripted in the movie. And it’s obviously the best process because it guarantees that the audience are watching the best possible actors in those roles, relative to Peter and Fran’s decisions. And we’ve been blessed by the cast, as you can appreciate, if you think back over the cast of people that Peter has chosen over the movies we’ve made over the last twenty years with him, we’ve been blessed by those people because without fault they’re all– Because, of course, you can go and find the greatest actor but if they aren’t a collaborative person or fit in with the process or get into the technology or the prosthetics, you’ve got a challenge. But Peter and Fran have this ability to choose amazing people, amazing actors but also really, really neat people. And hopefully, if you’ve not done it all yet, you’ll get to meet some of these actors on set.

This guy is second to none, this bloke. But they all are, they’re all special people. They really have ended up– Because it can make our job really difficult if people are challenging. Because many actors that turn up in our make-up room have never worn a prosthetic before and, you know, you’re on the stage of acting because you are projecting yourself and your own image, and suddenly we come along and glue all this onto you. Some of our actors, other than the back of their throat, there would be no part on their body that shows who they are. Because, of course, we put contact lenses and fingertips, artificial tongues, teeth, full facial prosthetics, so they are completely–

martin-freeman-the-hobbit-image(interrupts) What do you mean, an artificial tongue? How do they wear that?

TAYLOR: You make a dental clip that goes into the two back teeth that carries a sock that slides over the tongue. No, it’s not particularly successful because you can’t retract the tongue back into the throat, so it’s great for a licking gag or a where you want a devil-like tongue sticking out of the mouth already and the person articulates it. But thankfully for actors, with CG techniques, that’s a thing we haven’t had to do for quite a while

Does Peter’s decision to shoot at 48 frames a second change the way you design or manufacture it?

TAYLOR: Not design in any way, but manufacture. I’m not sure, I don’t know well enough the results of that technology yet to know whether it’s actually 48 frames, or just the shift in camera technology and the heightened level of resolution of the image. That’s what’s changed for us. The fact that light now, you can’t trick light like you could on film. Film would capture the moisture in the air between the foreground and the background, somehow digital camera work penetrates that and sees everything. And that’s required us to step up our game, as it has everyone across the world. It’s really challenging.

What was the thing on the original trilogy that you were most excited to build or be a part of, and what’s the thing in movie number one that you are most excited to build or be a part of?

the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-posterTAYLOR: It’s interesting. I was thinking about this yesterday when your colleagues were leaving the room. I wonder whether some part of the world’s audience is looking forward to meeting these– seeing these dwarves on film more than maybe the cast of Lord of the Rings, because for many of us, we read The Hobbit younger. I did. And therefore, I had an emotional connection to these thirteen characters of far more significance, because they were part of my youth read and then when I grew older. And therefore, for me the delight of realizing these characters, I was thrilled to be part of the team that realized the cast of Lord of the Rings, and there are characters within Lord of the Rings that I feel very proud of and I’ve always said that Lurtz is my favorite character that we did within Lord of the Rings. But coming to this set of characters, and bringing this to our design team, and being part of the development of these thirteen unique individuals from literature, was joyous. Overall, the thing that I enjoyed most on The Lord of the Rings was building the miniatures, because you’re building a world. You’re building a landscape and realizing architectural edifices that haven’t existed in our own history, but could have existed in someone else’s history. And not having that opportunity on this film, is a shame because of the way that digital technology is possessing that space now or owning that space. But the opportunity to develop new cultures and new characters– We love world design. And because this story goes to other parts of Middle Earth that we didn’t visit in the first three films, we’ve got an opportunity to see new cultures develop and new worlds exist.

In terms of the individual designs for the dwarves, are there particular artists that you’re looking towards, like Tolkien illustrators that you’re looking towards or geo-historical groups that you’re looking towards? Is this all out of the ether?

the-hobbit-peter-jacksonTAYLOR: (overlaps) No. Yeah, all out of the ether. Last time, we were inspired and influenced by Alan Lee and John Howe, and they, of course, are the core of the design on the film down the road as well. But no, in an effort to create originality and steer clear of– And making sure that the audience sees something new, and I guess we’re all inspired by everything that we see, especially great Tolkien art, but unlike last time, we didn’t heavily research what had existed before, and definitely have tried to bring our own essence to it. We have a number of exceptional designers, but we have one young New Zealander that joined us straight out of secondary school. So seventeen years old, I guess. And he has probably designed eight-tenths of our work. His name’s Nick Keller and he is astounding at his understanding of cultural development, costume, prop, weapons development and character world creation. So he’s been most significantly inspiring around the development of this sort of stuff. We have our Senior Conceptual Artist, Gus Hunter, who was with us on Lord of the Rings and designed a great deal of King Kong and other films, has been instrumental, from our perspective in the world design. Of course, we play a small part in that because down the road is another massive team of designers doing great, mind-boggling work, but of the eight thousand paintings, we’ve been able to do on this project, they’ve had an impact. So, it’s great.

Here is more from my Hobbit set visit:




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