19 Jun 2020

New Weta company founded to create animated programmes

2:45 pm on 19 June 2020

Weta Digital has launched a new company to begin producing original animated programmes written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh.

Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh.

Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson / AFP / Ana Elisa Fuentes / Getty Images

The new production company, Weta Animated, will produce its own original animated content in partnership with the existing Wellington- based visual effects studio.

It is expected to create cinema-released products and material for streaming platforms.

The majority owners are multi-award winning Wellington filmmakers Sir Peter Jackson and Dame Fran Walsh. The pair will write, produce and direct several animated projects for the company, a media release said.

Weta Digital has also appointed a new chief executive, the founder of screen content tech company Screening Room, Prem Akkaraju.

Weta Digital said the new appointment and company reflected Weta's "continued growth", and the capacity to produce original animated productions was a long-time dream of Jackson and Walsh.

"We are huge fans of animated storytelling in all of its forms, but it can be a long, protracted, and often costly way to make movies," said Jackson.

"That's, in part, why we have created this company - to change the model and open the doors to filmmakers and storytellers who might not otherwise be given the chance to show what they can do."

Weta Digital has created more than 100 cyber tools it uses to produce its films. The industry was now at the point where "if you can dream it, we can create it," Walsh said.

"Weta Digital began with one machine and just one artist who created the digital effects in Heavenly Creatures.

"None of us knew what we were doing, but even in those early days we could see the incredible potential of this new technology. Since then, VFX has become a huge industry, but our goal has remained the same - to bring stories to life, through the power of imagination."

New chief executive, Akkaraju, said Weta embodied the "magic of filmmaking".

"For over 25 years, Weta has led the VFX- animation industry by fostering an incredibly talented group of artists who work in tandem with a gifted team of computer scientists and engineers.

"I'm thrilled to be joining Peter, Fran and the extraordinary team at Weta as we enter into a hypergrowth stage with the launch of original content, bolstering our VFX service business, and expanding our technology capability and infrastructure."

Weta currently employs 1550 staff. It has been involved in a string of large-scale international productions, such as The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Avatar, Mortal Engines, Mulan and Alita.

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