Over the past 25 years, Weta Digital has created visual effects for some of the biggest pieces of pop culture the world has ever seen, ranging from The Lord of the Rings franchise to Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame. Now the company is doing something it’s never done before: producing original content under a new animation division.
A press release says filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh (The Lord of the Rings trilogy) are both going to “play a key role in the development of Weta Animation,” and the two of them will also “write, produce and direct several animated projects for the company.”
Weta Animation “will develop original animated content for both cinema and streaming platforms,” although no specific project has been revealed yet. Jackson and Walsh have evidently dreamed about opening an animation division for a while, and it sounds like this won’t just be a place for them to make their own projects, but a haven for additional talent as well.
“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,” Jackson said in a statement. “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’s senior visual effects supervisor, Joe Letteri, who has won Oscars for his work on The Two Towers, Return of the King, King Kong, and Avatar, is amped to explore this medium. “Now is a great time for us to be developing original animation, something I have long been excited about exploring,” he said. “Storytelling is an essential part of what we do in visual effects and being able to bring our creative experience to new stories in early development opens up a world of unique possibilities.”
He has a point: animation is one of the few entertainment industry departments that’s largely been able to weather the storm of COVID-19 and continue working during the pandemic. But as of now, it’s unclear whether the division will work in CG animation, or dabble in the more traditional hand-drawn animation that’s basically dead in Hollywood these days. And with Jackson actively involved here, I wonder if this animation division could be the spark that lights the fire for that sequel to The Adventures of Tintin that he always planned to make but which has yet to materialize.
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