Saturday, November 23, 2002
Armageddon Expo Wellington 2002 - Xoanon @ 13:58 PST
Day 1 Report

According to the program, Armageddon is NZ’s biggest computer gamming and fantasy event. It is being held at the Michael Fowler Center November 23rd/24th. The first day was fairly crowded, and I was pleased to see many venders with interesting booths to wander around. There were special guests (including some anime folks and stars from Stargate SG1 and Star Wars Ep2), but since none of the announced stars had to do with Lord of the Rings, I won’t go into that here. Dymocks and Weta Workshops had a brilliant little booth where you could buy just about every LotR book or any Sideshow statue, and I was surprised to hear that Alan Lee would be signing things later that day (and I hadn’t brought any of my books or autograph stuff!) I quickly bought a fabulous card with a drawing of a bush weta on the front and waited for Mr. Lee to show. It turned out to be a huge pleasure to meet him. He is a soft-spoken man, incredibly nice and very sincere. He was happy to sign my card, asked if I’d like as well sketch and then drew a lovely pencil sketch of Gandalf for me. I was thrilled!

Several Weta Workshop employees came around the booth and chatted with folks. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to Gino Acevedo, Jason Docherty, Simon Ward and Daniel (whose last name I didn’t get). Gino, Jason and Simon all work turning folks into creatures, and Daniel is a designer. They are all quite friendly and happy to talk about their work. They obviously love what they do (You can find Gino and Jason talking about what they do in the just released LotR: The Making of the Movie Trilogy in the ‘making faces’ section on p125).

At 1pm Gino and Jason were all set up to turn Dymocks’ employee Andrea Wiechern into an orc. I took about 50 pictures of Andrea as she went from a lovely lady into a nasty orc, but since this is the internet and some of you have dial up connections, I will only attach a small portion to this report. It usually takes 2 make-up artists about 3 hours to make an orc (they work in pairs to speed the process), but today they did the fast version. It took almost exactly 2 hours to get Andrea into full make-up and costume.

They started by putting on a skullcap to protect her hair and ears, and then began to attach the prosthetics. Jason has baked many a prosthetic (they take about 3 hours to bake) since most of the pieces can only be used once. It took 6 pieces to transform Andrea’s head (not including the scars and warts) into an orc’s; one that covered the majority of her head, one for her most of her face, one for her chin, two ears and a neck piece. It took them about 45 minutes to attach all this to her. And then came the make-up. They started with a special base and once everything was covered, they added different colors with brushes. Once they were happy with the color of the skin, Gino powder Andrea down (he explained that the base make-up is extremely sticky and has to be powdered to keep it from sticking to itself) and then used a little water to take off the extra powder. By this time, folks who stopped by assumed that must be a he in the make-up because there was no sign of Andrea in there anymore. Now they were ready for the finishing touches. Jason pierced Andrea’s orc ears and used bits of orc chain mail for earrings. They added orc hair, that Gino told us was hand tied yak hair (all the wigs they uses are hand tied – a long process. When I asked, they said the piece they used on Andrea probably took about 8 ˝ hours to make). Gino fussed with the hair to get it perfectly orc-ish (you wouldn’t think it would take so much work to make orc hair look like it looks), while Jason prepared the teeth. Once they had finished, it was Simon’s turn. He pulled out what looked like a load of filthy rags, but were actually distressed orc attire. He dressed Andrea in baggy pants, a dirty coat, orc booties and armor, which included several chain mail and leather bits. To finish the look, he handed her a special orc stick. It was 3pm and Andrea had been completely turned into an orc. She had a marvelous time wandering about among the fans and getting her picture taken. Finally, they all packed up and headed back to the workshop, including Andrea. She needed to be un-orc’ed and they wanted to take her back to the workshop to do that.

All in all, it was a brilliant experience to watch them work and have the ability to take photos. I felt very privileged to live in Wellington and get the opportunity to see what most people can only read about.