New Zealand’s Movie Magic

Many of our clients travel to New Zealand just to see the beautiful locations they’ve seen in the movies. New Zealand’s wide variety of spectacular scenery makes it ideal for shooting films with fantastical landscapes. The location of powerhouse special effects company Weta Workshop in Wellington also attracts many filmmakers to the island.

It seems that wherever you turn in New Zealand, you’re treated to stunning views. New Zealand truly has it all: crystal clear lakes and rivers, impressive mountain ranges, lush forests, and picturesque waterfalls. Since New Zealand is fairly small (roughly the size of California), it’s quick and easy to travel between different landscapes, each one more magical than the last.

New Zealand seems to attract fantasy films in particular. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, of course, popularized the country as a filmmaking destination. New Zealand was also used for the filming of The Chronicles of Narnia, the new Disney film Pete’s Dragon, and Avatar. The next two Avatar films, still in the production process, will be filmed in New Zealand, as well. For these fantasy films, the magical landscapes are crucial to world-building, as the scenery pulls you into a world that seems magnificent and untouched. New Zealand’s landscapes are the perfect canvas on which to paint a fantasy world.

“There were a couple of locations that were perfect for this movie that only New Zealand could offer,” says Mark Johnson, producer of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. “In many ways, it is a fairytale country with the kind of locations that make your jaw drop.”

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Views of Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown. Image: Queenstown Tourism

Aside from stunning scenery, the special effects and props studio Weta Workshop attracts many filmmakers to New Zealand. The Wellington-based company began in the 1980s. In 1994, director Peter Jackson joined the team and created the Weta Workshop that operates today. Weta Workshop entered the spotlight when the first Lord of the Rings movie was released in 2001. Its extensive list of projects now includes The Last Samurai, King Kong, The Legend of Zorro, District 9, Avatar, Mad Max: Fury Road, and more. Visitors can tour the workshop to see iconic film ephemera, including props and models, from their favorite movies.

Says director James Cameron (who now lives in Wellington), “Weta Workshop bring not only world class artistic and technical talent to what they do, they also bring a spirit and a passion which is invigorating for the filmmaker.”

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The Weta Cave. Image: Tourism New Zealand

Film lovers continue to flock to New Zealand to see fantasy worlds come alive in the country’s natural playground. You can see some of these stunning locations for yourself with our 11-day New Zealand package that includes a visit to the Shire, stops at Disney’s Pete’s Dragon locations, and a tour of Weta Workshop.