Toulouse Ltd 7 Weta Workshop Weta Workshop Unleashed

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Directors
    Richard Taylor, Marc Simpson
  • Ringatoi Matua / Design Directors
    Marc Simpson, Richard Taylor, Zoilo Abad
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Danielle Casey, Adam Walker, Zoilo Abad, Rod Sheehy, Blair Ryan, Liam Brankin
Judge's comments:

A delightfully fun and engaging space lit to emphasise and dramatise epic set elements.


Weta Workshop Unleashed is a guided tour through a fantasised film workshop, where the Weta team is hard at work creating three films: a sci-fi adventure, a farmyard horror, and an epic fantasy. Through the exploration of the making of these films the audience are immersed in the film world and encouraged to unleash their own aspirations to ‘make cool stuff’.

Lighting this explosion of creativity and vivid storytelling had to support and enhance both the ethos of the experience – literally creativity unleashed – and the story-telling in each zone of the experience.

The Toulouse team were embedded in the design process for Unleashed from the onset. Having previously developed a robust design relationship through collaborating on a number of significant projects, we knew the language of the Weta design team from the outset. Understanding the Weta Workshop process allowed us to not only meet the brief as part of the design team, but it also informed our conceptual lighting design for this very unique Weta project.

We needed to ensure that the technology could meet the creative needs while remaining responsive and changeable to meet the evolving vision right up to opening. To achieve this, the design required large scale ambient room lighting, detailed programmed theatrical sequences and specific installations for set pieces.

The installation of over 230 general lighting fixtures throughout the experience needed to enhance the sets as well as provide creative wayfinding for the audience and contribute to the philosophy of the space. Working with the Weta animatronics team we collaborated on a range of custom-made LED fixtures which were installed into set pieces: a flickering blacksmith’s furnace, a pulsating suspended UFO and the internal organs of an otherworldly creature.

The lighting in several zones was programmed to create dynamic scenes that changed over time. In Weta’s own words the showstopper was an intricate miniature castle where the lighting of the castle scene moved subtly from dawn, through the heat of the day, to dusk and into the darkest hours of the night. The lighting synchronised with a filmic soundtrack by composer Tane Upjohn Beatson, immersing the visitor into the fantasy film world.

The culminating zone of the experience sees a titanic robot embedded in a rock wall, reaching out toward a suspended 8 metre diameter UFO. The scene comes to life through lighting and animatronics, again supported by an ethereal soundscape. Toulouse’s full system programming ensured that the lighting, sound and movement were integrated to smoothly tell this final story on the journey through Weta Unleashed. The lighting had to lead the audience into and around the scene and meet the AV and soundscape conceptually.

Deep knowledge of theatrical show lighting combined with a solid creative working relationship with Weta allowed Toulouse to work responsively on this project as much of the design was tweaked and adjusted in-situ. The experience has reached over 25,000 visitors from the domestic tourist market alone and its success speaks to the accomplished and creative collaboration between Toulouse and Weta Workshop.