I’m spent the first day of my north island adventures in New Zealand’s national capital – Wellington. We start by wandering over to the Te Papa museum – which is only 3 blocks from the hostel. We stop at a bagel shop which had some really cool lounge/ambient techno playing on it. Very strange music selection for a bagel shop early on a weekday morning; but was cool.
I’ve noticed that music in New Zealand is a strangely mixed bag. There are New Zealand artists, which without much loss of love – are not all that great. Think folk-guitar updated with modern back-rhythms. But the lyrics are decidedly …well… uninspired and simplistic. But the majority of the radio stations you turn on are a mix of 80’s and pre-grunge 90’s music. Personally, I liked this a lot; but I was from that era. There was no Britney/Emenen/or newer stuff, but there was lots of Queen, 80’s pop, even the odd Backstreet Boys. Most other travelers I ran into had stopped going out to local live bar musicians since most of the music was pretty badly done covers of above said tunes. I attended one or two shows, and that was plenty. I hate to say it, but New Zealand is just not a mecca for live music.
The only thing they did have, and had well, was ambient/lounge/downbeat electronica – and they did it well. It’s and odd mix of late 80’s and early 90’s modern electronica? There was also a strange variety of Jamaican/ambient music was really big at the time.
Anyway, we went to Te Papa and went to the Lord of the Rings exhibit. Te Papa is one of the better museums that I’ve been to anywhere. It would give any museum a good run for its money – modern displays, beautiful architecture, rich exhibits. The Rings exhibit had just returned to Wellington from traveling around the world. There is little else to say than this exhibit rocked. They had every major character’s costume, swords, jewelry, props, etc on display. Each character’s props also had several 3-5 minute movies that interviewed the character, told about the costuming, how they prepped, etc. It was amazing to be right next to Aragorn’s sword, to see Elendir’s broken sword, Legolas bow and arrows, the dresses worn by Arwen, the robes of Theoden, Sauran’s outfit, etc. They also had outfits used by all extras as well. The saddles and armor of the riders of Rohan, elvin boats, etc.
There were all the creatures and miniatures used in shooting there as well. Models of just about every major scene: Minas Tirith, Mordor, the tower at Isengard, etc. There were amazing concept paintings used by for color and mood studies. They also had full-scale models of the rock troll, Gollum, and every conceivable creature used in the movie. The displays on how they 3D scanned the models (handheld 3D scanners!), animated, then populated the film with thousands of these computer characters was interesting. While I understood the concepts, the best part was that the simulated characters would actually fight each other – using real fighting techniques. Nothing was scripted, the computer would pit them against each other one on one.
There were sections of the display on how live swordplaying was done. There were 3 swords made for each ‘real’ one. There was the heavy, fully detailed/ornate metal swords for close-up shots, a duplicate aluminum version for medium shots or when riding horses, and finally fully hard plastic/very light versions for actual fighting so nobody would get hurt or worn out after 30 takes. They also had tons of prosthetics used on orcs, goblins, elvin ears, hobbit feet and every other creature part you care to see. It was a great display.
After that, we walked the length of the city and saw the shops, museums and government buildings. It amazed me again just how small the city was. It only took about 1 hour to walk the whole length (well, a bit longer as we stopped to see stuff). New Zealand is just not a hugely populated country – and you still get a great homey/farm-like feel everywhere you go. There was also a college graduation going on, so there were tons of folks walking around in graduation outfits. At night, my British friends went to a comedy show that they’d previously bought tickets for, but found it a little less than up to par. We all went out for a bite to eat, and called it a night.