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Weta Digital co-founder to receive doctorate

Weta Digital co-founder to receive honorary doctorate

Wellington's Oscar-winning designer Richard Taylor is to receive an honorary doctorate from Victoria University.

Mr Taylor, co-founder of Wellington's Weta Workshop and Weta Digital, will receive an honorary Doctor of Literature degree at the University's graduation ceremonies in December.

Mr Taylor, who holds a Diploma of Design degree in graphic design from the former Wellington Polytechnic School of Design, has won numerous international awards for his work. His work on the movie trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, has brought international recognition to New Zealand, raising the profile of Wellington as New Zealand's Creative Capital.

Mr Taylor was nominated, with colleagues, for three Oscars and three BAFTAs in 2002 for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for best make-up, best visual effects, and best costume design. He won best make-up and best visual effects in both the Oscars and BAFTAs, and also won a BAFTA in 2003 for best costume design for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Among other awards and honours, Weta Digital won the recent Dominion Post region Gold Business Award as well the Creative Award.

Mr Taylor is director and co-founder, with The Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson, and Jamie Selkirk, of Weta Workshop and is the Creature, Miniature, Armour and Special Make-up Effects Supervisor. The workshop is one of the largest and most respected effects houses in the world. It is unique in the great variety of artists and technicians it employs, from armourers, leatherworkers, skilled prosthetic technicians and miniature makers to painters, wigmakers, casting and moulding experts, articulation engineers, and sword smiths.

He is also co-founder of Weta Digital, a digital special effects house that provides a full range of digital services. It is considered a world leader in its field and has been described by Wired magazine as one of the world’s top five digital effects houses.

Mr Taylor always wanted to make things with his own hands rather than be a designer, and after graduating from Design School 16 years ago, he and his partner Tania Rodger began working from the back room of their flat as Richard Taylor Effects Ltd making the caricatured puppets for Public Eye. They soon teamed up with Peter Jackson and worked on Meet the Feebles (1990), Brain Dead (1993), Heavenly Creatures (1994), Forgotten Silver (1995) and The Frighteners (1996).

Heavenly Creatures was their first venture into digital effects. For its time, The Frighteners had the largest number of digital effects ever used in a film. Mr Taylor, Ms Rodger, Mr Jackson, and Mr Selkirk formed Weta Ltd in 1994, to create an all-inclusive effects facility that would offer all the effects and the requirements for the New Zealand film and television industries. Weta Workshop and Weta Digital have provided physical and digital effects for many other films, advertisements, and television shows, both local and international, including Hercules and Xena.

Mr Taylor and Weta’s greatest achievement has been The Lord of the Rings. At the height of work on the film trilogy, the Weta Workshop crew consisted of about 200, and more than 48,000 items were produced. Every single item used was made from scratch, including more than 900 suits of hand-made armour, 2000 rubber and safety weapons, 100 special, hand-made weapons, and more than 20,000 other items. The globally acclaimed quality of Weta’s work has resulted in many contracts to produce swords, armour, miniatures and creatures for other films, including The Last Samurai and Master and Commander.

Mr Taylor has shown a strong commitment to Wellington and New Zealand, and especially to its young people, insisting that New Zealand designers be employed wherever possible on The Lord of the Rings.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said Mr Taylor was a worthy recipient of an honorary doctorate.

"Mr Taylor has overcome many hurdles in life to be an internationally recognised leader in design. He has made an amazingly positive impact on Wellington's creative industry through his combination of inventive skill, business organisation and personal charisma. He is an energetic and inspiring model for creative young New Zealanders, who has the magic mix of using science and technology in the cause of the arts."

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