Wellywood welcomes West Ham

West Ham United players swapped footballs, shinpads and boots for swords, axes and alien rayguns during an unforgettable visit to the Weta Workshop special effects and props company.

The Hammers enjoyed a fascinating tour of the Weta Workshop before moving on to visit Park Road Post Production studios, where they met double Oscar-winning sound engineer Michael Hedges.

Both facilities, based in the Miramar suburb of New Zealand's capital Wellington - nicknamed Wellywood - are leaders in their field, working on a succession of award-winning films such as The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Avatar and King Kong.


Winners of four Oscars and five Baftas, Weta is a world leader in the design and production of physical effects , manufacturing everything from swords to costumes and prosthetics to scale models. The Workshop is best-known for its involvement in the films made by leading director and Wellington native Sir Peter Jackson.

The players and staff took a huge interest in Weta, with Kevin Nolan getting to grips with a sword, Mark Noble 'holding up' Adrian with an alien raygun and James Collins receiving an impromptu shave from a sword-wielding Joey O'Brien.


Mark Noble gets to grips with an alien raygun!

After posing for a photo with three giant trolls, the squad was given a tour of the Workshop, where they viewed props and physical effects from dozens of films, as well as Weta's own sword-making studio.

From there, a short coach ride took the Hammers to Park Road Post Production, where two-time Academy Award winner for Best Sound Michael Hedges and his team explained how they produced the sound for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit and King Kong.


The lads enjoyed their visit to Weta Workshop

After watching a video presentation, the group spent time meeting Hedges and posing with one of his Oscar statuettes.

Captain Nolan and midfielder Noble agreed that the trip had been a high point of their nine-day Football United Tour to New Zealand.

"I think it's probably been one of the best parts of the tour, as it was really interesting to find out what goes on with making all the films," Nolan confirmed.

"You don't realise how much work goes into making a film and I was really impressed.

"I couldn't wait to get hold of an Oscar and as soon as I saw it I grabbed it and I didn't want to put it down!"


Kevin Nolan gets his hand on Michael Hedges' Oscar statuette

Noble and his team-mates have been to the cinema twice during their time in New Zealand, watching Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Transformers: Age of Extinction, and the midfielder was equally impressed with his visit to Miramar.

"I really enjoyed it," he said. "You won't get to hold an Oscar every day, and to see what goes on in the films and how much work goes into them before you can watch them at the cinema is incredible.

"They said it took a geezer two-and-a-half years to make one of the chainmail suits for Lord of the Rings and he had no fingerprints left by the end of it - that shows you how much work goes into a one-minute scene in a film. It was nice to see another side to New Zealand.

"To be honest I didn't used to watch fantasy films, but then I watched Avatar and loved it and then Narnia and a couple of the Lord of the Rings. I think you have to have an open mind with films like that and what goes on, and they are now the films that they seem to be making the most and are making the most money."

*West Ham United would like to thank Weta Workshop and Park Road Post Production for inviting the Club to visit their facilities and making the players and staff so welcome.