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Exclusive News on Smaug’s Design and an Inside Look at Weta Cave’s 5th Anniversary Celebration

Our friend and member of Welly-moot (Wellington’s official Tolkien Society smial), Jack Machiela, had the incredible opportunity to attend Weta Cave’s 5th Anniversary Celebration. As it turns out, he and his wife, Alex, were Weta Cave’s very first customers five years ago, so it was a special treat for them to celebrate along side some of Weta’s most talented artists and artisans and cast members from The Hobbit films.

Along the way, he also met the event’s special guest, Hermes. Wondering who that might be? Not who, but what. Hermes, the blue-tongued skink, happens to be a model. And, not just any model, a model for the digital design of Smaug!

Read on to get the full scoop, direct from the Weta Cave!


Written by Jack Machiela:

The Weta Cave celebrated its 5th birthday this week – they first opened their doors to the public at 11:00am, on the 6th of June 2008. As it happened, my wife Alex and I were the first two through the doors on the day (ok, she was first, but I was holding the doors open for her).

Dave Tremont - Dr who geek and creator of Barad-Dur miniature

Jack with Dave Tremont – Dr who geek and creator of Barad-Dur miniature

Warren Beatton - Mad scientist and creator of the Uruk-Hali's birthing process (slime technician)

Warren Beatton – Mad scientist and creator of the Uruk-Hali’s birthing process (slime technician)

We weren’t as quick off the mark today, five years (and two days) later. We arrived at the Weta Cave just around 1:30pm, halfway through an enormous queue for Weta’s calligrapher/cartographer Daniel Reeve, who was selling his new Hobbit Birthday Party Invitations, and handwriting people’s names onto them with his calligraphy skills. I had taken my map of The Shire off my wall, and he signed it for me. Oddly, since his work covers a lot of my mancave’s wall, I didn’t have his autograph yet!

Daniel Reeve

Daniel Reeve

While we were waiting, we spotted Dwarf actor Mark Hadlow elsewhere in the mass of people, and Chief Wizard Richard Taylor as well. The call went up that there was another Dwarf on the premises, and sure enough, Jed Brophy had arrived as well. After Daniel Reeve graciously signed my (his?) map, we went outside, and met up with Tania Rodger, Weta Workshop manager (and partner of Richard Taylor), and various other people. Warren Beatton and Dave Tremont came by to join in the celebrations, cake was eaten, and balloons added to the happy occasion.

Tania Rogers

Tania Rogers


Jack’s wife, Alex, with Richard Taylor


Jack and Jed Brophy


Jack and Mark Hadlow

One interesting tale came to hand – in the morning a very special guest had been introduced to the crowds – Hermes the Blue Tongue Skink. I was initially unclear about why he’d been invited (apart from being pretty awesome), but his handler/owner (whose name I missed, unfortunately) mentioned offhand that he had been a digital model for Smaug when Guillermo Del Toro was still directing. I couldn’t draw her out on more detail, so I’m not sure if Smaug still looks like Hermes, or how much, but that was an interesting snippet of information!?!


Hermes, the blue-tongued skink and Smaug model


Close-up of Hermes… or should I say, Smaug?

Quite a few of the Wellington Tolkien group Welly-moot had made their way to the event as well, so I’m sure this will be discussed at the next meeting!

Thank you for sharing you photos, Jack! And if any of you live around the Wellington, NZ area, be sure to check out!

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  1. Hello!

    can I please make a small correction to the above piece.
    My handler said that del Toro had mentioned a description of Smaug once and it sounded similar to me, (but so do many dragons…) we know nothing more than the rest of the public do.
    I’m simply a reference animal at digi, nothing more.

    thanks for all the love and awesome pictures!



  2. mixedfiction says:

    Why does it look like an Iguana?