News for Dec. 12, 2005

Richard Taylor Interview for 'The World of Kong'

12/12/05, 9:30 pm EST - Xoanon

Ataahua writes: This morning on Newstalk ZB in New Zealand, Richard Taylor was interviewed by Mike Hosking about the Weta designers’ new book, 'The World of Kong: the natural history of Skull Island'. Among Taylor’s revelations was that, by his estimate, only 5% of the original movie is in PJ’s updated version.

Mike Hosking: This is a stunning book by the artists of Weta Workshop, The World of Kong: the natural history of Skull Island. Now Richard, the last time we spoke you were at the premier of King Kong in New York. Where have you been since?

Richard Taylor: We went from there to London and caught up with Andrew Adamson and got to see the premier at the Royal Albert Hall of Narnia. Then the next night we had another premier of King Kong in London. Then we came home because we wanted to be here with the Weta crew for the New Zealand premier.

Mike: Now that you’ve had a more detailed look at the film, what is your view of it?

Richard: It’s one of the great films of all time. It’s a very beautiful, sweeping epic, but with a very intimate heart. It’s one of the more beautiful films, I believe.

Mike: There’s a lot of focus on New Zealand film makers right now, which must be almost surreal.

Richard: With Roger Donaldson (The World’s Fastest Indian), Nikki Caro (North Country), [some names I missed – the director and producer of the second Zorro film], Andrew and Peter, it’s an amazing phenomenon, and one we can rightly celebrate.

Mike: What has been the reaction of the international press (to King Kong)?

Richard: From the press interviews we’ve done – remember this is with up to 50 TV interviews a day. These are pretty hardened reporters. They see three or four movies a week and they can tend to be pretty cutting in their comments. We found nothing but an exhilarating euphoria for it. They were so enthused, so complimentary about the world within King Kong.

Mike: [Asked about the new book created by the Weta artists.]

Richard: The ‘making-of’ books at the back end of films – we hand over all art to the studios for the books and that’s all we see of the process. For me, our film work is still seen through the conduit of the director’s eyes. We thought it would be really lovely for the designers to show their work in its raw state, its primary state, to readers around the world. Therefore we’ve made this book.

Mike: What I love is that you can immerse yourself in this book and in the ecology of Skull Island.

Richard: Weta designers pride themselves on world design. We saw that clearly in LOTR and see it again in Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Mike: How much of it (Skull Island) is imagination and how much is the real ecology of Sumatra?

Richard: All of it is make believe. The ecology of this island has run amok, and creatures have been stuck in a prehistoric time warp where they have evolved over 65 million years. That makes an amazing story in itself, regardless of the indigenous people who are also on the island. The back story of Skull Island isn’t built on in the original movie. We felt there was an amazing opportunity to develop the back history of the island, because the story creates a credibility.

Mike: How much of this movie is pure imagination, and how much is from the 1930s film?

Richard: There’s probably 5% of the original 1930s story.

Mike: Do you let the imagination of the Weta people go? Do you say ‘Go away and let your imagination run wild, and come back in a week’?

Richard: The interesting thing is the international press, over the last seven years we’ve been doing this, have continuously commented to me about the unique originality of the designs of Weta. I say it’s because of the unique country we draw on. These are young New Zealanders, who haven’t travelled much, and they’re not drawing on the same designs of people in other countries. They’re drawing on the Pacific: a unique design. They’re a very special and amazing group of people.

Mike: In the book Peter Jackson has said so much of the artists’ work would never be seen on screen. Is this a frustration for them?

Richard: Yes and no. We designed 200 creatures for the world of Kong up to film standard and only 14 are seen in the movie, but it’s our job to make sure Peter has the tools to develop this as a real world, so wherever he points his camera, there’s something for him to film. If the ecology doesn’t exist beyond the camera’s range, then the film doesn’t seem real to the audience.

(Richard’s cellphone line then began breaking up, but he said that the technical achievements in King Kong were greater than those in LOTR.)