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Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based vfx giant (The Lord of the Rings, Avatar), has launched an animation banner, hired a new CEO, and entered a “hypergrowth stage.”

Here are the details:

  • For the first time in its 27-year history, the company will produce original content, under the new Weta Animated banner. It will create animated works for both theatrical and streaming.
  • Peter Jackson and his partner, the writer and producer Fran Walsh, will be closely involved in developing the banner, and will write, produce, and direct several animated projects for it. Jackson co-founded Weta in 1993, and he and Walsh are majority owners in the company.
  • In a statement, Jackson said, “We are huge fans of animated storytelling in all of its forms, but it can be a long, protracted, and often costly way to make movies. That’s, in part, why we have created this company — to change the model and open the doors to filmmakers and storytellers who might not otherwise be given the chance to show what they can do.”
  • Meanwhile, Weta has hired industry veteran Prem Akkaraju as its new CEO. Akkaraju is the co-founder of SR Labs (formerly Screening Room), a tech company that aims to streamline both theatrical and home movie distribution. He is still serving as its executive chairman.
  • The other co-founder of SR Labs, Sean Parker, announced a “significant” investment in Weta last year, and has joined its board as vice chairman. Parker is a prominent entrepreneur who co-founded the file-sharing service Napster and served as Facebook’s first president.
  • Weta was founded to handle effects on Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures, and has since grown to become one of Hollywood’s foremost vfx providers. As well as the Lord of the Rings and Avatar franchises, its most prominent credits include Game of Thrones, Avengers: Endgame, and Jackson’s King Kong. It will continue its vfx work alongside the new animation studio.

 

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