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Pacific Rim: Uprising: Concept design & specialty costume

A sci-fi showdown of monstrous proportions, Legendary’s latest blockbuster, Pacific Rim Uprising, has landed in cinemas, featuring creature design and sci-fi suits by New Zealand’s Wētā Workshop. Under one roof in Wētā Workshop’s facility on Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula, the Workshop crew produced designs for the Kaiju monsters, fabricated a series of highly technical suits, and joined the production team on set in Sydney, Australia.

Wētā Workshop art director Leri Greer led the Design Studio in developing creature designs for the three Kaiju – Raijin, Shrikethorn, and Hakuja – and placing them into the film’s environments through key scene illustration. Pacific Rim Uprising art director Stefan Dechant, who had worked with the studio on Avatar and The BFG, provided feedback as the designs developed. Says concept designer Adam Middleton:

What better job is there to take a monster and put it in a city, surrounded by thousands of screaming people? It’s about this constant working with each other to generate the best image that we possibly can, that’s going to help the director’s vision for the story.

Adam Middleton Concept Designer, Wētā Workshop

At a pivotal moment, the film’s three individual creatures – each one monstrous in its own right – combine into one mega-Kaiju:

One of the things we were trying to work out is how you create individual creatures that look amazing, but then when they combine are able to transform into an entirely different creature that looks just as compelling. Visualizing how these beasts would meld together was our biggest challenge.

Leri Greer Art Director, Wētā Workshop
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Using digital sculpting software, resident creature experts Andrew Baker and Greg Tozer developed the kinetics of the Kaiju through the design, paying close attention to the creature’s anatomy, weight, and bone structure in order to ensure that it would appear believable on screen. Says Leri: “We always strive to have our designs be in service of good storytelling, so that they enhance the film and elevate it to new levels.”

Meanwhile, the Wētā Workshop costume department was tasked with constructing nine pilot drone suits; key custom suits that required a bespoke approach. To achieve this, the crew were delighted to work with Pacific Rim Uprising costume designer Lizz Wolf. Project Lead Lans Hansen and Wardrobe Supervisor Alistair McDougall joined forces to lead the team on coordinating the assembly and development of the costume elements, based on 3D models provided by Legacy Effects.

From the outset, this was a brief with very unique challenges. It was decided that the suits would be fabricated from urethane, allowing for a depth of molding, texture, and durability that would be difficult to achieve with soft fabric. The crew worked closely with Wolf to ensure that the final product matched the original Legacy designs as close as physically possible. Says Costume Fabrication & Senior On-Set Technician Kelly Marie:

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We worked very closely between costume and 3D to make sure everything lined up. Sometimes what works on a computer doesn’t necessarily work on a human form, so there was a lot of interaction between departments.

Kelly Marie Costume Fabrication & Senior On-Set Technician
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Cast from flat, acrylic molds and milled on the Workshop’s CNC machines, the suits consisted of flexible white urethane panels adhered together in full, over a base Lycra underlayer. Hansen and Costume 2IC Flo Foxworthy worked together to create a suit pattern whereby the layers would fully cover and encompass the body. Animatronics Technician Zoilo Abad designed and installed electronic components, such as lights and screens; even going so far as to create an app that could control how they worked on set. Designer William Bennett 3D modelled cadet helmets with exposed wires and connection ports, which was then manufactured by the Workshop crew.

The final result: a series of sophisticated, technically advanced suits that fitted tightly to the body much like a wetsuit; so form-fitting, in fact, that the actors journeyed to Wētā Workshop to have them custom fitted. At the conclusion of the manufacture phase, Alistair, Zoilo and Kelly flew to Sydney to assist with the costumes on set; a fantastic end to a whirlwind four months.

See Pacific Rim Uprising in cinemas now!

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