If there is one thing I do not want to see it is the monsters that must have hidden under Andrew Baker’s bed as a child.
As a creature and character designer, most notably on Peter Jackson’s film trilogy of The Hobbit, it is easy to conceive that whatever lurked in the dark of his imagination had the power to enthral. With a world as rich and diverse as the one that Tolkien created, anyone in film must salivate at the potential for visual creation within, but has he read the celebrated source material, as well as the trilogy that followed? “I have completed reading The Hobbit; however, I felt The Lord of the Rings too long-winded for my taste. Shameful as I’m such a fan of the movies, but there it is: the bold truth!” He enthuses about the former book and reading it definitely influenced his work, “I always loved The Hobbit and it is such a rich world filled with many creatures and characters that one can’t help but imagining the worlds when reading.”
Like Tolkien, Andrew Baker hails from South Africa. Born in East London, he completed an Honours’ degree in Computer Graphic Design. Now he finds himself living in Wellington, New Zealand working at the WETA Workshop Design Studio. At the moment he is busy with The Hobbit, which is by no means the full extent of his portfolio. He has been involved in several other films, but “currently the only other ones that have been released are The Adventures of Tintin, Battleship (non- credited) and Gulliver’s Travels (non-credited).”
The key word here is definitely creativity and that is what Andrew finds to be the best part of his job…
Even though source material gives an artist plenty to work from, there is often something extra which drives them and helps personalise the work. For Andrew, “natural history always gives me something to work with”. This is, of course, particularly necessary when there is no source material and nothing to draw from except what lies in the mind and in past experiences, waiting to be recalled for a new creation. A usual suspect in his line of work is often the deadlines and Andrew says that “creating something new and fresh in a limited time is always challenging”. But pressure is a good thing – this is how diamonds are created after all. The key word here is definitely creativity and that is what Andrew finds to be the best part of his job, “the creativity and ability to present your own ideas for a film or game”.
My best friend is a passionate artist and I remember many varsity nights spent watching Gattaca, American Beauty and Big Fish over and over and discovering new music while I lent moral support as she completed her work. Ever since I have been interested to know how artists work, particularly at a discipline which is often accomplished alone. “Generally alone, but in a studio…I listen to music a lot, but when I get enough of that I put on some comedy or documentaries to listen to.” Very similar then, and it is inspiring to see how inadvertently the arts support each other and right now, as I sit here writing this, The Hobbit plays in the background, so that I can write with Bilbo.
I can’t wait to get to the part with Azog, so I can see Andrew’s work.
I can’t wait to get to the part with Azog, so I can see Andrew’s work. “I was involved with Azog…and felt as a villain, he came out great!” He counts this as one of his favourites from his work, as well as the trolls – those dimwits whose antics deliver action and laughs in the book and the film. “For what has been shown, I’d have to say I loved how the three trolls turned out”. There are a lot of creatures and characters that he has fallen in love with. He is working on the whole trilogy, but obviously cannot tell us about anything other than what we have already seen.
Having worked on Tintin and currently busy with The Hobbit, he must surely have met Peter Jackson?
Having worked on Tintin and currently busy with The Hobbit, he must surely have met Peter Jackson? “Yes, I have worked with Sir [he reminds me] Peter Jackson on a number of his projects, namely The Hobbit trilogy.” Peter Jackson, of course, did not pop out of nowhere and although his earlier work may seem to be at the other end of the genre spectrum, they still point to an affinity with actors and a boundless imagination. Andrew is familiar with Jackson’s beginnings, “I have seen some of his early works and loved them. Heavenly Creatures was very inspiring for the times, as was Braindead.”
The Hobbit trilogy means that we know where to look out for Andrew’s work for the next two years, as he continues his visual journey through a fantastic world filled with trolls, goblins and “sneaky little hobbitses”. There is a lot more coming up too, “I work full time on films, “ he says. “ There are a number coming up that I am unable to talk about unfortunately”. Given the nature of the projects he’s been involved in it is not surprising that he may not reveal anything and he wisely follows Gandalf’s advice to “keep it secret, keep it safe”.
Follow Andrew’s blog here.