Crusoe and his nemesis, Churchill Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment
The majority of “The Water Horse” was shot in New Zealand for its proximity to Weta, its film industry infrastructure and experienced crews. The natural settings were also great substitutes for 1940s Scotland. The production spent five and a half weeks in the area around Queenstown, New Zealand, whose lack of modern houses and roads made it ideal for a period movie.
“When the clouds come in over the mountains, it could be Scotland,” says animation supervisor Richard Frances-Moore. “The only thing missing is that in Scotland, there are old walls and buildings everywhere, so it was valuable to actually go to Scotland to get the representation of the age of the landscape.”
“There was no way I was going to make a movie about the Loch Ness monster and not shoot at least part of it in Scotland,” says Russell. Visiting Loch Ness for the first time during scouting, he was struck by the masses of tourists staring at and photographing the lake. He soon found himself “hoping that this damn thing would come out of the water. It’s that desire in all of us that there’s something out there beyond our imagination that we can’t explain.”
Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu, seen previously in the “Lord of the Rings” movies, was the New Zealand double for Loch Ness. “We didn’t have any cover, but we never stopped for the weather,” Russell says. “We were incredibly lucky. We had these 70- to 80-mile-an-hour winds every other day, but the crew was so used to it.”
Russell, who remained in New Zealand during postproduction to work closely with Weta, says that his first extensive visual effects film won’t be his last — as long as he can work with Weta again. He’s not that keen, however, to direct a “Water Horse” sequel. “I feel I’ve done it,” he says. “I’ve made the film I wanted to make.”