Jackson's team pointed out that 55 percent of animal images in "The Hobbit" were computer generated at Weta. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have asked Jackson in the future to create all his animals in the studio.
Controversies aside, the rise of Weta and the expat American community in and around Miramar is visible in everything from a Mexican restaurant to yoga classes. On Halloween, which in the past was not much celebrated in New Zealand, hundreds of costumed children roamed about collecting candy. Americans gave the tradition a boost here, but the locals have embraced it.
The National Business Review newspaper estimates Jackson's personal fortune to be about $400 million, which could rise considerably if "The Hobbit" franchise succeeds. Public records show Jackson has partial ownership stakes in 21 private companies, most connected with his film empire. He's spent some of his money on philanthropy, helping save a historic church and a performance theater.
For all his influence, Jackson maintains a hobbit-like existence himself, preferring a quiet home life outside of work. In the end, many say, he seems to be driven by what has interested him from the start: telling great stories on the big screen.