Sean Parker, the entrepreneur behind Napster and Facebook, has taken a minority stake in Weta Digital, the New Zealand-based visual effects company formed by Peter Jackson.
Weta Digital is the team behind the CGI characters Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” films and Caesar from the “Planet of the Apes” movies, as well as designing Middle Earth and Pandora from “Avatar.”
“I’ve long admired Peter Jackson’s and Fran Walsh’s work, and the ground-breaking VFX and animation that Weta Digital has created over the last two decades. The visionary leadership, imagination, and technical expertise of Weta Digital was vital to the creation of Academy Award-winning films such as ‘Avatar,’ ‘King Kong’ and ‘Lord of the Rings.’ I look forward to helping grow Weta Digital and I’m excited to partner with Peter, the leadership of Weta, and its incredibly talented team,” Parker said in a statement.
“Sean Parker brings an invaluable expertise that will fortify Weta Digital from a technological perspective, while also focusing on its growth as an industry leader,” Jackson said. “As I have gotten to know him, I have been extremely impressed with his curiosity, intelligence and passion.”
Parker last generated serious buzz in Hollywood over his proposed day-and-date movie release model called The Screening Room, which was introduced in 2016. The plan would allow consumers to pay about $150 for a set-top box and receive access to new releases for $50 on the day of their theatrical release. Jackson was just one of many filmmakers who embraced the idea and became a stockholder in the company.
Weta Digital is led by senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, and the company’s artists collectively have landed six visual effects Oscars. Some of their recent projects include “Alita: Battle Angel,” “Mortal Engines,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “Game of Thrones” and “Umbrella Academy.” They also worked on the de-aging technology for the upcoming “Gemini Man” starring Will Smith.
Parker is the founder and President of the Parker Foundation, which focuses on life sciences, global public health and civic engagement. In April 2016, the Parker Foundation announced a $250 million grant to form the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.