Unity 3D Acquires Weta Digital

What does Unity 3D and Peter Jackson have in common? They have done business with each other. Yes, the man behind such great films like “The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit Trilogy” and “The Planet of the Apes trilogy” has sold his New Zealand-based Weta Digital to Unity for a whopping $1.625 billion dollars, in an effort for Unity to expand its VFX footprint. This promises to make the tools used to create Jackson’s iconic characters and settings from his films available to creators all across the world. Unity plans to make Weta Digital’s tools available to everyone via a cloud-based workflow, with software-as-a-service. Unity is acquiring the Weta Digital suite of VFX tools and technology, along with its 275 engineers, who will meld with Unity’s Create Solutions division.

Weta Digital, located in Wellington, New Zealand, is looked at as the largest single-site VFX studio in the world, with employed artists from more than 40 countries. Weta’s tools provide a variety of features such as advanced manipulation and facial capture, anatomical modeling, advance simulation and deformation of objects in movement, and procedural hair and fur modeling. Weta Digital’s software assets are made of some 50 million lines of computer code. Jackson co-founded the company in 1993 so he could create the digital effects for his movie “Heavenly Creatures.” The privately held company is majority owned by Jackson and his wife, Fran Walsh. The other shareholders are Akkaraju, Weta Digital senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, and Sean Parker.

Jackson said to Variety, “Weta Digital’s tools created unlimited possibilities for us to bring to life the worlds and creatures that originally lived in our imaginations. Together, Unity and Weta Digital can create a pathway for any artist, from any industry, to be able to leverage these incredibly creative and powerful tools. Offering aspiring creatives access to Weta Digital’s technology will be nothing short of game changing, and Unity is just the company to bring this vision to life.”

John Riccitiello, Unity’s president and CEO, said in a statement “We are thrilled to democratize these industry-leading tools and bring the genius of Sir Peter Jackson and Weta’s amazing engineering talent to life for artists everywhere.”

From their agreement, Unity will acquire Weta Digital for $1 billion in cash and $625 million in stock. Weta’s chief technology officer Joe Marks will join Unity as Weta Digital's CTO. Weta’s VFX and animation teams will continue to as a solo entity, known as WetaFX, which may become Unity’s largest customer in media and entertainment. With about 1,700 employees, the company will remain majority-owned by Jackson and led by CEO Prem Akkaraju. The deal should close before the end of 2021.