Friday, November 02, 2012

Disney and Lucas

The headlines say that Disney bought Star Wars and go on to talk about the new Star Wars movies. There is a lot more to the announcement than that.

While Star Wars is the best know part of the Lucas empire, ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) is more important. This is the world's premier special effects facility. They have been involved in nearly every groundbreaking special effects achievement in the last 25 years has come from ILM. They did the first morphing (Willow) and the first computer-generated character (an animated stained glass window in Young Sherlock Holmes).

ILM was created as part of Star Wars. Lucas originally planned to send the movie out to a special effects facility and was amazed to find out that no such entity existed. So he founded one. At first he was paying people who were moonlighting from Disney. The word in the industry was, "Working for George Lucas is a lot of fun but you'll never get rich doing it."

At first they were just Lucas's in-house facility but they broke out in 1981 with Dragonslayer. They have been part of nearly every major franchise including Star Trek, Harry Potter, Back to the Future, the Mummy, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Avengers (and Iron Man). Some of the most memorable Best Picture Oscars depended on ILM, movies such as Forrest Gump and Titanic. Disney has a long relationship with ILM going back to Dragonslayer.

ILM also beat out Disney's Pixar for Best Animated Movie with Rango.

The purchase also includes Skywalked Sound which is a major recording facility for movies.

What about the Star Wars franchise? Consider this - the two best out of the series (The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) were written and directed by someone else.

Pixar, the Avengers, and the Muppets all continued without being "Disneyfied" so there is no reason to think that Disney will pressure Star Wars to change.

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