If you’re reading a site like io9 or Gizmodo, chances are Industrial Light and Magic has had an impact on your life. Created by George Lucas to help him make a little film called Star Wars, the company has been at the forefront of visual and special effects, working on basically every major sci-fi and fantasy film in the decades since. With a few notable exceptions (such as Lord of the Rings, which was Weta Workshop), ILM’s work has shaped our collective imaginations.
That legacy is the focus of an upcoming six-part documentary series coming to Disney+ called Light & Magic. Directed by legendary screenwriter and director Lawrence Kasdan, the series will be out July 27. At Star Wars Celebration, Kasdan as well as several of the people who took part in the documentary—Dennis Muren, Phil Tippett, Ron Howard, Joe Johnston, Rose Duignan, and Lynwen Brennan—took the stage to show the first clips from the project, and to talk about making films at ILM in the Star Wars universe.
What stood out about the panel to me personally was that it seems like this documentary is going to have something for everyone who loves movies in general, not just Star Wars. Like, for example, my favorite ship is the Millennium Falcon and I love scenes on Hoth. On the panel, Johnston talked about designing the most instantly recognizable ship the Star Wars universe. After doing a bunch of drawings, Johnston explained there was one he liked above the rest. “The trick is how to make sure George likes the same one,” he said. “So I finished [my design] a little bit more and outlined it with darker lines and things and I showed it to him and he liked it and I liked it, except the cockpit was sort of out front. He was like ‘I’m not sure if I like that’ so I said ‘What if we put it here on the side? And he said ‘Yeah that’s good.’” Of course, this is a story Johnston has told a million times, but that I was able to find something personal in even just this panel, let alone a six part-documentary, speaks to the scope of it.
That also happened when Tippett talked about designing the Tauntaun, a key character in Empire Strikes Back’s Hoth scenes. “George wanted to see some designs for this character the tauntaun,” Tipptett explained. (“It’s a snow lizard,” he was told.) “So I spent the day doing like a dozen sketches. [George came in and said] ‘He doesn’t do that, he doesn’t do that’ and George picked one up and said ‘Make him a bit like a cat’ and he said ‘Okay, a tauntuan.’ And that’s how it worked.” The best part of that story is that after Tippett told it on screen, archive footage rolled of it actually happening. And that’s when I was sold on the show. It’s going to be quite the trip down memory lane.
Light & Magic debuts on Disney+ July 27.
Correction: an earlier version of this post noted that Weta Workshop did the effects for Avatar… which it did, but it also had an assist from ILM. ILM really is everywhere! io9 regrets the error.
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