Back in the late 1990s, when I was in the advertising department at the Sentinel, I discovered the Star Wars Collectors Archive, and was just enthralled. For years, I tried to find stuff I could submit for inclusion, and within the last year, I did get two pieces accepted. (It’s a geek thing, for sure, but in some ways, it felt good – a lot like successfully pitching a story or article.)
Flash forward to last week, when I was at work poking through the U.S. Patent Office web site, looking for information for a story. I found what I was looking for, then remembered this section of ToysRGus, where some of the old Star Wars designs were uncovered, and thought I’d see if I could add anything to it, or find anything new. The result is a short article for FieldsEdge (here), and finally makes me feel like I’ve contributed something original, seeing as how Jim has absolutely been kicking my butt content-wise, with his write-ups and photos from Star Wars weekends.
And while I’m talking Star Wars (shock!), this news about George Lucas selling off the physical effects shop (the model-building side of things) of Industrial Light and Magic makes me a bit sad, only because that’s literally the place where a defining part of my childhood was shaped. At Celebration III last spring, I scheduled a five-minute interview with original ILM model maker Lorne Peterson that turned into a wonderful half-hour conversation. Since then, we had a follow-up chat that took up several hours of an autumn afternoon, and became the basis of an article that should be published later this year. He’s been with ILM since its inception, and I can’t imagine Lucasfilm jettisoning the department that basically served as the building blocks for the most influential special effects company of the age.
Regarding the comments on that article from animation magazine, though – the bit asserting that Peter Jackson’s Weta FX shop has somehow surpassed ILM because of its focus on story, I have to get defensive: First off, ILM has exactly zip to do with storytelling. If a special effect overshadows plot and character, as has been charged regarding the SW prequels, you can’t blame the creators of the effect. Secondly, I’d argue with the idea that Weta’s digital work has set a standard beyond ILM: I found King Kong’s scampering about as ridiculous as some people found Yoda’s hyperactive swordplay. In fact, I’d argue that it’s Weta’s model shop work, particularly in the LOTR trilogy, on things like the Black Gate and Cirith Ungol, that is the shop’s really strong point. (jumping off soapbox)
Anyway, at least the new ILM spinoff will be named after the nondescript "Kerner Optical" building which, for so many decades, was the closest thing most of us could compare to an honest-to-God wizard’s workshop.