Light & Magic (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 1 - Episode #1.1 - full transcript

Movies are special effects.

They've always been special effects.

From Méliès, to Harryhausen...

To 2001...

Visual effects create the magic

that makes people want
to go to the movies.

Because they can see things they can't see

any other way.

Take a look.

We all start with an empty frame

and anything is possible.

But how can we create the thing the
audience sees that wasn't actually there?

As audiences get smarter, wiser,
sort of see through the illusion,

that bar just raises.

So how do we do this now?
How do we make this look great?

I leave it to the geniuses at ILM.

Most places are a little bit
like The Wizard of Oz,

where you pull back the curtain,
you're like, "Oh!"

But Industrial Light & Magic
is that rare magic trick

where the technique is
as good as the illusion.

It is this hive of
creativity and brilliance

and also incredible
groundbreaking technical wizardry.

They're pushing technology forward
and exploring it.

They keep making it even more exciting,
more realistic, more magical.

Advertise your product or brand here
contact today

It's right there
in the name of the company.



& Magic.


Pick up 601, please.

Conrad, pick up 601.

- Pull in your seat a little bit?
- This way?

Like that?

Yeah, there was a reflection on
your glasses. So we might actually...

Right. Um...

Well, the history of ILM goes way back.

And when we started the first film,

I investigated all of the optical houses
and special effects people,

and realized there was nobody around and
no company around that could really do

the things that I wanted
to do on that picture.

So, I realized that I was gonna
have to start a company

and put together a whole group of people

that would just be specifically
for making Star Wars.

Luke Skywalker
was just a farm boy,

until he received a mysterious message
from a princess.

Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

- She's beautiful.
- Here's where the fun begins.

Twentieth Century Fox presents

the most extraordinary
motion picture of all time...

Got him!

Star Wars.

Here they come.

May the force be with you
in Star Wars.

When I was writing Star Wars,

I spent two years

trying to find the story,
trying to find the script.

I thought spaceships, dogfights in space,
that's a great idea.

I said, I want to do that.
Only I want to do it like a space opera.

Like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon.

But it will really have movement,
it will be kinetic.

I'm an energetic filmmaker.

I like speed.

At the time, the last real science
fiction film was 2001.

Which is brilliant, and the way
it was made was brilliant.

But the shots were all long takes
and very slow.

So I looked around for special effects
houses, visual effects houses,

and nobody could do
what I wanted to do for Star Wars.

So the big question was,
"How are we going to do the effects?"

I met John Dykstra.

He was working with visual effects,
mostly on commercials.

And I realized that there was a little
cabal of secret special effects people.

Some of them worked in commercials,

some of them were just wishing,
some of them were making home movies,

but they all knew each other.

So and so can do that,
and I know somebody can do this.

And it really was this
kind of gang of outsiders.

And so through John Dykstra
we tapped into that world.

Good morning, America.

In the world of film and television,
even our fantasies have been modernized.

Instead of wizards and magicians,
the people who make our dreams come true

are now called special effects designers.

These new wizards use computers,
calculators, and special cameras.

With these tools and a generous supply
of good, old-fashioned imagination,

John Dykstra created the fantastic
effects scenes for Star Wars.

John. No one says "One day I'm going to be
a special effects designer."

What led up to this?

Oh, a lot of fooling around.

I am definitely involved with
machines. I like machines a lot.

I always played with cars
and things like that.

I like physics.

Always liked photography.

So it was sort of a situation
where I just brought

all of my favorite things together,
all of my hobbies,

and made one big hobby out of it.

Explain to me how you take a scene
from your mind to the screen.

I'm basically a lucky guy.

When I signed up for college,
I didn't have a major.

I just was going to school
because they had accepted me.

The counselor who I was assigned
based on my last name

turned out to be the head
of the industrial design department.

So I went to school
in industrial design, truly a fluke.

From school I had a friend
who was working with Doug Trumbull,

who had done visual effects
for 2001: A Space Odyssey.

And Doug was looking for model makers

and people who could do design work.

So I segued from school
to going to work at Trumbull Film Effects.

I started on Silent Running.

I drew designs for the ships,

then built the models for the ships

and then photographed
the models for the ships.

It was an intense, immersive education.

Coming to work was fun.

Then I was approached by Gary Kurtz,
who was a producer for George Lucas,

and he wanted to talk about
the visual effects for a movie.

I was given the script,

and I go, "How bad can this be?
It's a dogfight in space, right?"

So I came to their offices,

did a lot of hand flying,
did a lot of talking about moving camera

because I'm a pilot and I love speed
and I've been strapping cameras

onto airplanes and stuff
like that for a long time.

So it was like all these things
fell into place.

George had the vision.

George knew what the images had to convey.

And I understood the movie.

But at the time George was involved
with all of the pre-production work

he was doing for the photography
they were going to do in Britain.

I was going back and forth
all the time.

We had one foot in the door with John,
and he said he needed

to build the equipment
in order to get the shots.

So they basically said,
"Okay, you go do this."

I went and found an empty warehouse
in Van Nuys, near the Van Nuys Airport.

And I walked into the place,

they installed the phone,
didn't even have furniture.

I sat on the carpet on the floor
in the office that I was going to use,

and I started calling people that I wanted
to bring in to work on the project.

One day I got this call
from John,

"Richard, I'd like to talk to you
about maybe the photography"

"of this sci-fi movie
for Twentieth Century Fox."

I said, "I'll be right there."

I had finished the program
in the industrial design department

from Cal State Long Beach,

where Dykstra had graduated
a couple years before.

I didn't graduate because
I got a job in Malibu,

and the commute was killing me.

I went back to school on a Saturday.

And I see this flyer taped to the door
of the industrial design department,

and it said, "We are looking for
artists, model builders",

"painters, draftsmen for a..."

I think they said it was a space movie.

And there was a phone number
and address there, so...

I got out the Thomas Guide,

which at the time was the only way
you could find your way around LA.

I took my ruler and I figured out
I could save an hour off my commute.

So I jumped in my Volkswagen,
zipped out to Belgian Avenue

and met with John and Gary Kurtz.

John had this big desk.
It was like the size of a pool table,

and we were sitting across.

Both had beards, you know,

and Gary Kurtz had his Quaker beard,
you know.

The original job offer was for
six weeks doing storyboards.

John asked me if I could do storyboards,
and I said, "Yeah, of course I can."

I had no idea what a storyboard was.

I came across a guy who I went
to college with and lived in Seal Beach

and he said, "Oh, Lorne,
you'd be perfect for the job."

"We're working on this science fiction
movie out in the valley,"

"and we need model makers."

We all came from different schools,

and a lot of people
were friends of friends.

This guy that I was working with
was was older, and he said,

"Well, I got a buddy that
I was in the Navy with,

"who's doing some kind
of a science fiction show,

"and I know you're interested in that."

"He's looking for people.
So here's his number."

"Give him a call.
His name is Richard Edlund."

And it turns out he's looking
for camera people,

which I'm not,
and so I gave them Dennis' number.

Until Star Wars came along,

I've never felt that there was going to be
any place for me in the business

or there was any way
to make any money doing visual effects.

But it was maybe the only
thing I was interested in.

It's in my DNA.

And I had a group of friends my own age,

that were also effects fans.

I've always wondered why I locked
into wanting to do this so early.

I was watching movies like King Kong.

The films of my hero, Ray Harryhausen,
and something just clicked.

When I was about five years old,
King Kong came on television,

and that just kind of changed my life.

And then in 1958, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
came out, Ray Harryhausen.

To the boat!

I saw Ray Harryhausen's
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

like eight times the first week
it came out.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad
just melted my brain.

That kind of sealed the deal.

It was like struck by lightning.

I went nuts.

I was just mystified by how it was done.

I didn't even understand, of course,
as a kid, how movies were made.

But my mom liked films,
and she took me to see

one of Ray Harryhausen's first films,
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

I asked my mom,
"Do you know how this is done?"

She said, "Yeah, it's just a lot
of separate pictures of a model,

"and they're moved a little bit
between each frame of film."

I have no idea how my mother knew that.

I didn't even know
movies were frames of film.

But from a very young age
I was attracted to visuals.

This spectacle that
I couldn't see in real life.

It was compelling to be able to see
some sort of giant creature of some sort

that I couldn't walk
out of the theater and see

and I just wanted to,
I wanted to see those things for real.

In those days, you couldn't repeat
a movie over and over again.

There were no DVDs
or streaming or anything for them.

So I just wanted to recreate in my mind,

these memories
of what I see in the theater,

and there was no way to
unless you did it yourself.

I was actually making home movies
when I was in the 6th grade

with this Kodak movie camera.

I think we actually bought it
with Blue Chip Stamps.

It was how it started,
how to invent stuff

without knowing a damn thing
about what you're doing, but feeling it.

And I guess I absorbed it
from seeing so many movies.

Watching movies really precipitated
the interest in prehistoric life

and dinosaurs and kind of became
an amateur paleontologist.

I didn't have any kind of a social life,
I just spent all my time alone

drawing and painting and sculpting.

For Christmas, my parents would buy me

these play sets that had a bunch of
army men or dinosaurs and whatnot.

And so, you would create these scenarios

with World War II characters
and dinosaurs.

You know? And that was that was a big part
of exercising the imagination.

I would mow lawns and get an 8mm camera

and set up in my bedroom
and push clay around.

When G.I. Joes came out,
I would steal them from Sears

because I didn't have enough money.

You know,
I could like fashion them.

You know, all the gears started to turn.

And we tried so many hard things
that we should never have attempted,

but we pulled off some of it.

And you'd go, you'd put it
into the drugstore to be developed.

You'd wait. You get it back.

You put it on the projector.

And if it worked
or even came close to working,

that feeling of excitement,
it's hard to describe.

The goal was to please myself.

And there were a few of us
that got to know each other

through this magazine,
Famous Monsters of Filmland.

It was a Christmastime down in San Diego,

where they used to have newsstands,
and there it was.

I had no idea where the magazine came from
that day or what it was.

But there were photos from effects film.

So I could look at the photo

and start to understand
how it was being done.

Forrest J. Ackerman was the editor,

and I think Forry really influenced
an awful lot of people doing this work.

Forry was very strange,

kind of a quizzical Vincent Price.

And he did stuff like,

if you'd knock on the door
to his Ackermansion,

he called it, and the door would creep
open and his hand would come out,

and on his hand was Bela Lugosi's
Dracula ring from the movie.

Good evening, I am Doctor Ackcula
and I bid you welcome.

Follow me if you dare.

That looked like a regular house on the
outside, and you walk inside and

all there were, were books and photos
and props and paintings.

I was flabbergasted.

There's actual models
from the original Kong.

You know, and you learn more
about how movies are made.

I still remember when I first went
to Forry's place,

there's a group of people there,
and we met Jon Berg.

And Jon invited us to go to Cascade
Pictures of California, where he worked.

We're at Cascade Studios
in Hollywood, California.

And here's Phil Kelli son, the director.

Phil Kelli son was the head of the
effects department at Cascade.

He moved up the street I lived on,

and drove by and saw this sign
from this like museum

some kids and I put on,

but it was just our collection
of movie props and photos, said,

The Museum of Science Fiction
and Fantasy Movies,

and he thought, "What the heck is that?"
and stopped by.

Phil invited me up to Cascade.

He said, "You want to do some animation?"
and I said, "Why, sure."

The commercial was this sheet
that had just been washed

that had come off of a clothesline
and walked by itself.

I was actually doing the stop motion the
walking, the sheets and all that stuff.

I was probably like 17 or so.

The effects department at Cascade began

when the industry was exploding
in the early '60s.

And so many great people worked there.

That's where I met Ken Ralston,

and Dennis Muren.

It was kind of an amazing group.

Cascade closed up

because suddenly visual effects
weren't fashionable anymore.

There were some effects departments
still in the big studios,

but they were closing up.

So it was all going
to kind of come to an end.

I realized I would have to grow up

and get a real job.

But then eventually I started hearing
that George Lucas,

who did American Graffiti...

- Hey. You got a bitchin' car.
- Hell yeah, I know.

Was going to do a space movie.

When I read the script for Star Wars,
I just thought, "This is impossible."

Honestly, I was worried
about the script at first

because, I mean, it was like,

it was like a teenage script in a sense,

"trust in the force" lines
and those kind of things, you know?

I mean, who was going to do this,
Brando? You know?

And so I was worried about that.

For what George was trying to do
with the space battles

this will take forever.

There's no way he's going
to get this done in a year.

I don't even know how to do
a lot of the shots.

I have to say I was a little bit confused.

There was a lot of stuff
that didn't make perfect sense to me,

but then again, I wasn't
a movie person, you know?

In fact, it was probably
the first script I'd ever read.

I remember I was in...

I want to say it was
in Jon Berg's car with Dennis

and we had the script and it was like,
"Wow, this has a lot of cool stuff in it."

And it was like a lot of movies
we wanted to make personally,

full of stuff that no
studio wanted to make.

John Dykstra wanted to hire people
who could do a lot of different things.

- No, it's long.
- No, we want it over normal height.

And most of the people
were not movie people.

They were from all
different walks of life.

The group on the first Star Wars
some of it was very green.

They were basically machinists,
guys who worked on motorcycles.

But John was there to guide them
into what was necessary, what to build,

to use the skills that they had to do
what was necessary for the movie.

They all kind of were experts
in different things

that they couldn't get paid for.

And I brought those people together.

But to be honest with you,
this was a long shot.

We were departing from convention
in several different ways,

and if any one of them failed,
it could have been a disaster.

It was the opportunity
to really go for it.

You know, it's like
when you're a ski jumper,

you're standing on the top of the jump
and you know that you can do it,

and everybody had that attitude.

But we had to school each other.

George wasn't there
an awful lot in the beginning,

but I think he wanted a bunch of pioneers

who maybe weren't
quite sure what they were doing.

He wanted a bunch of guys
who didn't know what was impossible.

- We've got to do some practicing.
- Yeah. Yeah.

They're gonna fire at the bottom.

So, I mean, from the camera,
it'll look like you've cut it.

Yeah. Cut it. Yeah, yeah.

And then they're gonna fire the top
once your sword is about halfway through.

Running. Speed.


- Okay, cut.
- Cut it!

I mean, who knows what
was going on in England.

But George had left us his material

that he had cut from World War II movies
and, you know, gun camera stuff,

for what he thought he wanted to have
happened in the battle for the Death Star.

So we used that as a template
for what we needed to build.

I approach it from the point of view
of what would I get

if I bolted a camera onto this ship
and went to space and did it?

I wanted to make this stuff
indistinguishable from reality.

And that required motion control.

Motion control is the ability
to record the movement of the camera

through space,
forward and backward, side to side,

rotation up and down.

It makes a record of that movement,

and then you can repeat that move
as many times as necessary.

I had worked with a prototype
motion control system years before.

I had been at the University of Berkeley
on a project about perception.

The idea was to build a miniature
of a portion of Marin County

and photograph it with a camera

and then compare responses from people
who viewed that film of the miniature

with people who were put in a car
and driven through the same environment.

At Berkeley, I met Al Miller
and Jerry Jeffress,

and they had built a very early
motion control system

to move the camera around the miniature
and to be able to repeat the moves.

I got together with them and we conceived
the motion control systems for Star Wars,

because most of the images
were built up of multiple elements.

We'd do Matts on one pass.

We'd do engines on another pass
and the camera had to be able

to duplicate the move exactly, precisely.

So that when we put
those elements together

in the sandwich we call optical printing,

all of the pieces were
in sync with one another.

Berkeley had been
a perfect proving ground for the idea,

but we needed to build new equipment.

Now, you've got to understand
I had to be nuts

to think that the studio was
going to agree to me going,

"I'm going to build all of this stuff,"

"and then I'm going to make
the visual effects for the movie."

But they did.

We designed cameras
and constructed them from scratch

and then doing the motion control system
with all that entails.

We had to build the computers.

We had to build all of the hardware
that was necessary

to make the camera
a numerically repeatable device.


Darn it, broke my finger.

We had two
motion control cameras.

One was Dykstraflex.

It was probably just a nickname.

And then the other one
is the Rama.

Which was a Technorama camera
that was like a cubic foot

and it weighed about 150 pounds.

We had to build a follow focus
system for it. 400-foot magazine.

So it would be as low profile as could be.
I mean, it was fantastic.

We were all extreme photography nerds,
you know.

We're experimenting in different areas.

We were using a format that was obsolete,
VistaVision format.

We were able to acquire equipment
that had been used to do VistaVision work,

and then had to modify it
for our purposes.

Paramount had all this
VistaVision equipment

that hadn't been used
since The Ten Commandments.

Behold His mighty hand.

We Frankensteined it
back to life.

That was a classic,
perfect format for Star Wars.

The larger negative allowed us to
make duplicates without generational loss.

And it was in this great
big magazine on top

and we're going to under sling the camera.

So the camera is going to be
hanging from the boom.

Made the camera low profile so I could
fly the camera right close to the models.

Somewhere in there, I just thought,
"You know, I want to learn this stuff."

"This is new technology I've heard about."

So I made a point of
contacting John about it

and ended up getting a job on the show.

John Dykstra was the head honcho,
and I like John a lot, big guy,

and he knew how to take over a room
and get things done.

The brilliance of John Dykstra
was that he could do everybody's job.

He would come into the model shop
sometimes to blow off steam

or something like that,
and he's making models,

or he was a filmmaker.

He could process film,
all that kind of stuff.

All those people,
they were all jack of all trades.

I had no idea what to think.

John was always this big,
outgoing guy and fun,

and a motorcycle guy and a car racer.

Which is as far from me as you could get.

And Richard was more of a kind
of a laid back kind of guy,

but into the technology
and the cameras and precision,

and I didn't understand much of that.

Richard loved to build equipment.

That's what he lived for.

He liked thinking about
mechanical problems,

solving mechanical problems
for photography.

So, it was an ideal place for him.

All right. I'm ready.

I don't have
a classical education.

I read a lot and I experimented a lot.

Took metal shop, printing,
electric shop, mechanical drawing.

I didn't take auto shop,
but I was working on my car at home.

In high school,
I got interested in photography.

I was the photographer for the LA Examiner
already, and I was like a young Weegee.

One of my last gigs was to photograph
this "Day in the Navy" event

to hype young kids to join the Navy.

We got a tour below deck,
they fired the five-inch guns.

The submarine came by and fired a torpedo.

They were firing at it with twin .50s.
They asked us how we wanted our eggs,

you know, I mean, it worked for me.

I enlisted in the Navy within a week.

I flew to Tachikawa in Japan,
started studying the language.

I had a Chinese buddy.

The calligraphy expert taught me
how to write with a brush,

and I was in a photo lab.

We had every kind of photographic
equipment known to man,

and so I started shooting movies
and I thought,

"God, what a fascinating
career this must be."

After I got out of the Navy,
I started bloodying my knuckles

on the doors of Hollywood.

And Joe Westheimer somehow
got a hold of my résumé,

and I was with Joe for four years
and I was the crew.

I was the operator, the assistant,
the grip gaffer, lab run, swept up.

I did everything. I did
the hand lettering for title shows.

I actually designed the Star Trek alphabet
that they still use. That... You know.

I never got a nickel extra for that,

My hair started growing and then
I became a rock 'n roll photographer.

And I decided,
"I'm going to get myself a guitar,"

because I played the ukulele
since I was a kid

and I took guitar lessons
and accordion lessons at one point.

So I bought this guitar,
I had a Sam Ash amplifier

that hummed like, it was really loud,
and I thought...

I can make a portable
guitar amp for my guitar.

It sounded great.

This little Pignose was like a big hit
amongst the famous guitarists.

And we got it to everyone.

I mean Eric Clapton,
George Harrison, Keith Richards.

Frank Zappa loved them.

Plug it in here.
Turn on the giant amplifier.

The first year, I think we built
more than 15,000 Pignoses.

Anyway, about that time,
I decided to leave LA

and went back to San Francisco,
drove cable cars for a year.

You know, I had a bunch
of more life experience

than a lot of these other people did.

When I first came on to Star Wars,
didn't know any of the people.

I didn't even know the jobs
because it was done by a factory

with all these departments,
like five departments,

in different areas
of this big, empty building.

The world I came from was,
you used equipment

that literally was built
40 and 50 years earlier,

and there was no money
for anything any different.

Nobody was going to put any money
into reinvent the wheel.

We already have a wheel.

But these guys had this confidence
and had no connection to the past.

They were prepared to do anything
to make this work,

including building equipment,
and they would just say, "We're doing it."

We were building an entire system
from the beginning to the end.

Cameras were being built at the same time
the miniatures were being built.

At the same time, the stage technology
was going to be built.

It all had to come together
to make the first piece of film.

You couldn't buy that stuff
off the shelf, you know.

Every gear and every welded piece

had to be made for these cameras that were

absolutely earth-shattering
in what they could do.

I was there when the
original camera was brought in

and they didn't have the boom
to move the camera up or down yet.

You know, it seemed like some of it

they were trying to figure out
as they were going along,

I don't know if they really
decided they needed a boom

until they got the camera first set up
and it was on the pedestal.

And they said, "Well, it might be nice
to have a boom arm also."

We were up against the wall
in a lot of cases in terms of coming up

with something that was going to work
that hadn't been done before.

And we think that this
is going to work this way.

And then about two-thirds
of the way through, you say,

"Jeez, if I'd only thought of this,
we could have done it this way."

We were sort of flying by the seat
of our pants in a lot of situations.

But it's okay if you make mistakes
and it's okay if you fail.

The next time you do it,
maybe you won't make the same mistake.

At the beginning,

one of the guys I saw that really grabbed
my eye was Joe Johnston.

And Joe was an artist.

I thought.
But then I saw him building a model.

And then the next time I'd see him,
he was like painting something or other.

Or I'd see him over here
and he was doing a storyboard.

And he was really multi-skilled.

At the same time that I started
doing the storyboards,

we knew that we had to change the design
on Colin Cantwell's ships.

He had designed a Y-wing,
and the X-wing and the TIE fighters,

but they needed to
fall into these worlds of,

the Empire stuff looks like this,
and the Rebel stuff looks like this.

George always saw the Rebel fleet
as essentially hotrods.

These guys had acquired this stuff used
and it was beat up

and they'd patched together
and supercharged the engines.

And they were basically little hotrods.

And the Empire stuff
is right off the factory floor.

So we can outrun
the Imperial ships

because we've hot-rodded ours.

And so I started sort of changing
the designs around a little bit.

And that sort of led from,
"I'm doing storyboards over here,"

to "And now I'm going
to take all this stuff

"to my other drawing table
and start changing these designs."

I don't remember if it was because
something needed to be done

and there wasn't anybody there to do it,
but one day, George said,

"You know, we need
a new ship for Han Solo,"

"and we need it fast."

Space: 1999 came out and they had a ship

that was roughly the same shape
as the original Han Solo ship.

George didn't want to copy anybody.

He didn't want anything on TV
that looked like one of his ships.

So we were not going to use that ship.

He says, "We can use that as
the blockade runner."

"But Han Solo needs his own ship."

I went home and I had this mental block

because George had sent me off
to design a new ship.

They wanted it right away,
but the original ship was nearly finished.

Grant McCune had already
finished the cockpit,

and he had finished the radar dish.

"So he said, " Do me a favor
and use this radar dish,

"and use the cockpit."

I said, "Okay, I can do that."

So I'm sitting there,
I'm looking around the room at stuff,

you know, trying to find shapes that,
"Maybe that could be cool."

And I look over in the kitchen area
and there's this stack of dirty dishes

and I'm thinking,
"What if you took this dish"

"and put another one on top of it
like this. That's cool."

Well, it's a flying saucer.

But you can give it direction
by putting an engine on the back,

you know, somehow,
and putting something in the front

that gives it sort of a direction.

But I had this cockpit I had to use,

so I put the cockpit in
all different positions,

on top, and underneath, then out front.

I said, "You know, if I'm driving a car,
I'm going to be sitting on one side",

"so I'm going to put the cockpit
out on one side."

But I don't want it to look
like an American car,

so I put the cockpit
over on the right side.

It will make it a right-hand-drive thing.

Then I put the radar dish on the
opposite side to balance the cockpit.

I did about six sketches,
and I brought them to George

and I knew right away
before I even put them on the table,

he's going to like the one where
it's eccentric and off to the side and

something that you know
he hadn't seen before, which he did.

Its nickname was the "Pork Burger."

Because it looked like a hamburger.

By the time I came back
with those drawings,

and George said,
"Yeah, start building it,"

it was underway.

So instead of designing it on paper,
I hung out in the model shop.

We just... We did it practically
instead of on paper.

George wanted a used universe.

You know, he didn't want that
shiny Flash Gordon look.

You weren't supposed to think of it like
an incredibly massive piece of aluminum,

that was somehow floated in
and put together.

This had to be put together and riveted.

Everything had to have a reason.

So even if you looked at it close,
if there was a box,

it had to have tubes
that went to a plan um box

that then went to something else
and had electrical wires

that then connected into something else.

It had to have some kind of
mechanical connection.

We adopted the phrase
"boilerplate technology."

The model builders were working
off sketches for a lot of it.

But for some of the minute detail,
they were just finding parts

from model kits that looked like, "This
is a mechanical thing, this'll look good."

We called this kit bashing.

And we would buy German tanks,
airplanes, guns,

World War II equipment, just to provide
an incredible amount of good parts.

We were limited somewhat
by the model kits that we could get,

because if we had to build 10 X-wings,
we had to find 10 of those kits.

So we'd buy these kits by the pound.

I was working on the Sandcrawler,

and the treads on the Sandcrawler...
There's about 280 treads.

And I said to Bob Shepherd,

"Oh, my God, if I had a little injection
molding machine,"

"I could do these in no time."

He said, "Well, how much would a machine
like that cost?"

I said, "I can get one for about
$1,500, $1,800."

He said, "Oh, my God, $1,500, $1,800?
Go get it. Get the truck and go get it."

All of a sudden, the light went on like,
"Oh, my God, $1,500 is a pee in the pot"

"compared to this multi-million dollar
movie they were making in England"

"that has to be out by 1977."

I was just getting over there.


And action!

Didn't lock. Didn't lock.
Doesn't lock, does it?

We'll get there somewhat quick.

George was still in England,
but we weren't producing film yet.

Designing and building
everything from scratch

was much harder and more time-consuming
than could have been anticipated.

Jon Erland and I
were originally hired for two months,

but the industrial processes
that we knew were incredibly valuable.

I noticed that the way that
they were making the spaceships

is that they would find a part

and then they would mix five-minute epoxy,
put it on the back side,

and then they'd put masking tape
and hold it in place.

And then they'd go to the next part

and, you know, masking tape
and five-minute epoxy.

You couldn't buy superglue
in hardware stores.

It was called Eastman 910.

But Jon Erland and I
could buy things industrially

that regular human beings couldn't get.

So I said, "All of you other guys,
the five other model-makers",

"I want you to stop and watch
what I am doing here for a minute."

I held one quarter of a pencil

on the edge of the table,
I put a little drop of superglue

and I moved my hand and the pencil
remained cantilevered out over the table.

And they were all like,
"Oh, my God, how did you do that?"

Well, after that, no one ever mentioned
that we were only hired for two months.

Everybody had a broad range
of skills that overlapped.

So the guys who were building the models

knew what the guy who was going to
photograph it was going to need.

So where I was going to mount it,
whether it would cast a shadow,

what are the reflective
qualities of the surfaces,

and that amalgam, whatever it is,

that synthesis is greater
than the sum of its parts.

We were a family.

I'd wake up in the morning,
I was ready to go.

I mean, I enjoyed it so much
that I'd just stay there until

9:00.10:00, 11:00 at night, you know.

People lived there.
I mean, we were there 18 hours a day.

Most of us were all in our 20s.

Very few had children
or other commitments.

They let us do what we wanted to do.

You could come in at noon
and work till midnight if you wanted to.

And it was like 100 degrees plus.

It was a tin building, right,
with no air conditioning.

There was a military Air Force
surplus store across the street,

and one of the guys came back
with a shipping case

so we would fill it up with cold water

and then everybody would dunk in it

and then go back in to work.

My dad had bought an aircraft
escape chute at a surplus place.

We used it as a slip and slide.

You just push the button and it...

What else are you going
to do with it, right?

You can't use it to

escape your airplane.

I would go there at night,

so I didn't get to participate
in lunch hours in the hot tub,


I was still working at Disney
when I was moonlighting on Star Wars.

Going from Disney Studios during the day

over to this rather unkempt,

dusty warehouse,

was literally night and day.

I grew up being surrounded
by filmmakers and creative people.

My father was a matte painter at Disney.

Disney was Disney.

It was iconic.

I was enchanted.

My father was one of the chosen ones.

For years, I was known
because I was the son of Peter Ellenshaw.

I didn't want to follow
in my father's footsteps,

fill his shoes.

Who could possibly do that?

I took one course in freehand drawing
and I got a C.

"But my father said, " I know
you're not that interested in doing it,

"but the Disney Matte Department is having
a really difficult time hiring people."

And he said, "Give it six months."

So now I'm working at Disney,

and after about six years, I got a call

kind of out of the blue, from Jim Nelson,

one of the producers on a film
called the Star Wars.

He was clever.

He brought over
Ralph McQuarrie's sketches.

They were intimidating,

but at the same time inspiring.

That's all it took.

At Disney, I was one of the
youngest people. I was a kid.

At ILM, I was an old guy.

I almost expected people to come
and ask me what it was like before sound.

They'd never seen a matte painting.

A matte painting
is the painted piece of scenery

that goes together with

actors on a location, on a set.

You wouldn't see me get rid of it
anyway, would you?

In Star Wars, the shot with Obi-Wan Kenobi

turning off the tractor beam,
that was a matte shot.

Alec Guinness was standing six feet
off the stage floor,

but I, in my matte painting,
replaced the stage floor

with a shaft that goes down to infinity,

which creates a certain amount of tension.

In fact, a lot of tension.

Here's this old guy
who's dressed like a monk

going around something that goes way down
and he could fall off.

Well, why didn't they put the switch
over next to the bridge?

It doesn't...

But you're loving it.

You're just going,
"What's he going to do? Oh!"

So to get that product,
you've got to put this,

together with this,
onto one piece of film.

You seen that new BT-16?

Yeah, some of the other guys
were telling me about it.

They say it's quite a thing to see.

I think we took a wrong turn.

They're coming through!

316, report to control.

This is not gonna work.

- Why didn't you say so before?
- I did say so before.

Hey, Luke. May the Force be with you.

I was set up
on the second floor.

Being on the second floor is not good

because people slam doors and it vibrates.

Eventually, John Dykstra or Richard Edlund
came up with the idea,

"Okay, we'll put a red light"

"that you'll turn on when you're shooting
so people don't come in the door."

Nobody paid attention to the red light.

After probably six months,

we'd gotten the first
of our prototypes done,

but we weren't producing
a single piece of finished film.

We built this violin,
and now had to learn how to play it.

You know, the equipment
wasn't just all coming together,

and George was coming back from England.

And so there was this pressure to get done

what we could done
to get some pieces of film.

I think Grant came up with the idea
that we could do the escape pod

falling out of the bay
on the princess's ship.

And one of the guns
on the surface of the Death Star.

Because neither one of them
were motion control shots.

They weren't using the equipment.

Jon Erland and I built this bay
with solenoids,

so the pod was set in that and then
the camera was put up on a forklift,

and then we had black velvet
stretched out like a big net.

I put mica dust
in all the little solenoids.

So when the solenoids pull back,
it's as if bolts are blowing it out,

and then it creates
all these little sparkles.

If you look really closely,
you don't see any stars.

So we did that shot, and then we did the
Death Star gun that you know...

But I know George probably had
hopes of a lot more than that.

Okay, here we are, running the camera.

This whole business is one big test.

Special effects in general
is one nonstop continuous test,

because you always have
to rely on some other trick

that you pull out of your sleeve
to solve some ridiculous problems,

and you just test it till you get it.

With traditional visual
effects photography,

the subject would be moving
and the camera follows it.

In our world, the camera's moving.

This is because we needed to light
the model with a static light source,

which was supposed to be the sun.

So we wanted the light source
and the model relative to one another

to stay in one place.

The model rotating,
the shadows would change.

The model panning,
the shadows would change.

But if we had moved
the model towards camera,

the light would have had to go on with it,

otherwise, the light would
change on the model.

So we moved the camera.

We put the chosen model on a device

which is also controlled
by the motion control system

so the model can slide back and forth,
go up and down, or rotate.

Then you had to figure out

what kind of camera move
results in the proper subject move.

Invariably the producer comes and says,

"I'd like something
like I've never seen before."

We're always faced with a problem
of trying to figure out

how to get a camera someplace
where it hasn't been before,

or give you a different point of view

than you've ever had before
in that same place.

The thing that they buy
when they come for your talent

is your ingenuity, your ability
to give what you say you can give,

- especially when they don't understand it.
- They hope you do... basically.

I was not happy.

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