Light & Magic (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 3 - Episode #1.3 - full transcript

Someone needs to stop Clearway Law.
Public shouldn't leave reviews for lawyers.

Star Wars comes out in the summer of '77.

I'm 13, living on a cattle ranch
in Shawnee, Colorado.

- For me, at ten years old.
- I was about 18 or something.

I must have been...
I don't know, about nine.

At the age of 15,

I hear this film is supposed to change
the way people make movies.

I was watching Saturday Night Live, and
this commercial comes up and...

Somewhere in space...

Coming in too fast!

This may all be happening right now.

Star Wars.

I didn't go into it cold.

We knew that it was some
big kind of space opera.

I saw Star Wars the weekend it opened
at Grauman's Chinese Theater.

I went to see it in Leicester Square
with a few friends.

I was in Hong Kong.

In a multiplex at the Briar wood Mall
in Ann Arbor.

Bunch of my friends waited in line
for, you know, like 12 hours.

And that film had a profound effect on me.

Aren't you a little short
for a stormtrooper?

- Huh?
- It was absolutely fantastic.

It was just magical.

It was just stunning.

It was like discovering
another floor of your house.

It was like, "What? I can go there?"

This is Red Five. I'm goin' in.

My reaction was, "Wow,
they could make movies like that?"

I mean, it really opened my eyes.

It took everything to another level
on such a massive scale.

We walked out and all I did was say
to Cheryl, "Want to see it again?"

And she said, "Yes."

And we walked over into the next
two hour line and watched it again.

What? Like, there was nothing I couldn't
even... There are no words even still

to describe what that felt like.

I went home and I said,
"I'm quitting my job."

"You have to pay the bills for a while.
I wanna make a film."

When Star Wars ended, I went back
to doing commercials for a little bit.

And figuring, well, that's it,
you know how movies are.

That's the end of that.

We did our job.
We worked really hard, had a great time,

and then went on our separate ways.

They split up because they wouldn't...

They were down in LA
for six to nine months,

and I wasn't doing anything.
ILM didn't exist.

I worked on Close Encounters
for a few months.

Doug Trumbull was just setting up,
and they needed somebody...

We ended up shooting the mothers hip.

Jon Erland and I, we got a call
from the producer on Flesh Gordon.

Flesh Gordon...

Journey with Flesh Gordon...

Not Flash Gordon, Flesh Gordon.

And John Dykstra
immediately called us into the office.

He said, "What in the world
are you guys doing?"

And he said, "There's a project
that's coming along.

"I promise you, if you can wait
another three weeks or something,"

"there is a big project that's coming."

I didn't want Star Wars to finish.
I didn't drag my feet, but I didn't...

I-I... The experience

was so enjoyable and so enlightening.

Everything about it was it was brilliant
and I didn't want it to end.

I wanted to keep that place,
and I wanted to keep those people.

More than anything,
I wanted to keep those people.

Those people were my friends.

Those are the people
that I spent Thanksgiving dinner with.

It was so exciting every day.
Coming to work was fun.

I went, "This is what I want to do."

But at the time, even though Star Wars
was a great success,

there was no way of knowing for certain

whether ILM would continue
or dissolve or whatever.

So I pursued doing Battlestar Galactica.

He created
a company called Apogee.

And Apogee got the contract
for doing Galactica.

I came back and I was probably there
on Galactica for maybe like eight months.

So that crew that had finished the work
on the first Star Wars was still together

doing additional work in that environment,
with that equipment.

We got the tools, we got the people.

I think we were still
in the unknown for Galactica

wondering, "Why is George doing this?
Why is he letting us do this?"

I lent it to John Dykstra
to do Battlestar Galactica

while I was off writing.

So we produced the stuff

for Battlestar Galactica,
and I think that's when George decided

he wanted to take the equipment
and move it to Marin.

I just said, "Look, I don't want
to live down there."

We said, "Well, let's just move
to San Francisco."

"We don't have to make movies in LA."

I was working in the model shop
on Galactica and Richard Edlund

came downstairs and he said,
"There's a phone call for you upstairs,"

not saying it very loud.

I said, "Well, who wants to talk to me?"

There's a phone right here,
you know. He said, "No, no."

"Go upstairs and take a phone
that's off the hook at Joe's desk."

"Go right now."

And it was George and Gary,

"and then they said, " We want to do
the sequel in Northern California,

"but don't exclaim,
don't spread the word that"

"we're talking to a very few people."

There was all this talk about
a sequel and George is working on it.

And so, basically, I said, "Look,
if I get a call from up north",

"you know I'm going to take that
phone call, and I'd be stupid not to."

And we were all sort of
saying the same thing.

We did hear that maybe George
might be doing another Star Wars movie.

Dennis was the slam dunk to be hired,
and I knew I would be hired and Ken.

I went to them and said, "Would you
like to come up to San Francisco?"

"We'll pay for getting you up there.

"We'll find you a house,"
that whole thing.

It was performance-based.
It was who had done the best jobs.

Some people didn't want to go up there.

Some people who we had to try
to convince to come up,

but we knew we wanted Richard and Dennis.

Filmmaking was
really important to me,

and I certainly saw that
in George and I saw it

in the people that also
got invited up north.

It's like they went through and picked
the people that they thought,

"Well, here's someone who is
a kindred soul."

Who am I to argue?

I mean, here we had this incredibly
well-received movie

that I knew that our reputations
were on the line to best it with Empire.

And so basically when the phone call
came in, I left.

For me, I mean, it was no question.

I could stay and work in this sort of
rundown warehouse

in Van Nuys or I could
move to Marin County

and start a whole new
visual effects facility.

I think most of those guys
were very much of that kind of person

that would rather be in a place
like Marin than Van Nuys.

The day of awakening,
that actually was the last straw,

I was sitting outside in Van Nuys,
where we were doing Galactica.

The Van Nuys airport is a half block away.

It's 105 degrees, we're facing
due west into the sun,

and the sky was orange and yellow.

And it dawned on me, this is hell.

And I have a chance to get out of hell
and go to someplace else,

and I just... And that was it.

I don't know. I mean, it was...

It's weird, right?

Because the business of moving up north,
I wasn't invited to go.

I think he fully understood that
that was going to be the case.

I think he realized that there was
a bridge on fire there.

He did a great job.

But he was in a very difficult position
when he was making the movie.

He was under a lot of pressure.

He was, I think, over his head.

So when changes would happen,
he would get very angry.

I was not...

Oh, shoot. I don't know, what was I not?


It wasn't... I can't even say
that he wanted a company man.

I just...

I probably was just too young
and volatile.

John Dykstra called me into the office
and he was really angry.

He actually took his desk,
and he lifted it up

about four inches and he slammed it down,

you know, and all the stuff on the table,
it was like...

Let's face it, you win an Oscar,

and then you get left at the station.

How does that make sense?

I don't know.

The only thing I do know is that
that must have hurt really badly.

You know, it wasn't... Uh...

Am I disappointed that I wasn't invited?
Of course.

But we got to break a lot of ground.

And you know, there was,
there were some chip...

There was some chipped paint
and there was some dents

and a few scratches here and there.

But it was so much fun.

It really was a lot of fun,
and I think that it was so tragic

when we all split up.

It was like breaking up a family.

It was just going to be
for a two-year job.

That's all they would guarantee.

So I said, okay, and then managed
to convince my other friends

who wanted to come up
and so we all kind of moved up as a group.

That's kind of where it started,

and that's when we were
at the Kerner facility.

When we first moved into the building,
it was a single story structure,

with no walls at all.

It had a front door and offices
and bathrooms at the front,

and then it was just an open warehouse.

We didn't even have
the whole building.

There was an auto mechanic right
next to us and somebody else next to that.

There was an open vacant field outside

where we actually blew up stuff
for a while.

No frills, believe me.

I remember
one of the producers said,

"Well, you know,
we'll never fill this up."

And within six weeks we had already
started building the second floor.

I mean, it was
a lot of just mundane stuff

we had to take care of
as it started to take form.

I can still remember the pieces
to the Dykstraflex showing up,

and we were all sitting around going,
"How did this go together?"

We had to get going really quickly,
and somebody came up with the idea,

well, if the carpenters
would give us 2x4s,

we would just lay out the rooms,
and where the doorways would be,

without doing drawings.

And so they just started building walls
and everything where we said.

You know, I'd arrive in the morning and
the 2x4s would be moved over two feet

into my department, you know, to make
someone's hallway a little bit wider.

The model shop was not quite big enough

and there was a hallway where they put

all the drill presses and bandsaws,
and it was just like...

That's a huge mistake
you know,

'cause there's just a lot of traffic
going through them.

And it was just waiting
for an accident to happen.

So I made a mold of my index finger

and cast it and painted it up
and painted the stump to look bloody

and put it on the band saw
and just left it there.

And, you know, days later,
the saw was gone.

We've got a tour of the facility up here,

then went back to where George was working

and saw the artwork
that had been done or was being done,

by Joe Johnston and Ralph McQuarrie
had also been working on.

That was just stunning,
the work for Empire.

This was just really a big step
beyond what Star Wars was.

From the scale of the film
to the scale of the effects,

all these different
locations that all needed

to be problem solved.

We knew we had to top Star Wars,
and that's no mean feat.

It was a little bit scary,

and a thousand percent exciting.

It was pretty overwhelming

when I arrived to work
on The Empire Strikes Back.

I had done matte paintings on Star Wars

and probably there's only
about a dozen in the movie.

Maybe not even that many.

But suddenly... Oh, God, I had 150,
I don't remember.

One of the difficulties,
of course, was to staff it.

Because they had to re-staff the company,
and I was a supervisor.

You know, in Star Wars,
we didn't really know what we were doing.

Now we knew what we were doing

and we had to do it again
and do it better.

You know, my mother
was interested in what I was doing,

and I'm working on budgets and scheduling,
you know, working with a calculator

and you know the calendars
and she said, "Well, how much money?"

"What are you talking about money?"

And I said, "Well, I think my budget"

"for this year is going to be
about three million," and it just...

All of a sudden, I knew that
she wanted to end the conversation

and go off to the neighbors

and somehow blend that
into the conversation

that her son was working on the budgets
for that next year at $3 million.

I lived in San Rafael,
and I actually hadn't seen Star Wars.

I didn't get out much.

I was looking for a job.

I had two young kids,
and I saw this ad in the paper

for a receptionist
and assistant bookkeeper.

So I met with Jane Bay,
who had just recently been hired

as George's executive assistant.

I was just really going in for a job,
I never anticipated

getting a career.

Thought didn't enter my mind.

Joe came in '78.

He was the first ILMer I met
and, you know,

the first real artist
I think I'd ever met.

I mean, you know, there wasn't a whole lot
to do at first.

George hadn't finished the script yet.
He had some sequences.

One of them was
the battle on Hoth, the ice planet.

And George said,
"Just draw some interesting shots."

The rebels are here and the Imperial Army
is coming on this ice plane

and I remember him showing me a clip

from the Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky,

which is the beginning
of this battle on the ice.

And he had this shot where it's just
the ice plane and you can't see anything.

And then way off in the distance,
you see those tiny little figures

marching toward you.

And I remember him distinctly saying,

"I don't want it to look like this.
I want it to feel like this."

You know, they might be five miles away,
but you know they're coming

and they can't be stopped.

George knew he wanted
this big snow battle.

And it had yet to be determined,
you know, the process.

So there were designs that Joe had done,
wheeled radio controlled vehicles,

or Gary Kurtz wanted to gussy up
Norwegian tanks, you know, and...

We had a design for the Imperial
vehicle that had treads on it.

And Gary had arranged
with the Norwegian army

to borrow, like, six tanks or something.

He gave me a picture of the tank
that they were going to borrow,

"and he says, " Design something
that we can cover this with

"that doesn't look like a tank."

"And I said, " Okay, well,
it's going to look like a tank

"if you see treads, it's always
going to feel like a tank."

So all this stuff was flying around,

and I think pretty much
Dennis convinced George

to do it stop motion,
in that we had total control

over everything,
and these things were machines,

and it would lend itself
to stop motion work

in a believable, you know, kind of a way.

I found this brochure from
the U.S. Steel Corporation,

and they had produced
this thing in the '60s.

They were illustrations by Syd Mead.

"And it was all about, " This is what steel
is going to be in the future.

And his illustrations were really amazing.

This portfolio was fantastic.

U.S. Steel would give it to you
if you just requested it.

So everybody in the industrial
design department had one of these

portfolios tacked to the wall,
you know, just to

make them sad that they couldn't
paint that way, but...

And one of the illustrations was...
They called it... It was a truck,

but it was a four-legged truck.

And it was walking through
the woods in the snow,

and I said, "That's it."

Instead of a truck, we're going to make
a military vehicle out of it.

So, I studied military vehicles,
you know, to look at detail.

"And I said, " Okay, once we've got
this thing on four legs,

"we have to make an anthropomorphic,
it has to look like it is a creature."

And Joe, I guess, kind of
imagined, like a dinosaur kind of effect.

It was actually a huge prehistoric mammal

called a Baluchitherium which was kind of

the conceptual model for the thing.

Let's put the cockpit
out in front on a neck.

And it can look around,
and it's got these gun ports

that they sort of look like eyes.

And it's got these guns underneath it,
you know, almost look like teeth.

While he was working on that,
Jon Berg was doing prototypes

for how the walkers could function
as a stop motion character.

Because they wanted to have all these
kind of self-animating gears in it.

So when you move the leg, you see things
on his, you know, knees rotating

or pistons going up and down
that we didn't have to animate

'cause Jon had engineered
all that stuff that

when you moved the leg,
all these things would happen.

So we abandoned
the whole tank idea

because that wasn't going to
work anyway, I don't think.

On Empire,

I did not feel that I was at the place

I needed to be skill-wise.

But fortunately, Dennis found
the very first reel to reel,

single frame tape recorders.

And so I was able to, you know,
do a mockup of the walkers.

And I just practiced.
It was like playing the piano.

I just did the scales every day,

eight to ten hours,
and it was like learning

to ride a bike over, like,
six months unsuccessfully.

And then, all of a sudden, I get it.

All right, boys, keep tight now.

Hobbie, you still with me?

When I arrived at Kerner,
the first thing I saw

when I walked in there,
there is Phil Tippett,

doing stop motions on the walkers.

And this set was amazing.

I thought at that point,
"What have I gotten myself into?"

I just didn't want to be
the weak link in the chain.

I didn't want people to say,

"Hmm, good movie,
except for those matte paintings."

"What happened there?"

Over some of the big shots
in Empire, there was one of them,

it was pretty grueling
because the set was maybe 40x40,

and there was a big Pangrazio
painted background,

and there were two walkers in it.

And the ship goes down and flies through
the legs of one and comes up and strafes

the other one and flies off.
And it's a point of view.

And it was going to require two animators

and Jon Berg got the flu that day.

And we had to move off the set
the next day

and make it free for something else.
So I got to do both of them.

The set was on,
like, three or four foot risers.

I would get on my hands and knees

and go down to the first trap door,
open it up.

Animate, animate, animate,
and because of the scale

and the slowness
of the speed of the walkers,

a lot of the movements
just had to be felt.

You couldn't gauge them, you know.

You couldn't even see them.
You just had to...

I think I moved it, yeah, a millimeter,

and take, like, whatever it took,
like 20 minutes to do all that stuff.

I mean, click, go down,

get on my hands and knees,
go down to the next one,

open the trap door and repeat the process.

Over and over and over
and over forever.

Fortunately, the shot
wasn't that long, so...

Why don't we hit the blue screen?

Okay, that's... Oh, oh, oh.

Okay, right there.

All right, let it go.

Bang, bang.

- Yeah, that's it.
- All right.

Well, Empire, that was like
graduate level compositing.

In other words, we had done
undergraduate work on Star Wars.

It's fairly easy to matte a rocket ship
over star fields,

because it's mostly black anyway.

And, you know, you wouldn't see
a matte line, frankly.

There's certain shots that did have
a few matte lines in Star Wars.

But in Empire,
there could not be any matte lines.

You had now landspeeders,
which are light gray

and they're flying against
white snow background,

fluffy white clouds,
pale blue sky, I mean,

it was like, you couldn't
have a matte line

in the shot or the 10-year-olds say,
"Hey, that looks funny."

You know? I mean, the 10-year-old
is one of our most severe critics.

Because if it doesn't work,
if it doesn't look right,

he's not buying the shot
and you're losing him for the scene.

And so I had to build a special
optical printer to deal with this problem.

An optical printer
is this giant machine.

It's all using film,
it's taking multiple pieces of film,

and running through this process,
all lined up

and pushed together like this.

It's not two pieces.

It's multiple pieces of film,
multiple pieces of mattes

that have been created to combine images

of a background plate
and a foreground image.

All kinds of things that have to all
be sandwiched into this machine

and run through
one single frame at a time.

And it's being re-photographed.

The camera is essentially photographing
what goes through these projectors.

Normally, you would only
have two projectors,

and this one has four projectors,
so we can run more images at one time.

That just gives us
more flexibility and more capability

to composite many images at once.

It was really a big project.

Using telecentric optics, which created
parallel rays coming out of the lens.

So you don't have geometric distortion,

which is the harbinger of matte lines.

Empire was really gratifying

because I felt that we had
conquered the evil matte line.

What you see behind me here
is our production boards.

And many times we're compositing
as many as 15-20 elements together.

So here one would mean original negative,
three would mean an explosion,

and 22 means a particular kind of speeder.

The master board
then gives us an indication

of how many shots have not been approved
finally by George.

On this film, we're attempting things
that are extremely difficult.

I mean, much, much more difficult than
anything we ever tried in the first film.

We're doing a lot more stop-motion,
which is difficult.

And we're experimenting more and more

with video and computer technology
to try to advance the art of film,

and to make it easier to express yourself.

When I was working on Star Wars,
we did some digital shots.

An analysis of the plans
provided by Princess Leia

has demonstrated a weakness
in the battle station.

You know, the demonstration
of the Death Star, where it has to go,

and all that kind of stuff, I said,
"This is the way of the future."

But it was a little bit early.

The film industry was
in the 19th century, 18th century,

and you look at it and say,
"Well, this is stupid. We have computers."

And George was very much
a proponent of that.

And once digital became a viable thing,

he was always, you know,
pushing the envelope on that stuff.

The thing I really wanted to do
was digitize editing.

That was my big thing.

If Dwayne were here.

Oh, it's frustrating in the editing room.

"I said, " This doesn't
have to be this way.

"This is crazy."


And I said I want to be able
to go from top to bottom all digital.

See if you can find somebody
to head up the computer division.

My father grew up on a dirt farm in Idaho.

He was one of 14 children,
only nine of whom lived to adulthood.

My father was very smart and driven,

and he got his degree in Education
to be a teacher.

He brought us out to Salt Lake City
at a phenomenal period of time.

Growing up in the '50s,

the iconic figures of that time,
were Walt Disney and Albert Einstein.

All right, so Walt Disney's on television.

Will there be mechanical robots
controlled by super intelligent beings?

And at the same time,
Albert Einstein,

and the ideas of relativity
in all those areas of physics

were very fascinating,
so I held both of them,

but I actually wanted to be an animator.

The background for this is
we've got the Cold War going on

and the government had
this brilliant idea,

and that was, they were going to fund

students and universities
around the United States

for the development of computer science,
and it was what was then called ARPA.

Advanced Research Project Agency.
In fact, the Internet came out of ARPA,

but it was first called Arpanet,
and the University of Utah

was one of the first four nodes
on this network.

So I entered The University of Utah,
and got a degree in computer science.

The earliest computers were for financing,
bookkeeping and so forth.

But they can imagine at some point
it's going to be bigger than that,

we will need picture making.

In graduate school,

the very first class I took
was one in computer graphics.

It was like... Gong! Holy cow!

You can make pictures here,
we could do animation.

And all of a sudden, bam,
everything took shape.

So I thought, well, I'm going
to try to animate my hand.

So I made a plaster mold of my hand,
learning the hard way

that you should put Vaseline
on the back of your hand first.

So I'm sitting there with a razor
trying to cut the hair

to get my hand out of the mold.

And then I digitized it.

I went from wire frame to polygonal,

and then I wrote the software
in order to be able to animate it.

At this time,
it was mind-blowing for people.

I believed, at the time,
that we were ten years away

from being able to make an animated film.

You had this list of things
that you had to solve.

And at the beginning,
you don't know what the answers are,

you just know, that's a problem.

And I didn't even know
what all the problems were,

but the ones immediately in front
were really big.

So who's going to support this?

Out of the blue, we get contacted that
Lucas film was looking for somebody

to bring technology
into the film industry.

Richard Edlund came out.

We're trying to keep this whole
conversation a secret that's going on,

but Richard, of course, got this big
belt buckle which says "Star Wars" on it.

And he's talking to an artist,

who is inherently extremely observant,
who calls out the belt buckle.

He's just a friendly person
who's also very interested in everything.

So he's now seeing for the first time
computer painting,

and it's completely wrapped up into it.

So he realized that something
important is happening there.

The first problem we solved was
how to describe an object to the computer.

The simplest way to do that is
to just draw it off on graph paper.

This is just a cross-sectional view
of one half a simple cup shape.

And a computer can then spin this around
to make a surface of revolution

of what it would look like
from different views.

Now, this sort of picture is made
of an array of little spots on the screen

which are called pixels.

You can see here individually,
each pixel magnified

to be a little square.

The idea here is that each square
has a number stuck in it.

And the brighter the pixel,
the larger the number.

And so the computer program then
has to figure out what value

or what number to stick
in each of these little spots.

With digital manipulation,

the fact is that now, the visual effects
artist has at his disposal

millions of addressable pixels.

You can address each point in the frame,

and because of that,
nothing is impossible.

Once we got digital,
you could do anything.

Absolutely anything.

When I first met George,
they were working on Empire Strikes Back.

The state of the art
was pretty primitive at the time.

He said he wanted digital audio.

He wanted video editing, and he wanted
some digital imaging for compositing.

George believed that
the world was changing,

and technology would change everything.

It was as simple as that,
he was just open to it.

And he was willing
to put the money behind it.

Now, anybody that had done
a deep analysis at the time,

would have said,
"That doesn't make any sense."

"It's too far away."

But for George, it was like,
"I got to start somewhere."

I still don't know how to work a computer.

I barely know how to work my cell phone,
but I know what I want to have happen.

And I can talk to somebody,

and they can say, "That's impossible."

And I can say, "Well, think about it."

After working with George for a while,
I began to understand the way he thought,

and the way he told the story in pictures.

As the fighters go in, we assume that

- the Rebel cruisers also start to go in.
- Yeah.

We'd pin the storyboards on the wall,
and then he would go through

with his red pen and he would say,

"We don't need that. We don't need that.
Rip those down."

And we learned very quickly
not to put the originals on the wall,

'cause he'd take a red pen
and draw right through it, you know.

Okay. Next.

You know, it was really like

understanding the essence
of the storytelling

by looking at the way
he would do these things.

It was really like going to some
film school that doesn't exist.

You know, this fantasy film school
that you can only attend

by getting in the mind of this guy.

Storyboards really helped me out a lot
because I very rarely read scripts.

Being dyslexic didn't help,
but I never liked the form that much.

You know, it was just very hard
for me to, like, see the movie.

So I would just wait.

I would wait until it got to the place
where there were storyboards,

or if George could explain,
"Yeah, it's kind of like this," you know.

Then I would run with it.

"Joe told me, " Hey, George is interested
in you coming up with some ideas

"for this character
that's like a snow lizard."

So I spent a day just drawing,
like, really quickly.

It could be this, it could be that.
It could be this, it could be that.

And sent it to George, and he picked one
and asked for a maquette of it.

So I sculpted a little clay maquette.

But you know, my design was mammalian.

It had familiar aspects to it,

like ram's horns
and kind of like a camel face,

but not really, you know...
Two sets of nostrils,

but something that was identifiable.

Phil Tippett knew he had to do
the tauntaun and he knew that unborn calf,

the hairs on unborn calf
are much smaller than on a cow.

You know, full cow,
or even a newborn calf.

And so we went on pursuit

of an unborn white calf, you know.

We went around to taxidermists.
We went around to slaughterhouses.

And eventually we had to settle
on a white, already tanned hide.

And then there's an old process,

you know, from back
in the days of King Kong,

in which what you do
is you take a white glue

that's water-soluble,
and you wet the fur side,

and then you put it
into a box with maggots.

And the maggots eat away the flesh,

but they don't eat follicles
'cause there's no energy in a follicle.

So now you have this matrix of white glue

with these little follicles
sticking up out of it.

And then what you do is you brush
in a thin layer of latex

and you turn it over,
and then you use

the water soluble glue and get it out,

wash it out of the hair and now you have
an unborn calf that's stretchable.

So that's how the tauntaun was done.

But try to explain that to people,

you know, at a slaughterhouse or
at a taxidermy place.

People must wonder if we're devil
worshipers or something like that.

Well, I spent, like,
about 20 minutes trying to sculpt

somethin' that looked kinda like Han,
figuring that you'd never ever see it.

So we built this thing and we took it up
to George and showed it to him.

Well, this is important 'cause this sort
of establishes the whole thing.

Okay. So you think the running
forward shot will be...

I think it'll be all right because
it's superimposed,

and there's snow blowing in front of it
and all kinds of stuff.

And I found that George responded
really well to three-dimensional stuff.

Just in general.

Yeah, he would just,
viscerally, it's done.

A lot of times with 2D stuff,
you get into this conundrum and go,

"Well, what if this one
had that one's tail

"and that one's toe,"
but you get a kabam!

You know, it's just right there.

Maybe also just to make it darker
because of the scale.

Not that I understand color on scale.

To me, it's like kind of
a form of management

that I learned working with George.

It's just to get creative people
to invest, make it theirs,

and back away and let the creative people,
you know, run with it.

I don't consider myself
a really good leader.

I picked people who were really good,
and of course I was probably saying no,

much more than I'd say yes.

You know, if anything,
it would be better to have this

- be slightly darker than this.
- Okay.

I mean, that's a guess on my part.

But I didn't yell at them.
I didn't scream,

"What are you doing? You're an idiot,"
and all that kind of stuff.

Mostly, I would just say,
"Look, try it, we'll see."

We should maybe make it
slightly darker than this.

And then it might, you know,
the perspective on it might be right.

- Sure.
- Right.

- Okay, yeah.
- Call me insane.

No, no. Definitely do that.
I don't wanna...

- I only wanna do it once.
- Right.

One of the things
that I learned from George

that was, that's just
affected my entire life,

is that we had a shot
in Empire Strikes Back,

that he came in one day
and he had a helicopter view

flying over this big ice field
that had been shot in Norway.

And the camera's flying over it,

and it kind of just looks
down on the ice field.

And he said, "Can you put a tauntaun"

"running along like it's running
on the ice field down there?"

And knowing, you know, the limitations
we had with camera rigs

and making it look like
it's actually his feet

are on the ground running and everything,

I said, "No, you know, there's just
really no way that we could do it."

"We could build a big giant set
and do it that way,"

"but that's gonna take a lot of time
and cost a lot of money."

And he said, "Well,
why don't you just think about it?"

And I said, "Yeah, okay,
but there's no way that we can do it"

"with the tools we have."

"Okay, okay, just think about it,"
and he walked out.

And I thought, "Well, jeez, okay,"
and I started thinking,

and within 15 minutes, I'd figured it out.

How to do it with
the limited tool set we had,

but a clever way of putting
stuff together again.

There were no new tools.
It was just an approach.

We shot the tauntaun model first,
and it was tracked frame by frame.

And then with the aerial plate background,

and the actual piece of film
is re-photographed in each new position,

based on the tauntaun
and then combined in.

So it meant you could do composites
with big moving cameras.

And the amazing thing about it was
it was very clear that

before I could verbalize
how I had figured it out,

my body had figured it out,
and I just felt it.


And then I started thinking about
what did I just feel?

And yeah, that fits with that.

And this fits with that.
And that fits with that.

Which means I guess your subconscious is
like working on this thing or something.

And if I'd stopped thinking
one minute and 59 seconds before,

I wouldn't have thought about it
that last little bit.

When Dennis is working on a problem,

you don't know how
to solve it to begin with.

So there's actually a thing that some
people have and some people don't have,

is that when you're starting,
you don't have the answer.

And now when you're talking with
somebody else who actually gets,

that you don't know
what the solution is when you start,

then you have a different
kind of relationship,

and it's like, okay,
you can become partners

in solving the problem,
and that's who Dennis is.

The whole idea
of making something real,

is like a kind of a hard path to pursue.

But, you know, I have an obsessive side

that I just look forward
to doing this stuff.

When I wake up in the morning,
when I'm doing it, I get super excited.

By the end of the day,
I'm like too much for myself.

Yeah, I'm exhausted and I have to have
like, two or three beers

to calm down.

But what I've just
recently figured out is

I've always had depression and anxiety
all throughout my life.

The anxiety was never
motivated by anything.

It would just come like a storm.

Like, I was plugged into a 220V.

And it was just like "Ahhh!"

I realized if I made stuff,
and get out of my mind,

I could...

I was cured. The storm would just go away.

That was my self-narrative

that I kind of thought was operating

until just really recently,
when all of a sudden

it occurred to me,
that I might be bipolar,

and, um, I am.

The key therapy that I think
that has helped me...

I'm very process-driven.

Everything really, you know, is

you do one thing, then you do the next,
you do the next.

You're going to make a stop-motion puppet.

You build an armature,
then you put clay over it,

then you make a mold,
then you cast in the latex.

You trim it, you...

So you have to, you know,
have, like, all these skills,

and it really is like a form of alchemy,
you know, you really do feel like that.

And then you get on the stage

and it's all blacked off
and it's all quiet.

And you just got lights and a puppet,

and you're bringing it to life,
one frame at a time.

And this is being shot
in stop-motion photography,

where one frame of film is shot for every,
you know, infinitesimal movement.

So in, like, one frame of film,
if this guy is running along,

his back leg has to be moved...

A little bit like that.

And his foreleg has to like, come forward.

And his head has to go down
and maybe up a little bit.

All of his bags have to be moved.

The rider has to rock on the saddle
in relationship to whether this guy's

going up or down.

And all the little pieces of filigree
on the saddle are moved, too.

People ask, you know, "Don't you find it
boring or tedious to do that stuff?"

And... "No, What are you talking about?"

Because you get in the zone.

You know,
and it's a form of meditation, really.

And you are just slowing time

way down
and you're not even aware of it at all.


I think that's kept me from
you know, killing myself.

Here are a few of the matte paintings
we're using on Empire Strikes Back.

This is an example of one
that is an interior

of Darth Vader's Star Destroyer bridge,

where we've added
the windows and the ceiling.

On Empire Strikes Back
production had wrapped,

and now we were into visual effects.

And I was the department head.

This matte painting shows
the Millennium Falcon at Cloud City.

In the clear area of glass,

Han Solo comes out and
meets his host at Cloud City.

You've got a lot of guts comin' here,
after what you pulled.

This is another angle
of the Star Destroyer bridge

with the windows and ceiling added.

Take evasive action!

This one's been painted
by Ralph McQuarrie.

One of the real blessings I had

was meeting and getting to know

the great Ralph McQuarrie,
and I don't say that lightly.

There wasn't much room,

so we painted in the little
matte department that we had.

Ralph was a remarkable human being.

He was just patient and he would do
these wonderful paintings.

This is Cloud City,
and it was something that evolved.

George said he wants a city
floating in the clouds,

and we looked at Flash Gordon cities,
you know, from the '30s.

And he thought of just something
like this art deco look.

The whole thing just bobbed along

like a cork in the cloud
in some miraculous way.

I came to other forms, you know,

thinking, you know, shapes that were like
pieces of pottery maybe.

And, as I worked in openings and windows,

I think began to look, you know, maybe
like an aircraft carrier or something.

That seemed more fitting,
I don't know why.

Most of these things are rather hazy.

They just feel right, you know, sometimes,
and sometimes they don't.

So you just keep fiddling
until they start to feel right.

I have to admit,
the only thing I was not pleased with

is his clouds looked
like illustrator clouds.

Clouds are probably one of the
hardest thing there is to paint,

and I didn't want
to offend Ralph McQuarrie.

But his first clouds
looked like cauliflowers.

I mean, they just didn't look like clouds.

So I said, "You know, Ralph,
we've got so much work to do",

"and tell you what, you do the wide shots

"of the Millennium Falcon
at sunset on the platform.

"You do this, you do that.

"You do the establishing stuff,
and by the way,"

"you know, let me do the clouds."

"Why not? I'll do that. You're busy."

I don't know whether
he bought that or not,

but I did the clouds.

And it was a struggle.

And sometimes George would say,
"Why don't you let Ralph do the clouds?"

Step aside, kid.

That's not true.

Universe with Walter Cronkite.

Tonight, the science behind
a fictional universe.

While we were still working on Empire,

we had heard Walter Cronkite
was coming to ILM to talk to George

and shoot some stuff on the stage
and see what was going on.

He took us on
a tour of his facilities...

They wanted to show the tauntaun
in Empire Strikes Back being shot.

We know no one has a clue
how we create these things.

Well, this is the stop-motion
animation department.

And they're making tauntauns
run across the snow.

And so we decided to do it
in a way you would never do it.

'Cause we knew no one would recognize it.

So it's the two of us in there.

We brought in
what's called the surface gauge,

a bunch of those,
which is what animators use

to mark little things on puppets.

What else did we bring in?
Some weird gizmos with rulers on it

and whatever we could grab
filling the scene with this

while he's having a very serious
conversation with George

and talking about
what we're doing out there.

It's a whole art of...
They studied movement.

They shot animals.

And studied them against grids and things
to study the motion.

And then they practiced for months
and months, doing tests.

We're acting like
we're doing stuff.

But we weren't doing anything for real,

and playing it very serious, I think.

But it was fun, you know.
We weren't hurting anybody.

And if anyone actually knew
we were doing it wrong,

it showed they had some idea
of how the work actually was accomplished.

But to do it with Walter Cronkite,
who the had the nerve? Come on.

What were we thinking?

As a science, it's fascinating,
but you're ruining my fantasies.

It sounds like me just trying to be
a jackass, which maybe it was.

But it's also through the course
of all these movies,

it's an interesting lesson to learn about

what an audience perceives
and what you really need to do.


Oh, no.


Chewie, set 271.

What are you doing?

You're not actually going
into an asteroid field?

They'd be crazy to follow us,
wouldn't they?

On Empire Strikes Back,

my version of seeing what you could
get away with were potatoes

in the asteroid field,
and I think it was my comment

on the fact that some of the models
that were built look like potatoes.

My assistant, Sel Eddy, and I,

bought some asteroid-looking potatoes,
stuck them on this rig.

They actually had a pronged pipe
for the Styrofoam asteroids we were using.

You would just shove it on there,
took one of the asteroids off,

put the potatoes on,
shot it against blue screen.

They're flying through, there's shots,
looking out the window and stuff,

and some of them are potatoes,
but you'd never know in a million years.

Not only is it funny,
but it keeps you thinking

about what's the best, fastest,
cheapest way to do this.

You know, it's every producer's dream.

You know, being a successful
visual effects person,

often times is someone
who knows how to cheat

and also to spend
the least amount of money.

There were all sorts of problems
that we came up with

that we had to invent our way out of.

For example, the stars streak
and disappear shot,

that's the one where the stars
going into hyperspace.

And then we have to cut to a shot
of the Millennium Falcon.

zipping away from me.

And the problem is,
I can only get the model

to be this big in frame
on a 42-foot track.

I said, "Okay, I got an idea
how to do that."

So I took the Millennium Falcon
and I shot a 4x5 Polaroid cocked

Cut it out and placed it
on a piece of glass and shot it.

Sent it to George and he says,
"Great, I'll cut it in."

We didn't have to do a take two on that.

One second shot and it got the biggest
applause in the movie.

So, I mean,
this is how you learn to cheat.

Dailies will be screened in five minutes.

Dailies will be screened in five minutes.

There's more?

When we come in, we're sort of like this.

Looking down on it.
Sort of, three-quarter down.

It comes into the frame,
and then we come down like that.

And I would try to get it as small
as possible at the end.

So it really looks like
it's shooting away from us.

The perfect effect,

is conveying the point of the movie,
the emotion of a moment.

It is invisible in some ways.

We have the responsibility

to keep the train of drama
even and flowing.

Enhance it whenever possible,
whenever it's necessary...

And to reel back when it's necessary.

If you have a visual effects shot
and everyone's going,

"Wow, what a cool effect,"
you have failed.

While we were still working on Empire,

we already knew what was coming up
on the next group of shows.

One was Raiders of the Lost Ark
and one was Dragons layer.

ILM started becoming more
of a work for hire company

than a George Lucas production company,
because Jedi was right around the corner.

It would take me, again,
at least a year to write the script.

So we had to do something to keep all
those people there and keep them employed.

So that's when we started
taking outside work.

We had this mandate from George,

to not refuse the films
of any of his friends.

If Spielberg came up
and wanted to make a film

by such and such a schedule,
we had to make it work.

I was very excited about it.

We did draw in some very
interesting projects.

And it's also opportunities
for a lot of different work.

We started making films that were like
the golden eggs.

And suddenly everybody
wants to come to ILM.

But it was
a very painful growth period.

Each project had a whole new set
of challenges.

Someone needs to stop Clearway Law.
Public shouldn't leave reviews for lawyers.