Light & Magic (2022–…): Season 1, Episode 4 - Episode #1.4 - full transcript

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

I remember the first time I got to Kerner,

and the first time I saw,
you know, the fact they had

really great junk food everywhere.

And I saw how really smart and creative

and talented everybody was at ILM.

It was all analog in those days.

You did everything with your hands.

I kind of looked at Kerner
as a kind of college campus

in a way, it was like
we were a bunch of freshmen,

and we were four years away
from graduating from anything.

Because we were all so young.

It was a great place to hang out
with a lot of like-minded people.

We all love movies
and we loved talking about movies.

There was a sense
of nerdiness to all of us

because it was ILM, not the NFL.

And that kind of mindset,

that kind of a fun house,
a playhouse for me,

I never wanted to leave that place.

Because they understood how to make magic

and how to have fun at the same time.

This is great.

George showed up in Mobile, Alabama.
Right in the middle of Close Encounters.

He had just finished Star Wars.

And he had a terrible time on Star Wars,
at least you did in your head,

I don't know how bad it was in real life.

George was all depressed, saying,
"This is terrible, look at these stills."

"Look how my movie's lit,
I'm really upset."

I look at these stills
and it was gorgeous lighting.

It was just incredible.
"God, George, you're depressed."

We had dinner at my house that night.

He said, "This is terrible
and it wasn't what I wanted."

And we were sitting on the rocks
that are in Close Encounters.

"I said, "Why don't we just trade a point?

"I'll give you a point
of Close Encounters,

"you give a point of Star Wars."

"And we'll see, we'll cover our bets,
you know?"

Who was to know, George, that we were
gonna throw so much money away?

Right. Well, I figured I had it made
because I felt, at that point,

my picture was such a turkey.

Star Wars was opening in May of 1977,
and George didn't want to be in LA,

so we went to Hawaii
and we spent a week together.

He said to me, "So what's the next movie
you're going to make?"

And I said, "I've been trying for,
like, years to get Cubby Broccoli"

"to hire me to do a James Bond film."

Do you expect me to talk?

No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die.

The second I said James Bond, he said,
"I got something better than James Bond."

And he pitched me the story
called Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I said, "I've got
a James Bond film for you."

"It's great. It's about an archaeologist."

"He finds ancient artifacts
that are religious or supernatural,"

"and kind of always in over his head."

He was going to be
a rogue adventurer that stops at nothing

fighting the Nazis to get his prize.

- I'm going after that truck.
- How?

I don't know. I'm making this up as I go.

Hyah! Hyah!

But it's basically
a Republic serial like Star Wars.

We want to have a cliffhanger every reel.


And then he said,
"Okay, well, if you do it,

"you've got to commit
to doing it three times,"

"because I want to make
a whole series of these films."

Trust me.

He said, "I'll do it."

It was just like that.

I said, "Okay, well, let's make a deal."

I said to myself, "Well, look,
if I'm going to go into business,"

"there's nobody I'd rather go
into business with, nobody I trust more."

I remember
that Steven said, "Here, read this."

"Tell me what you think and don't talk
to anybody about what the script's about."

I had not been
in the business a long time,

so it's not like I was used
to reading a lot of screenplays,

and I remember sitting there
leafing through this.

I hadn't seen anything like this
in a movie before,

and I kind of closed it up and I sat back

and all I kept thinking to myself was,
"How are we going to do this?"

It was so exciting.

Raiders was kind of like
a bridge between fantasy and real movie.

So Raiders was, you know, I mean,
it was taking place in the Nazi era,

but the opening of the ark and all that
was still kind of fantasy world,

you know, in a sense.

And so we had to make that work on screen.

You start to hear a rumble.
Almost like Old Faithful about to erupt.

And the rumble increases,
the hum increases.

And then,
the next phase of the effect occurs,

which is where a rather gaseous,
a bluish-green gaseous veil

spills from the ark and starts to crawl
down the steps.

It'll be between Steve
and the special effects

and me workin' out the final decision
about how it's gonna finally look.

We're dealing with a kind of
special effect with a new look.

Something a little more ethereal than
what we've been doing in the past.

And shooting the ghosts
in Raiders,

it's a real complicated issue
with that kind of a shot.

And when you're talking about
"What does a ghost look like?"

Steve Gawley came up
with a very clever idea.

Because we were using a cloud tank
to manufacture the clouds.

You use warm, clear water on the top
and salty water on the bottom that's cold.

And so those layers would stay separate.

And then you would inject
a mixed temperate with a little device,

and then you would just wait
for the cumulus clouds to develop.

So we have the tank available.
So Steve came up with the idea

of putting a rod on a ghost,
like a rod puppet,

and then he ran it in the water
and made it go back and forth.

And so the water made the silky tendrils,
like, flow really nicely

with silk and these tendrils,

and then it was shot high speed.
So it really slowed it down.

And then they could speed it up
and slow it down as they wanted to.

On Raiders, I was learning visual effects,
and I didn't even know...

I knew what a matte painting was,
but I didn't know how you did it.

So it was really exciting for me
to go up to San Francisco

and go to this sort of
nondescript industrial park.

And there was all this fun stuff going on,

and great creative people.

I went to ILM and I said,
"I want a face to melt."

"I want Toht's face to melt."

But I have no idea how to melt a face.

I leave it to the geniuses at ILM.

Steven had had it
story boarded several times.

And he wasn't happy
with how it was turning out.

He gave me three separate
sequences of storyboards.

He said, "You know, I like this idea,
and I like this idea from this one."

"Make one sequence out of it.

"And then just do whatever you want,"
which was great fun.


I'll tell you everything.

Yes, I know you will.

Toht, here's his head,
this is what's left.

Basically, this skull, we sculpted
the muscles and the different layers

of what would actually be in the face

out of this dental alginate, the thing,
the stuff that the dentist uses

to take molds of your teeth.
And using the heat lamp

and by putting heat on this alginate,
it naturally melts.

And by shooting at one frame a second,

it appears to melt,
but you don't see all the drops.

I mean, it was like
an unbelievable effect shot, you know.


The ILM portion of Raiders

made a lasting impression on me.

And I knew instantly I really wanted to
work with ILM for the rest of my career.

In the category of visual effects,
the winners are Richard Edlund,

Kit West, Bruce Nicholson, and
Joe Johnston for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

- Thank you.
- Thank you.

It was a nondescript place,
but it was full of exceptional people.

And we all got to know
each other quite well

because we often live up there
for four or five months.

You know, these people become your family.

We would go up there a lot, and we would
be at the 4th of July picnic.

We spent a lot of time together.

It really was
a family environment.

It was a great atmosphere.
I loved going to work.

I loved being there.

Working with the crew,
people side by side.

And they had parties that
were for crews and everything, all of us.

There was just something here
about the people and the spirit.

The mixture of art and technology.

And we were always pushing
to try to come up

with some other way
to make just amazing shots.

So that it would look fresher,
more realistic.

It's a rare thing to have a company like
this that's supported by a film director.

What I remember
more than anything was just being in awe

of the people who work there
and the conversations we would have.

And that incredible feeling
when all you've got is an idea

of something that you think could happen

and be exciting and thrilling
in whatever movie we were working on.

Stop! Stop!


E.T. was pretty much, you know,
that was my first time

working really close with Steven.

The show was, I always thought
it was a very pictorial show.

Steven wanted these beautiful
moments visually.

So I made sure that
when we were doing the bicycles,

if they had effects in them or whatever,

or the landing site of the ship
coming down

or anything that was an effect,
that it looked like it was shot

at the perfect time of day,
with everything amped up a little bit.

The colors are a little bright, you know,
the back light's a little too strong...

That it's just got this glow to it.

We didn't have a lot of money to spend,

and obviously we're spending
most of our money

figuring out how we're going to create
the character of E.T.

But the takeoff
and the landing of the bikes,

we were trying to figure out how to do
and we were out of money.

"And so I called Dennis
and I said, "All right,

"you know, we've got to figure this out,"

"'cause we can't add this
to the effects budget."

And he said, "Well, we should just do
really poor man's process kind of thing."

"You know, we'll just
tie ropes to the bikes,"

"and we'll just pull them
through the shot."

Well, we literally pulled
the bikes through the frame.

Dennis never
would just push something

as the shot or how to do the shot,

just because it could be done.

He always was in service to the story.

I just looked for a way to be able
to feel something back from the shot.

Does the shot have energy?

Is that the best view of the ship?

I mean, does it look majestic?


- And the category for Best Visual Effects.
- Best Visual Effects.

The winners are Carlo Rambaldi,

Dennis Muren,
and Kenneth F. Smith for E.T.

Thank you very much, Steven Spielberg,
for excellent direction.

Thanks, Steven.

After that time,
almost everything we did

was either with Dennis or Richard.

For me, Dennis is more a philosopher,
more of a dreamer.

He kind of sits back
and sees things and make suggestions,

whereas Richard is the doer.

He's on the set. He's there. He's framing.

He's saying, "Try this, run in."

So one's soft and one's sort of hard,
I would say.

Richard and Dennis are kids.

And it's just like hanging around
a gang of kids you love,

you want to grow old with,
you want to grow up with.

And Dennis, his nature is very E.T.-like.

And Richard's nature is very, very

They're here.

Richard loves scary movies,

and he loves creating scares.
He's so great at it.

He has a diabolical imagination

when it comes to putting things
on the screen that will scare you.

That was a great project,
and I was on the set every day.

Richard and I got along very well.

You know, each visual effects supervisor
is like a mini director,

and they have their team around them.

We didn't have time
to do any design work up front,

so we went into the movie

not knowing what we were going to shoot
next for visual effects.

There were a lot of visual effects that
were combined with the physical effects.

We made this esophagus and
it was all suspended with bungee cord,

and all flexible pieces
of rubber and all that stuff.

And Paul Huston made this device
with a keyboard like a piano,

and it caused the esophagus to undulate.

So, Spielberg said, "Oh, my God,
How is that happening?"

And so he says, "I want to see it.
I want to see how that's done."

And so he goes around behind,
he sees the keyboard and says,

"Oh, man, I want to play this thing,"
you know, so...

So it was a play date for Spielberg.

Numbers of play dates that he would come
to ILM to have fun, I think.

I was reading the script

and I'm coming along and all of a sudden,
"And the house implodes."

I'm thinking, hmm...
that's not explode.

Exploding is easy.

Imploding is something else.

I called Frank and I said, "Frank,
you know, this is a $250,000 sentence."

That was, I think,
the most difficult shot in the movie.

Spielberg was here one day,

there was about 12 of us
various departments sat around.

He would just go through page after page

and say, "This looks like
a matte painting to me."


And then he turned the page
and it was the imploding house.

And he said, "Lorne,
looks like that's a model."

"What do you want to do about imploding?"

And I'd been thinking about imploding,
and someone actually

came up to me and said,
"Well, why don't you just blow it up"

"and put the film backwards?"

And I said, "That isn't imploding."

You can't do that, it needs to implode.

So I said, "Well, we'll do it much
like a magician takes a wand",

"his magic wand, and shakes it
and a bouquet comes out."

We'll make the bouquet
go back into the wand.

He goes, "Okay, next page."

We had lots of different problems

because it took place
in your neighbor's house.

So everything you did had to look real.

And what is real?

We built a miniature of the house
about 42 inches wide,

with a garage, and inside the garage
is all the stuff you find in a garage.

It had little bicycles in the inside,
it had lawnmowers.

Rakes. There was furniture
inside the house.

A visual effects shot
is only as good as what's put into it.

You need to have the details,
so there's a lot of things that happen

by accident.

Dust, impact, splinters.

It's those accidents
that make it feel real.

We did all kinds of tests
of different materials

that you could pull apart.

It was built out of balsa wood
and then paper,

and I soaked them in bleach and water,

and I put lead weights on top
to weight it down 24 hours

so that the balsa wood lost its energy

and broke down the surface tension
so that they would snap like pasta does.

And so this model was built,
a couple months' work,

and we we're going to
basically pull it apart.

And we're using hundreds
of pieces of piano wire

attached to pieces of the model.

And we tip the house
and flip it on its back,

and it's all on this big structure.

Have the camera up on the top,
looking down at the front of this house.

And this whole mass of wires
were attached to a forklift.

The idea was the forklift
was going to take off,

and at a certain point,
it's going to just pull this thing over.

And I had a pair of shotguns, right?

Bond's... Good English guns, right?

The shotguns were to help it.

To help it down into the hole because it
all had to be pulled down into this hole

that was about this big.

And this is a one-trick baby.

I mean, to do this again
would have been another

50, 60 grand or something, at least.

Originally, ILM was just put together
for George Lucas' movies.

But then, in order to keep it together

while he was writing,
he opened it up to his friends.

So Steven Spielberg was able
to make movies here

and a few other of his friends.

But I think Star Trek was the first
non-friend that was allowed in the shop.

My first supervisory job was
on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

And that was all very exciting for me.

And it also was very different
in a lot of ways.

On that show, digital started
to creep in with Ed Catmull.

In the early days of
computer graphics at ILM,

the work that we were doing was not

obviously going to be a benefit to them
because initially we did not have

nearly enough compute power
to make images that were good enough.

But as we got closer, we began to produce
something that did have an impact.

Computer, request access
to Project Genesis summary.

What exactly is "Genesis"?

They had an effect

which required that they demonstrate
this ability to transform a planet

or to create life
where there wasn't anything.

But it was meant to be, in the movie,

a simulation, which meant it
didn't have to look completely real.

Just had to be a really
interesting-looking visual effect.

So at this point we could begin to
show off the various things that we had.

We started off with this planet,

and there's this wave of fire
was sweeping by.

These mountains grew up,
these fractal mountains,

and then the green and the foliage grows
and morphs as it created a life.

ILM was all excited about this. People
hadn't seen anything like it before.

There was something interesting
about creating an entire sequence

using computer imagery.

It certainly doesn't look real,

and it didn't need
to look real for the movie,

but it was a very different approach
to how things could be done,

and it makes you start to think
about what benefits can come

from doing something with that technology.

That was the beginning
of our doing work for other people.

We needed to keep people working
and not lose them,

because Jedi was right around the corner.

So we all worked together again
on Return of the Jedi.

Creature Shop production meeting,
take two.


On Star Wars there were 70 people

from ILM that got credited,
and on Jedi, it was 170.

I had deadlines for everybody,
but never for Phil Tippett,

because this guy was so on top of his work
and so focused that he never needed

to be pushed or prodded,
and he was a huge part of Jedi.

Running the Creature Shop, as well as
doing a lot of stop motion requirements.

There's this character
that plays the piano.

George had chosen Super Freak
as the temp track to rehearse to.

I have no rhythm at all, and can't dance.

But when I got into this thing
and started performing,

and my wife comes in
and goes like, "Who's that in the suit?"

And he said, "Phil's in the suit."
and she goes, "No, he can't do that."

It's amazing how it works.

You know, when you go into costume,
you put on, you know, a king's outfit,

you become a king.

And you put yourself, you know,
inside of a little blue guy

that's playing the piano
and you've actually become that,

you feel it.

On Jedi, three people emerged
as the problem solver on the stages

because we had three effects supervisors.

Richard Edlund,

Dennis Muren,

and Ken Ralston.

And each of them had their own style.

Ken was a machine.

You know, Ken got the space battle
because he could just churn out

element after element after element.

He's the guy that shot the shoe.

My tennis shoe is actually
in Return of the Jedi.

Along with some yogurt containers

and some wads of gum...

That represent fleets of ships
in the background in the distance

that you really can't tell
what's going on.

I don't think Richard Edlund ever

would have considered doing that
or Dennis, for that matter.

But Dennis was very much intuitive.

He's an intuitive artist.
And Richard's, you know,

going to pound out the numbers
and figure it out.

You know, I think that's
his military background.

And Ken is just, "Let's try it.
Yeah. Put a shoe up there."

The collaboration
and the teamwork was king here.

But it wasn't just
the three effects supervisors,

they would each listen to their crew
and get ideas and try things.

Every department had their own character.

There were not a lot of egos.

That was our family.

We just really enjoyed
each other's company.

The first time I laid eyes
on Dennis Muren,

he was screening a movie
that he had made called Equinox.


So that's how I got to know Dennis.

Phil was probably
five years younger than I am.

We used to get together and look
at the big movies that were being made,

and... most of the time I would
say, "I don't think they did that right."

"You know, those effects
do not look very good."

We'd sit around drinking beer
in my little apartment

in Venice, California,
talking about what we wanted to do.

In fact, when my wife, Jules,
proposed to me,

it was on Dennis' balcony in Glendale.

And then he and Jules and I
were up in the Bay Area

at the Berkeley Art Museum,
and this woman walks by and then Jules

and the woman turn and look at each other.

And it was a woman that Jules had gone
to art school with in England.

Her name was Zara Pinfold,

and she and Jules
had gone to college together.

She ended up marrying Dennis.
That's where they met.

So, our relationship
between Phil and Jules and Zara

and mine is very tight. Very tight.

Yeah, we're, you know, pretty... Family.

And we worked together
really well, you know.

For rancor,

I imagined it as a cross
between a bear and a potato,

and I just ran with that.

George accepted the first design
and, you know, just refined it.

You know, the designs themselves
were mostly artwork.

It was brilliant.

It might be good, just as a...

I had designed it
as a stop motion character,

but George said he wanted to do it as...
The way he characterized it

was "the best Godzilla suit ever."

And so we have the whole Creature Shop
for all the creatures in Jabba's palace

that we were doing,
and we built a rancor costume

for someone to fit in.

And it just didn't work.

So it was Dennis' idea to do it
as a high-speed puppet.

We went with just a real
smaller rod puppet.

Building little tiny skeletons
that you can move around.

And we made a whole miniature set
that it was in, all sorts of stuff

to make it look big
and like a professional movie

instead of a bunch of kids having fun.

The arms were controlled separately
from rods coming out of the elbows,

going down with guys down below,
moving those around.

To move the thing,

the performances, there's me,

I've got my hand up his ass
doing his head.

There's a guy, Tom St. Am and,
with the kind of pistol grips

that we had hidden, blacked out,
that would operate the hands.

Another guy under the table
that were doing the feet.

Some scenes we shot at 72 frames
a second, three times faster.

Camera would get up to speed,

- and we just go...
- Like that.


Who knows?

And so, uh, we would do a lot of takes.

All the time, we're saying,

"What can we do to make it
not look like a Muppet, right?"

Well, let's try it backwards.

Let's try it backwards at a slow speed

and see if when we run it forward
instead of backwards,

see what we get then. We tried that.
I think that's in the film.

All right, now, here's the shot
that has to be done with taste.

'Cause what we're gonna do on this cut
is as the jaws come down,

he's squealing like mad on the cut. Here.

- Crunch.
- Yeah, the squealing will stop, so...

As he starts chewing and then
what he does at the very end,

then he turns toward you, sees Luke,

And then starts to move forward.

On Return of the Jedi,
we were all working right there,

you know, in close proximity.

So I could go into the cutting room

if George wanted change a sequence
and he would explain to me,

"I'm going to throw out these shots,"

"but we need a shot to replace them
that does this."

It was George sort of guiding us
and steering us.

Rebels, we'd better
report to the base.

George was asking
to come up with ideas

for the sequence for the bike chase
so he would have something to cut to.

And you're looking at it like,
you know, he said three minutes long.

Here's what happens roughly,
but do whatever you want.

So he decided to shoot
an animatic for that.

But just do it really cheap
and with little dolls.

Okay. Are we ready?
Hey, Joe, can you pull cable on this?


It was an awful lot
of trial and error at ILM.

But for me, there's always
a lot of right ways to do it,

and there's a lot of wrong ways to do it.

Maybe, like we did in the other shot
where if I hit that bike,

it moves your hand and the camera.

And it's like,
"What's the best right way to do it?"

And, action.

It's instinctive, it's not logic.

As much as I've tried to figure it out,
it still really isn't logical.

Can you get closer together?

Effects work is really grueling,

and it's hard on everybody doing it
and it has to be so precise.

But there definitely is something
in the process that I really enjoyed.


We used this little animatic
as our guide for the final shots.

And I could go and look at each angle
and come up with different ways

that we could shoot the whole sequence.

And so it all became manageable.

- Got it? Do we have it?
- Yep.

Wanna do one more? Or do we have it?

You're right, we've got it. Onward!

I don't know what else we could do.

- Okay, terrific.
- Well, perfect. That's it. Next shot.

Jedi, for its time, it had 900 and some
visual effect shots.

It was the most complicated color visual
effects movie even conceived of.

But I think that as ILM evolved
and as The Empire Strikes Back

and Return of the Jedi came along,

it got harder and harder
to maintain that essence

of what ILM was at the very beginning
because we were trying to repeat it.

We were trying to create
something that was better.

And I had had enough.
Man, I was burned out.

Jedi was not fun.

Jedi was nose to the grindstone,
and we did it in record time.

Late in the game,
there was cut of the movie,

George wasn't thrilled
with some of the sequences in it.

And he re-cut and lost a lot of shots.

The problem I have with this
is that it's too static.

We were pretty frayed.

Beating ourselves up anyway,
just to get the movie done in time.

As our shots go into the toilet,
the depressing feeling

goes through you, then you get pissed off.

Like, after all that work
and these late nights...

People require recognition
for what they're giving.

After Jedi, Richard Edlund chose to leave
and start his own company, Boss Film.

It felt that ILM was becoming
a little too corporate.

And the gestalt in the company was
not as much fun as it as it used to be.

After Jedi,
we did a really big layoff.

That was really difficult.

Some people never came back.
Some people left earlier.

So that was a difficult time.

Light it up. Okay, lights up, Phil.

But we still had the infrastructure.

We still had George.

We still had Dennis and Ken and other
up-and-coming effects supervisors.

We all knew we'd be okay.

Good. Right here. Everybody, right here.

There was nobody else
I wanted to give my films to.

No one else I trusted as much as ILM.

We had a lot of work,
and we were making a lot of movies.

Indiana Jones. Goonies.

The Back to the Future films.

ILM was the place.

I mean, there was just
no discussion about it.

You know, that's where you want
to do your visual effects.

It was super charged with energy,
and it was like a mutual kind of,

"Yeah, let's do something that no one's
ever seen before" attitude.

In the early mid-'80s,
when I was there working on Cocoon,

the vibe at ILM was this sort of

intersection of a kind of
loosey goosey intellectualism

and real outlier thinking,
and enough angsty nerdy need

to sort of be a part
of something that created

a certain kind of energy,
you know, of innovation.

We had just finished
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,

and I made an appointment
to talk to George.

I said, "George, I'm done."

"I can't draw another storyboard.

"I don't want to see
another visual effect.

"You know, I'm gonna take some of this
money that I haven't been able to spend

"'cause we've been working back to back
and I'm going to just...

"I'm going to travel the world"

"and I'm going to see some stuff
and go places."

And he was silent for a bit.

He was thinking,
I could see he was thinking.

He was focused on something. He said,
"Wouldn't you rather go to film school?"

And I said, "George, I feel like I've been
in film school for the last ten years."

He said, "If you want to go to USC,
I'll pay your tuition",

"I'll keep you on half salary,"

"and I'll see to it that you can
take any classes you want."

I mean, how could you turn down
that kind of offer?

The film I made at USC got me the job
on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Now, I have a feeling that at some point,

George called Disney
and said, "This kid can do it."

No! Don't eat me!


It was just generosity.

I mean, how do you repay
somebody for that?

And I have been able to take that

and parlay it into a pretty great
career, in my opinion.

I feel very fortunate
when I look back at the things I've done.

And the fact that I know visual effects,

that's something that I can hand
to a really talented guy,

and I don't have
to worry about it anymore.

When I first heard about ILM,
these were my heroes.

You know, maybe someday I'll do work
kind of like these guys.

I grew up in Ann Arbor.

My dad was a nuclear engineering professor
at the University of Michigan.

Hello, I'm Glen Knoll,
chairman of the Department

of Nuclear Engineering
at the University of Michigan.

I grew up in a family of scientists,
engineers and medical professionals.

I was a science fiction nerd, but I also
like doing things with my hands.

I did woodworking,
clay animation, model making.

I taught myself basic digital and analog
electronics and things like that.

I grew up during the golden era
of space exploration

during the Gemini and Apollo programs.

And I still remember
being wide-eyed and breathless

watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon.

That was a big deal.

Here we are, human beings,
sending people to the moon.

What a fabulous age we live in.

What really cemented my commitment
to wanting to go into film

was a fortuitous business trip
that my dad had in May of 1978.

So about a year after Star Wars came out.

He had a Society
of Nuclear Medicine conference

that was being held
at Anaheim Convention Center,

and he brought my two brothers and I
along with him.

So there I was, next to Disneyland

in this hotel room in Anaheim,
and I picked up a phone book,

and just as a curiosity, I looked to see

if there was a listing for ILM,
and there was.

I had been doing a lot of model making as
a hobby at this point, and I called up

and I got Grant McCune on the phone
and I said, "My name is John Knoll."

"I'm interested in working
in the film industry." He said,

"Why don't you come on down
and we'll show you around?"

I didn't tell him I was,
what, 15 years old.

But the next morning,
my dad drove me from Anaheim

up to Van Nuys,
dropped me off at the ILM facility.

It was probably 9:00 in the morning.

So I spent a day, a whole day at ILM.

Lorne Peterson was my host.
So he toured me around.

Grant comes to me and he says,

"There's a boy in the front
that needs a tour."

I go up and I got him, and it was this
13-year-old kid, 14-year-old kid.

And so, you know, I ran him
through the model shop.

I ran him through the machine shop.
I ran him through the camera shop.

All the different parts and departments.

This really blew my mind.

You know, it is a very
different experience

to read about these things in a magazine
than it is to see them in person.

And when you see them in person,

"it's a lot easier to imagine.
You know, "I can do this.

"I can be one of these people."

In fact, I think I found my people.

So I had this mind-blowing experience
in '78,

and I still had two years of high school
left at that point.

But that immediately got me thinking,
all right, I'm gonna go to film school.

I got into USC, almost immediately
I did visual effects

and special effects on student films.

I was aware that George had gone there,

and that was partly what made me
interested in going there.

My final project at USC, I built a little
four-channel motion control system

out of a used Apple II computer
and an old milling machine controller

that you could talk to a serial port
and a bunch of stepper motors

and other mechanical gak
that I bought at C&H sales in Pasadena.

And I put all this stuff together
and I bolted it onto

one of the animation stands
and I shot a slit scan film.

It was all kind of under computer control.

About a year after I graduated, I got
a call from one of my instructors at SC

who said ILM had called,

"We're looking for motion control
camera assistants," wanted to know

has anybody graduated recently
who'd be a good candidate.

And he said, "So I recommended you."

I was sent to LA frequently
to look for the next generation of talent.

And one of my trips down was to USC,

where I was to interview
all these students,

to find any potential interns for us
at Industrial Light & Magic.

And so I show up and one kid
after another, "I want to be a director."

Ugh, "You're out of here."

So, John Knoll walks in
and starts talking about

the motion control camera and rig
that he has built in his apartment,

and he invites me
to his apartment to see it.

And he's just this adorable child,
but very serious.

And I said, "Well, I'm not
going to your apartment",

"but I do think that we should hire you."

So I moved up
to Northern California,

and I remember the first time
I set foot in the building,

I was just vibrating with excitement.

This was ILM.

This was where the magic was happening,
quite literally.

My whole life, I've had hobbies,
little things that I work on, on the side,

just to keep me creatively sane.

And I'd been reading about
computer graphics with great interest.

ILM did computer graphics, so it was
something I could go see in person.

I went over and got a tour
of the computer graphics department,

which had just started up,
and I was given a demo

of the Pixar Image Computer.

This is a picture system right here.
And this is a Pixar.

And they had scanned a piece of film
into the Pixar Image Computer,

and they sharpened it.

And I was a little shocked by that.

It wasn't that they had
sharpened a digital image,

that's not super impressive.
It was more what that implied.

Now you could take a piece of film

and you could turn it
into pixels on a computer.

And you could take those images,
and you can manipulate them.

And you could put that back out
onto a piece of film.

And this meant that there was literally

no limit to what you could do
in the middle.

And when I saw that,
I felt like I had seen the future.

I actually couldn't believe
that nobody else was just jumping up

and down about this, like, "No, no,
this is going to change the world."

I knew digital technology
was going to be ultimately

the most important thing in movies.

The old way of doing things
was going to be gone.

Well, let's take a look at reel 12 here.

Well, this first shot, so probably you'll

have to find the Ben Kenobi tractor beam
tone backwards.

Probably go in there.

When George first told me
about the fact

that he wanted to change the way
movies were made,

I didn't quite understand that.

Because I thought,
"Wow, we're making a movie

"and we just made a Star Wars movie
and it's a big success."

"I mean, what else do you want?"

I was naive, I think.

I first met George in 1975.

When the opportunity came to work
on the first Star Wars movie,

George and Gary Kurtz

were looking for some student
interested in sound to hire

to record sounds for the film.

They had one specific assignment
at that moment.

They wanted to develop the voice
for a character named Chewbacca.

And I went through the script
to see what part Chewbacca played,

and I realized as I'm reading the script,

that there were all sorts
of sounds in this movie.

Robots and Jawas
the Death Star, laser weapons.

And so I went back to them and said,

"Well, you've got a lot of things
in this movie that need sound."

"Do you want me to work on
all of this, too?"

And they said, "Yeah, yeah, you might as
well, go ahead, just work on everything."

Over the years, George gave me chances
to do different things.

I could work in sound.

I did some writing.
I worked as a second unit director.

I was a film editor.

And as I got more experience,
I began to see, you know, George is right.

We need a better way to do this.

You know, that whole transition
into digital was huge.

We started it really right
after Return of the Jedi,

and we spent over ten years and lots
of money to develop digital technology.

Nobody knew
what digital could do or couldn't do.

I think George is a dreamer,

and I think he dreams big
and he doesn't take no for an answer.

I remember he created the first computer
editing system, the EditDroid.

George invested right away

in this new editing device.
And as it developed

in house, I was kind of a test pilot.

I was very tired of going through bins

looking for three frames
that had been cut off.

Asking the assistant
to get me a piece of film.

It made it so you'd take forever to cut
a film, and I was too impatient for that.

So we started building
these digital editing systems.

I was there running tests
and it fascinated me.

Also, I needed a place
to cut my home movies.

I remember these rooms of machines
all lined up and he was going to do this

demonstration for linear editing
or nonlinear editing, whichever that is.

There was no equipment, so we had
to build a system around the equipment

but it was all digital.

Now we can access video randomly
because we had a disk instead of a tape.

And he pressed the button

and nothing worked
and they had a meltdown.

But he kept pushing and he kept doing it,
and he kept doing it.

He knew it was right.

And now we have Avid.

There's no faster way to edit
on the market today.

I remember visiting up north one time,
and Ben was showing me the EditDroid.

To me, it was like a seance.

It was like suddenly
he had this, had this table

with a screen and no film or anything,

and all of a sudden
the image would appear.

You know, it was sort of magical.

George knew this was gonna happen
and that technology would take us to that.

And it's what happened with CGI, too.

We'd reached the point
where we could do something

with computer graphics in the films.

Where we could do image compositing,

painting, touch-up, all on the computer.

Lucas film programmed its image-making
know-how into computer chips.

The result, a special purpose machine
called "Pixar." Ed Catmull.

The Pixar is itself a computer,
which is tuned for pictures,

so that it'll work at extreme
high rates on images.

Pixars with their technology
are for sale

through a new separate company
at $100,000.

We had built
this special purpose computer

called the Pixar Image Computer
that would handle film imagery,

for ILM and for the film making.

But the Pixar Image Computer,
it had a paint program

that was really cool,
wasn't really practical at the time,

but John Knoll and his brother saw it,

and they decide to write a paint program
running on a Macintosh.

My older brother, Thomas,

was a graduate student
at the University of Michigan.

His doctoral thesis that he was working on

was a vision algorithm,
sort of how computers can

recognize objects in a digital picture.

And my first thought was,
"That looks a lot like"

"what I just saw in the ILM
computer graphics department."

But the Pixar Image Computer
was this $120,000 piece of hardware

that no hobbyist
was ever going to get to play with.

But Thomas had written all the stuff
that ran on a Macintosh.

I remember haranguing him about,

"Hey, how hard would it be
to take the core of this,

"the main image processing tools

"and bundle those into an application,
a standalone application"

"that does that,
that loads and displays images?"

He went, "I don't know.
It's maybe a day or so."

And so, one weekend
he wrote a little application.

It was called Display, that just did that.

It would display a raw image,
and I thought, "Oh, this is really cool."

"What if we could do this?"

And I started egging him on
to add this and that feature to it.

I felt like, you know, there's something
here that I think could be commercial.

And his first reaction was,
"Oh, you're nuts.

"Do you have any idea how much work"

"writing a commercial application
really is?"

And, you know, happily, I did not.

And one thing led to another until

it turned into Photoshop.

I didn't know John from anybody else
when he started here, of course,

but he was always really curious
and we struck up a little relationship,

and over the years he got
more and more interested.

And was kind of pushing
the computer stuff that he was doing.

Well, he gave me a little early version
of Photoshop before it had a name.

So he was a bridge
and a really important one

between sort of the old school,
which he knew, and the idea

of what you could do with new tools
that had not been invented yet.

Change is always very difficult.

And in the beginning,
there was a little bit

of hostility between ILM
and the computer division.

Nobody would go over to the other campus.

And finally I got Dennis a computer
and he started learning about computers.

And then he went over and started talking

to the computer people
and working with them.

And so he was my inroad into ILM
from the computer division.

I felt we really had hit
limitations with traditional effects.

They were all kind of looking the same
in the mid-1980s.

We couldn't fiddle around
with a toolbox much more.

So I was always looking
for something else.

Computer graphics had been floating around
as an idea since the '70s and all,

and we kind of see it kind of looks fake.

So as we set up the graphics department,
I would stick my nose in there

every so often and and see if this was
actually gonna be something

that was gonna deliver, 'cause George
put a lot of money into this.

So this was the promise,
that we're going to be able

to do something with computer graphics.

But it was a lot of time,
software and building this and that,

and, you know,
occasional dog and pony shows,

and then two years later,
you couldn't see the difference.

Dennis is this completely
wide open person.

He listened. He liked new ideas.

But at that time, the computer division,

we were actually trying to make
these animated short films.

So, what we were doing was not relevant
to what they were doing in their minds.

In fact, I met with George
and I told George that ultimately

what we wanted to do was animated films.

Ed Catmull was hell-bent to make cartoons,
and so he hired John Lasseter to come in,

put him in a closet and they were
making these little cartoons

to prove that they could do it.

In the six years that I was at Lucas film,
every one of the projects

that were started, we got started on
the technological path they need to be on.

But it was clear that the goals
weren't entirely lined up.

And so the decision was made to sell us.

Once I felt I had all the tools I needed,
then I sold Pixar.

I knew they wanted to be
a cartoon company.

So I said, "Well, let's see if we can
find somebody who's crazy enough."

I ended up selling it to Steve Jobs.

Because I knew he would
actually follow through

and convert it over into a movie company.

They wanted to keep that name,
so I let them have it.

George sold that whole division
to Steve Jobs.

I was sorry to see them go,
but immediately ILM just rebuilt.

George brought in workhorses
to actually do what we needed to do,

which was support visual effects.

And, boy, did they.

So now ILM could make their own
computer graphics department.

And once we had control of the map,
is when I think we really

could then focus on making movie effects.

I talked to Dennis Muren.

And he said,
"We might be able to show you something."

I thought, one, total leap of faith.

Two, it was ludicrously ambitious.

But it will be so cool.


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