Lucasfilm is selling off its physical production unit, which handles everything that is not CGI work at ILM. Now, I understand business isn't as booming for practical effects these days as it was in the '80s, but goddamnit. To me this represents the magic of ILM, not the digital world. I grew up with these guys, my imagination was fed a steady diet of ILM's work. STAR WARS, INDIANA JONES, GHOSTBUSTERS (2), POLTERGEIST, WRATH OF KHAN, DARK CRYSTAL, LABYRINTH, GOONIES, COCOON, BACK TO THE FUTURE, NEVERENDING STORY and so many more...
I love CGI. Some masterful work has been done on screen, including ILM's work on JURASSIC PARK and more recently WAR OF THE WORLDS and A.I. There were moments in A.I. that had my jaw hanging open. However, when I think of the magic of cinema I think of those tried and true magic tricks... Models, make-up, glass, mirrors, forced perspective, manipulation of light... To me that's the magic of cinema.
The news isn't all bad. The unit is being sold to a man by the name of Mark Anderson, a model maker at ILM for more than 15 years. The new name is Kerner Optical and it will get priority whenever ILM needs to farm out physical effects.
I had a chance to visit ILM a couple years ago when they were trying to pimp the VAN HELSING DVD. I hated the movie, but I couldn't pass up an invitation to ILM, no matter how many crappy she-vampires and werewolves I'd have to watch. When I was there I saw 3 matte paintings. The first one took my breath away. It was of the big shield generator dish sticking above the trees of Endor from RETURN OF THE JEDI. I'd seen that image a hundred times as a kid and there it was, up in the lobby where I was getting my vistor's sticker. The second of three was up in the same lobby and was of NeverNever Land from Spielberg's HOOK. Not as breathtaking, but a work of art in its own right.
I saw the last matte painting in one of the hallways of the building. It was of a snowy tarmac. DIE HARD 2. I was told that was the lasty matte painting ILM ever did. That really made me sad. That was then almost 15 years old.
I guess the physical effects house still lives on in Kerner Optical, but it's now not part of ILM. To me Industrial Light and Magic is now simply Industrial Light. The Magic leaves with its physical effects department.