As ILM’s art team goes global, their artists talk to Barbara Robertson about Star Wars and more...
As ILM’s art department goes global, its artists talk about working on Star Wars and other major projects.
With only a little fanfare, but with great pride, the award-winning visual effects studio Industrial Light & Magic has expanded its San Francisco art department into a global team. The newly enlarged department now boasts 35 artists working in ILM’s San Francisco, Singapore, Vancouver and London studios – and both Vancouver and London have openings.
Twenty-six of the 35 artists sketch, model and paint at ILM San Francisco, while two stretch their skills in each of the Vancouver and Singapore studios, and five now work in ILM’s new London studio. “We were fortunate to have Kevin Jenkins and his crew decide to join us in London,” says ILM creative director David Nakabayashi. “Kevin’s background and industry connections immediately strengthened our position over there.”
Forty years ago the art department’s role was to support ILM’s visual effects work on Star Wars. So, too, today, with artists helping create the $2 billion box-office hit Star Wars: The Force Awakens. In 2015 they also contributed to two more blockbusters, Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
“We used to draw with pencils and markers, mess around with models and build miniature versions of principal designs,” says David, who recently celebrated his 20th year at ILM. “George [Lucas] always kept an art department near him to create the designs. In fact, a lot of the ideas in those early Star Wars came from ILM, not production design. That’s why ILM’s art department became so important to films after Star Wars. Directors came to ILM to help them visualise the movies.”
Today’s global art department has continued that tradition and pushed it
Christian Alzmann’s design of ‘rolling’ robot BB-8 for The Force Awakens. Ralph McQuarrie originally envisioned R2-D2 to be a rolling robot.