Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Sith get Revenge... *Then* What?

The New York Times has come out with a very in depth-piece on the direction Lucasfilm will have to take after the Star Wars movies run their natural course. While none of it is too terribly shocking or unexpected, there are a few notes that, after reading, give me a lot of hope for future projects coming out of the company, far beyond the TV shows announced at Celebration 3.

Some snippets (though a complete read is recommended):

Over lunch at the dining hall at Big Rock, Lucasfilm's corporate campus next to Skywalker Ranch, Micheline Chau, the president and chief operating officer, said Mr. Lucas began thinking about overhauling the company in 2002, just after the release of "Attack of the Clones," the fifth "Star Wars" film made.

Back then, the company was criticized for several missteps, she said. Licensees were stung by lackluster merchandise sales after the release of "The Phantom Menace" in 1999 and were worried about more of the same with "Attack of the Clones." Poorly conceived "Star Wars" video games flooded the market, turning off fans. And I.L.M., the special-effects division, was facing increasing competition as filmmakers became more adept at creating their own effects.


This is kind of a nice way of putting how lukewarm things were at the time (no pun intended), especially omitting the fact that WETA was killing ILM in the war of visual effects... an area that ILM used to be the only name to turn to when you wanted innovation. It's said there's still some friendly animosity between camps, though that ambition to outdo each other has proven to be a factor in how things look in Episode III... not always for the better. (More on this in a future post.)

Improvements and growth have definitely occured since this low point, and now business is booming. The computer games have risen to huge heights (Knights of the Old Republic, anyone?), Marketing has found its stride again, and the company has found its focus, mostly thanks to Jim Ward, a man who I've bashed in the past but I cannot do anything but salute his efforts in the climb back to the top of peak performance. Another excerpt:

Under Mr. Ward, LucasArts has shown signs of renewed life, although it is facing brutal competition. It will distribute five or six video games a year, some made by outside developers. Last August, Mr. Ward streamlined the division, laying off 31 people. He demanded that game developers meet their proposed deadlines and develop better stories. And he is adamant about creating new intellectual property.

"It's not without challenges," he said. "We can't sit here and say we've got everything figured out."


Damn skippy. Jim Ward is speaking the opinion that I wish more people held at the Ranch: We may be the best in the business, but that doesn't mean we can slack off and continue to put out crap.

I encourage everyone to check out the article, if only to get to know the people that run Lucasfilm and aren't named George or Rick. It's a definite eye-opener to the rest of Lucasfilm's camp besides what you see in the BTS documentaries. These people are as passionate about their work as George is, and it's definitely starting to show.

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