‘Light and Magic’ is an Essential Celebration for All Film Geeks

The new Disney+ docuseries may have you demanding buying and selling playing cards of all of the ILM hotshots.


By Brad Gullickson · Published on July 18th, 2022

Star Wars Explained is our ongoing sequence the place we delve into the newest Star Wars reveals, films, trailers, and information tales to divine the franchise’s future. This entry opinions the brand new six-part docuseries Light and Magic from director Lawrence Kasdan.

What the hell is that blue man on the piano factor referred to as? Phil Tippett doesn’t keep in mind, however we do (Max Rebo, child!). What the Return of the Jedi visible results supervisor does recall like crystal is the transformative expertise of sporting the Max Rebo go well with. He remembers how his body and limbs got here alive, how a rhythm rippled via him as he examined the costume, and how his spouse couldn’t consider that it was him inside Rebo when she walked into the Lucasfilm creature division. Tippett stays in awe of what a bit foam rubber and latex can do when manipulated by sure artists, and his awe is infectious.

Coursing all through Light and Magic, the brand new Disney+ documentary sequence celebrating Lucasfilm’s particular visible results division, Industrial Light and Magic, are interviews with legendary filmmakers peeling back the curtain on quite a few cinematic touchstones. As an insider and film maker himself, director Lawrence Kasdan achieves unfettered entry, and his interviews ship a number of beforehand unknown or shallowly excavated gems.

Told over the course of six episodes, the present begins with ILM’s purposeful-yet-serendipitous creation. George Lucas wanted a workforce to drag off the unimaginable with Star Wars, and that crew assembled via numerous types of likelihood and friendship. If John Dykstra had a distinct final title, he wouldn’t have been assigned a counselor from California State University’s industrial design division. That galaxy, far, distant, could by no means have occurred. Or, on the very least, it wouldn’t look the best way it does.

Light and Magic lays nearly as a lot success at John Dykstra’s toes because it does Lucas’. While Star Wars‘ creator was off in England struggling to deliver Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo to life on rickety phases, Dykstra was struggling equally to understand cosmic dogfights and Death Star trenches. The hot-tempered wildman is seen because the Mirror Universe model of the director who employed him (please forgive the Star Trek reference). Where Lucas is quiet and contemplative, Dykstra is loud and bombastic.

Creators like Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, and Richard Edlund rallied round Dykstra, and whereas their preliminary work got here collectively very slowly, they radically altered cinema. Such a feat could be onerous to argue earlier than watching the docuseries and nearly unfeasible afterward. Standing on the shoulders of Douglas Trumbull and 2001: A Space Odyssey, they without end enhanced cinematic spectacle. There was no going back.

In Light and Magic, Kasdan doesn’t keep away from the tensions that bubbled throughout ILM’s historical past. They get into the blow-up between Dykstra and Lucas; why the particular photographic results supervisor was not invited back for Empire Strikes Back. Both males are well mannered about it and essentially withhold the small print, however others who had been there are greater than prepared to spill the tea. The similar is true for different moments like Pixar’s creation and the incoming CGI onslaught.

Light and Magic‘s first half is utterly engrossing. However, the docuseries becomes addictively juicy once James Cameron comes calling with Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Steven Spielberg demands realistic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park. It almost feels cruel for Phil Tippett to relive the catastrophic transition from stop-motion dinos to computer-rendered beasties. He seems to have undergone tremendous healing and growth since that moment, but the pain still registers on his face. We feel for him, but we also appreciate how his misery resulted in one of the best lines in Jurassic Park, “Don’t you imply extinct?”

Similar to the case relating to the battle between Dykstra and Lucas, it’s the parents on the sidelines who present the emotional narrative for this crucial juncture. Co-visual results supervisor Mark Dippé acknowledges the harm his digital work did to Tippett’s soul, however evolution is evolution. The Homo sapien feels no sorrow for leaving Homo erectus within the mud, simply because the talkies don’t remorse surpassing the silents.

With Star Wars, George Lucas seemed backward narratively and ahead creatively. His authentic science fiction journey stemmed from his want to transplant 2001: A Space Odyssey‘s astonishing effects to the swashbuckling serials of his youth. Spaceships are cool when they’re quick, not once they’re twirling to classical music. Lucas’ want to witness a calamity within the cosmos demanded unimaginable technology, so he discovered the parents who might make the unimaginable attainable. ILM achieved wonders by making the longer term their mission, incessantly requiring them to ditch processes they mastered and adored.

Lawrence Kasdan earns his runtime. Light and Magic by no means drags. ILM has touched too many films and impacted tradition in too some ways to permit one boring episode within the bunch. When one episode ends, you are feeling a pang of disappointment, however the second a brand new one begins, you’re emitting, “Ooooooooooo.” Those who already love the creators inside will come away with their love additional solidified. Those who’ve by no means encountered a Phil Tippett or a John Dykstra will add them to their roster of favourite filmmakers.

Light and Magic is a doc about love that additionally fosters love. It evokes, sending inventive shivers via your system. As a younger Dennis Muren as soon as made monster films in his yard, you’re able to make monster films in your laptop computer. Or yard! Stop-motion could not be the dominant creature artform, however Phil Tippett would absolutely be upset if I didn’t spotlight his favourite self-discipline’s present renaissance in movies like his personal Mad God.

After finishing the sequence, I went to my very own journals and notes. I seemed over the varied concepts splayed throughout them and contemplated the justifications that prevented them from actualizing. The solely factor that separates me from these children who made Star Wars is perception: in self, in chance. Fear is the mind-killer. And Life and Magic ought to kill concern.

All six episodes of Light and Magic will premier on Disney+ on 7/27

Related Topics: Star Wars, Star Wars Explained

Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about films right here, he is rambling about comics because the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)

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