Oct. 24, 2022

MAD GODS: A discussion of LIGHT & MAGIC

MAD GODS: A discussion of LIGHT & MAGIC

We have an emotional reaction to the ultimate BTS doc

Our jaws are off the floor. Our tears are dry We're finally ready to talk about LIGHT & MAGIC, the 6-part documentary series on Disney+ from Lawrence Kasdan that told the story of the George Lucas's INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC in unprecedented detail. In this episode Josh, Bracey, and Russ discuss what separates it from previous behind the scenes documentaries.

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[00:00:00] JOSH: Welcome to Trash Compactor. I'm Josh, and joining me today is Russ.

[00:00:06] RUSS: Hello.

[00:00:07] JOSH: And Bracey.

[00:00:09] BRACEY: That's me.

[00:00:12] JOSH: All right. Today we're gonna be having a long overdue conversation about Light & Magic, the Disney plus documentary series directed by Lawrence Kasdan, uh, the writer of many Star Wars films, and Raiders of the Lost a as well as the director of such classics as, the Big Chill and, body heat.

[00:00:32] And, , I thought he was a really interesting choice to tell this story. Light & Magic is of course about the famed special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic that was founded to do the special effects for Star Wars. And to this day is sort of the gold standard of, visual effects in movies and has created the most groundbreaking technical innovations.

[00:00:53] Bracey, what were your overall thoughts about Light & Magic after you watched it?

[00:00:58] BRACEY: uh, well, I was, I was really happy to watch the first episode with, uh, with my girls. And, um, after that I became extremely selfish and, and decided to watch it all myself because I like, they, they were taking too long. I to come to the table because I was just, I was just loving it. It, it, it reminded me of all the things that, uh, got me excited about filmmaking, got me excited about creating, creating, uh, with friends.

[00:01:27] It reminded me of, uh, of what I loved about just like, solving problems and that like the, like as much as there might be an established way to do something, that doesn't mean that it's the best way to do something. And, um, and I just saw a lot of threads being tied to my life, uh, uh, in a way that I had kind of forgotten.

[00:01:50] And it just felt, it felt great. It felt like, uh, uh, visiting old friends that I didn't even know I had , Um, uh, uh, and, and also just amazing to see what, what was happening behind the scenes. Uh, getting a clearer understanding of. Of, of just how everything grew to become what we know today as, uh, Industrial Light & Magic

[00:02:14] JOSH: No, totally. Um, what was the name of one of the episodes? I think it was like the third or fourth one. It was like, I found my people or something like that.

[00:02:21] BRACEY: Oh, yeah.

[00:02:22] JOSH: Um,

[00:02:22] BRACEY: was good. It fell.

[00:02:24] JOSH: Russ, what were your overall thoughts after watching Light & Magic?

[00:02:27] RUSS: I feel like it was the behind the scenes that always wanted to see, um, you know, kind of from, from the mouths of, of the people that were, that were involved. And I think, I think one of my, my key takeaways and like I, I kinda look at the first episode for me as like, I mean, probably my favorites, it's the most Star Wars centric and kind of kind of part two, uh, kind of finishes that arc.

[00:02:50] Um, but it just, the idea that a lot of these people. Were skilled craftsmen that weren't necessarily movie people and kind of brought into the mix. And you kind of have this kind of jack of all trades and, um, there's a camaraderie and, and this kind of like fellowship of, of creators there. And it just felt like a space I think the three of us have shared, you know, at, at times.

[00:03:14] And I just, it felt like, kind of like watching, like, you know, being home in a way and like that creative home space. And, uh, it just, it sucked me and it was everything I I'd ever wanted to see because it's everything that I love also about movie making. Cause a lot of it's that tactility that, that creation that like, let's just try it.

[00:03:32] I think, um, it was John Dykstra who has one line in that first episode and he is like, you know, it's one nonstop continuous test. And I was like, that is, that is special effects. That's movie making. It's just, yeah, it just happens to be the shot we got. The next one will be better, different, who knows? But, you know, it's all an experiment and that's, that's kind of exciting.

[00:03:50] And that's, that's what I, I really got out of that, uh, this series. Starting with that first episode.

[00:03:55] JOSH: totally. I mean, everything you guys said, but you just reminded me of something, , Dennis Murran said in, , I guess like somewhere midway toward the second half of the series where he had this kind of revelation or realization about the advantage CG had over, practical effects. There's not the advantage, but just like the mindset, but like the idea that you can keep refining it. Like the shot never goes anywhere, you keep like tweaking it you know, and improving it and improving it and improving it. whereas like, in the old days, you try to shot and you got it developed and you watched it and it wasn't exactly what you wanted.

[00:04:33] So then, you do another take and you adjust the movements and you do this and that, and then it's that sort of like trial and error experimentation. And that was something that I had never really, you know, conceived of. But anyway, yeah, this show really floored me. Like I had an unexpectedly, quite emotional reaction, I think for all the reasons you guys are saying. , you know, Bracey, when you're like, I felt like I was like seeing friends , I didn't know that I had.

[00:04:56] And Russ, you saying that you felt that sort of home of that sort of creative space? I mean, Yeah, like, like even though we've never met these people, I feel like I understand when they're talking about the process that they're going through that process of discovery, experimentation, problem solving and fun and creativity and just like joy about what it is that they're doing.

[00:05:22] Like, I feel like that's something that we, certainly the three of us, that's something, you know, I know what they're talking about, even if I don't share the specific experience that they're talking about.

[00:05:33] BRACEY: Also all while losing your mind, like, like, you know, like while, while I just completely going ape shit

[00:05:40] RUSS: Sleep deprived

[00:05:42] BRACEY: sleep deprived,

[00:05:43] JOSH: Under pressure. Like nothing matters. I don't know, is it day outside night? I don't know. Is it am or pm? I don't know. Um, no, no, totally. And then, um, yeah, the other thing like, just to narrow it, through a Star Wars lens for a second, Like, you know, you think you've read all the stuff and seen all the stuff that there is.

[00:06:01] but there was something about hearing these stories from the mouths of the people who were actually there. And not only just hearing it from the horse's mouth, so to speak, but then like the. footage that I would, I, I, I bet money that, um, some of these film reels hadn't been cracked open since 1977, like the Lucasfilm Archives of like ILM footage from the making of the original Star Wars.

[00:06:32] So, the combination of , hearing it from the people who did it seeing these visuals that I didn't know existed weaving it all together as like one narrative.

[00:06:40] Like I'd never really, I don't know, like I was unprepared for how overwhelming that, would feel.

[00:06:47] BRACEY: Yeah. And it was as overwhelming as it might have felt for you. I can only imagine what it felt like for the people who were a part of that crew getting to see, like, I I, I teared up finding some old footage of like us shooting a music video in college. Like, so, like seeing all of us, uh, and like, and like, you know, uh, uh, some kind of Polaroids and stuff like that.

[00:07:12] I, I was like, oh man, all, all, all hit in the fields. Uh, uh, but, uh, these people, uh, uh, the wave, uh, that they rode after creating something like that, being a part of something like that, seeing how something like that is like changed the way the world sees the universe to some extent. Um, uh, and, and, and like being like, you know, come into terms with being a part of that and then it going away.

[00:07:40] And not for some of them, many of them not being a part of the ride, like, or, or. Like getting to see that from, from my perspective was, was fascinating. Heart wrenching to be like, Oh man, uh uh, that guy is responsible for this, this, and this. And he didn't even get to go on the rest of the ride. Like they dropped him at Star Wars.

[00:07:59] That's awful. You know, like, uh, that, but for them, I mean, the emotions must have, must have been palpable and Yeah, like, like you were saying Josh, like some of those things no one saw, like, not some of those things. I bet you most of those people didn't even know that that footage of them even existed. So, So seeing that part of themselves like 30, 40, 40 some odd years, year later, like, that's, that's powerful.

[00:08:26] That's awesome.

[00:08:29] RUSS: So it's a surprise when you find someone had a camera rolling, you know, . You're like, Oh, alright

[00:08:35] JOSH: Um, I'm wondering if there was any particular story or any particular anecdote or a bit of information that surprised you the most, that you know, maybe you didn't know about.

[00:08:48] BRACEY: I was kind of alluding, uh, uh, I can't remember his, uh, his name, but he was in charge of the

[00:08:54] JOSH: John Dykstra.

[00:08:56] BRACEY: Uh, uh, so I didn't know about John Dykstra. Um, uh, I didn't know what had happened after, I didn't know that he and George had been go at odds. Um, except for, I, I mean, I had known, uh, I had known that there was friction, um, uh, when Lucas came back from the shoot.

[00:09:16] But I didn't know that it had like , it almost come to blows to some extent. And, um, and I, and I also didn't hear like as they were moving forward that Dykstra was like, Hey, you're out. Like, and we're, and we're not even gonna tell you that you're out. You're just, you're just.

[00:09:35] JOSH: Well, so what's also kind of interesting about that specifically was that, so, uh, to back up for a sec, there was, coincidentally or not, I tend to think not, um, because there, there are too many coincidences. But shortly after Light & Magic was released, I think at the end of June, in July, um, the Vice Channel, they also put out a six part documentary about the making of Star Wars.

[00:10:03] That was sort of like, for me, it was like hard not to see it as like intentional counter programming, um, to, uh, the Disney Plus Light & Magic series. Um, uh, because it's notable for including the first on camera, uh, video interview with Marsha Lucas since I think maybe like ever, like I know that like, but since their divorce and like since, um, you know, 1983, she, um, has been sort of quiet and, and, and, and pretty absent.

[00:10:40] She doesn't, until recently hasn't really spoken much about Star Wars at all. And what's interesting is that like, like I have some, some issues, uh, with how the Vice Series, like, it's very clearly that they had a specific narrative that they were like, like, you know, they were essentially saying like, you know, George Lucas isn't the, the, uh, uh, the genius that his reputation would suggest and like, you know, hear all the reasons, uh, uh, you know, why sort of essentially.

[00:11:11] Um, uh, but one thing that was interesting was that they interviewed a lot of the same people. And in the Vice documentary, John Dyrus says that he, um, he, it's true he wasn't in, um, um, he wasn't invited up to, uh, to San Francisco. Um, uh, but that the reason was he had started his own company and had had taken another job, uh, which was, uh, doing the effects for.

[00:11:43] For Battlestar Galactica. There was a very famous lawsuit between 20th Century Fox and Universal, and George Lucas was very angry, because like the money he spent to fund the development of this, technology and like he got all of this in motion and they're, basically doing for another show what they were doing for him.

[00:12:05] And I mean, I don't know if you guys have seen the original Battlestar Galactica, but those fighters and those things, like for a layman, Yeah, like I could see like, oh, like here's like a Star Wars show, right?

[00:12:15] RUSS: They look damn good. They look damn good for tv.

[00:12:19] JOSH: no, they look really good. So, but, so I think it's a little more complicated so it was interesting that, he would say that, or they would include Dykstra saying that he left because he took another job and that created some animosity. I mean, like the idea that ILM wasn't really ILM when they were making Star Wars, and then it sort of like forked off into two directions where George Lucas was like, Okay, I need this to be a company and if I'm gonna make all these guys wait around for years in between movies, I need to set them up so that it's a business. but I wanna set it up, here in, San Francisco. so there was sort of like a split, where you had the original gang and facility or whatever, and then they started over again in San Francisco with a lot of the same people.

[00:13:05] Like, I mean, they went up there because I mean, who wouldn't . Unless you had a reason not to, or you weren't invited back, but Um, but I thought that was, uh, really interesting thing that it wasn't until after Star Wars that ILM really the decision to make it a company, did work beyond Star Wars, that transition happened in that moment.

[00:13:27] BRACEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I, I loved hearing about that, seeing how it all kind of formed split and, um, and also just like how many people that came out of that, like, they affected, like, they were responsible for all the movies and all the things that I cared about growing up. Like when I, when I was like, Wait, the maker of The Rocketeer was part of this original crew.

[00:13:55] Like, like, I was like that, that movie, that movie shaped me in ways I can't even comfortably talk about. And, um, and. I, I just to see that it's just like so many, so many people. This is, this whole group is just responsible for all the things that I gravitated towards as, as, as a kid, apart from maybe Goonies, like, you know, I, I don't know, like, but I'm pretty sure they had a hand in Goonies at some

[00:14:24] JOSH: No. Yeah, I think ILM did the effects for Goonies. Yeah.

[00:14:26] BRACEY: Yeah. Well then, there you go. Oh yeah. Cuz they were talking about working on the OC Octopus or something like that.

[00:14:31] RUSS: You know, I could riff on that directly where, uh, yeah, I feel very similar about The Rocketeer. Um, but Joe Johnson, like, uh, he was talking about, uh, like this moment when he was, um, tasked with, uh, redesigning the one named Falcon because Space 1999 had a ship that was very similar to, uh, the Blockade Runner.

[00:14:50] So, well, that was the Falcon at time. They made the falcon, the Block eight runner, and he's like, All right, I have to redesign a ship. And he's, he's in this kitchen looking at dirty dishes and looking at saucers and like, you know what if I make the saucer, uh, actually directional and give it some, you know, forward kind of a forward, uh, direction and engines in the back and talking about designing it and making, you know, I think five designs or so, and one had this, um, right hand cockpit that he knew was kind of different, you know, out of the ordinary.

[00:15:17] He knew that's what George was gonna pick. And it just, it's so funny to me that, you know, here you have Joe Johnson who. Is, you know, redesigning these ships and doing concept art. And I believe later, uh, George Lucas paid for him to go back to school, um, that they talk about, uh, so he could, uh, study directing.

[00:15:35] And I was just thinking like, that's, that's amazing to me. Like that kind of, um, uh, kind of paying it forward and just kind of keeping, keeping that community and growing it and basically allowing later he went on to do like, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, uh, like just probably one of my, uh, favorite directors because knowing so well how to, how the FX is constructed to build story around that and integrate it in a way that's almost, uh, seamless.

[00:16:04] Uh, definitely one of my standout, um, like favorite, favorite parts of at least the first episode and kind of, um, seeing. These different people kinda each ha they kind of, I like that they get their spotlight moments in the show where they kind of talk about, you know, specific instances and things. It kind of gives you kinda more insight into how everyone was doing.

[00:16:24] A little bit of everything really, truly was a jack of all trades in, you know, in that, in that space. Uh, just, and it's kind of exciting to just see like, uh, these guys who really had limited experience maybe in movies or this area just kind of took to it and learned and evolved and, uh, you, you really, they talk about their growth and that to me is always exciting to hear, uh, someone kind of growing into their role or taking on something new they've never done before.

[00:16:48] And in a space where everyone's helping you learn and, and kind of grow in that, in that way.

[00:16:53] BRACEY: It was fertile ground like that was some really, it was like such a fertile area for these minds to grow and learn and change and, and completely change the way things were. We're done. Which is, I mean, you, you give a great example of the stories, uh, uh, that they were sharing with the, with the plate. And I, what I loved about the show is that, uh, uh, like that with, within those spotlights, they were able to like, dig into these little, like, yeah, we had to do this thing and it never been done before.

[00:17:25] And I was like, All, I'm gonna try it. And then, and then we did it.

[00:17:30] JOSH: Something you guys have both, touched on that. really struck me is that I think at some point, basically every one of them, I think, said something to the effect of like, if it wasn't for this, like, , I don't know what job I could have had, Right?

[00:17:48] like these specific combinations of skills, these jobs that they made careers out of, they didn't really exist.

[00:17:56] And, the idea that they were just obviously very talented, but also in the right place at the right time, that idea that you can get into visual effects as a career, really started then. Like before that it was just like a hobby or something that you did on the side, while you fixed, you know, cars or something.

[00:18:14] RUSS: What's interesting, interesting about that, Uh, there's a point, uh, I can't remember which episode, but basically, um, like Pixar was developing at ILM and they're like, This is not the direction we really want to go. We're gonna sell it. and focus on how these effects apply directly to, um, to, to movie making.

[00:18:34] Um, that's live action. And I thought that was really interesting cause I hadn't really, uh, understood that kind of, uh, division where they're like, Yeah, it's better to let that grow somewhere else. And then you see them kind of, uh, working on, I think what was the first was, um, the, the water creature from Abyss was kind of the first, Or young Shlock Holmes or the young Sherlock Holmes. Uh, play glass. Stay on the glass window. Yeah.

[00:18:56] JOSH: Yeah. So, and then also that, CG sequence in Star Trek too. The wrath of Con,

[00:19:00] RUSS: yes, yes. The Genesis planet, Yeah.

[00:19:03] JOSH: yeah. But that was something else, um, that was really crazy.

[00:19:07] Like, like I hadn't realized that, Oh, oh gosh, I'm forgetting his name. But, uh, the guy who was like the computer scientist who was like, who was like, you can make images with a computer. we can make a movie inside the computer. Like he had this like, realization like all the way back in, something, Catal, I forget his name the idea that, George Lucas, essentially, he underwrote the r and d for this entire, field of study and development of this experimental technology, knowing that, they wouldn't have anything to show for it for years and years and years. just because he just knew that this was where the future was on

[00:19:48] RUSS: Uh, Edwin Kamo.

[00:19:50] JOSH: Yes.

[00:19:50] so ad kamo, it's not just that ILM was the first one to apply these tools. they were also ground zero for this, like genuine computing revolution. Like, you know, something, something that, that I thought was really, you know, enlightening, when Ron Howard was talking about on Willow, how they were trying to explain to him, that they could, create the morphing shot, like all in one shot, and how were like trying to explain to him, it's like not a dissolve, it's like we do it all on the computer and blah, blah, blah.

[00:20:21] And like how, like how Ron Howard said that, like he couldn't really wrap his head around what they were talking about. Right.

[00:20:28] RUSS: Yeah.

[00:20:28] BRACEY: the, the morphing scene from Willow. Yeah.

[00:20:31] JOSH: yeah. But like, that's something that I can relate to, that sense of like, I hear what you're saying is going to happen, but I still don't have any real grasp of what it is you're trying to say to me.

[00:20:43] Like, I literally don't have the conceptual framework so that I thought was really fascinating and even, um, for Dennis Muren himself, like if it weren't for the particular way that Dennis Muren's mind works, this whole transition from practical effects to embracing digital technology, I don't know that it ever would've happened.

[00:21:09] RUSS: Or not then?

[00:21:10] JOSH: Right, right. because like he just, somehow was the only other one who saw the potential, who was like, You know what?

[00:21:17] I'm gonna take a year off. I'm gonna study computers because there's something here. I know that this is the way forward, but I need to figure out, he needed to get that conceptual framework so that he could. move things there. And like that is pretty extraordinary. Like, it's not you know, you think that these things are sort of inevitable but the idea that it wasn't inevitable at that moment, certainly, , but that it was really the understanding and the, vision of these few individuals who, who took a chance and they weren't really sure where the road they were going down was gonna lead them, but they just had a feeling that that was the right road to go down.

[00:22:01] BRACEY: Yeah, I, I was fascinated about this part. Um, uh, for also cuz just kind of like, uh, uh, uh, selfish reasons because, uh, uh, knowing. Ken Perlin, uh, the creator of Pearl Noise. Uh, he had received his Academy Award for his part to play in that whole situation of like making the dinosaurs look, uh, realistic because he was able to, uh, write an algorithm that allowed a natural looking things to happen on, uh, uh, on the computer.

[00:22:36] Uh, uh, so I was, uh, really looking forward to this transition because I had known from his side, uh, that he was involved in that, uh, only to find out that he wasn't written into the story. Like, you know, he wasn't, he wasn't a part of, of, of, of the way that they were portraying that story, uh, which I thought was interesting also is just like, Man, uh, I'm loving this.

[00:22:57] But also like after seeing that, like realizing that one part, it's like, Oh wow, we're still missing a lot of this story. Like we're still missing a lot of what's going on. . Um, and that, that, that made me a little disheartened. But, you know, I kind of also understand like you've got only, you have to, you have to keep the focus.

[00:23:16] you gotta keep the focus on it. Like it's not gonna be just like story sprawling everywhere.

[00:23:22] JOSH: Yeah. Well, because like, this is still the story of Industrial Light & Magic like, I mean, Yeah, like, like, there are so many things where I was like, I want a whole episode on like, just that sentence you just said,

[00:23:34] BRACEY: Yeah.

[00:23:35] JOSH: could we make another season where like we, go through it all again. But from the perspective of some other people,

[00:23:42] RUSS: You saying that? I, I really do think it is like one of the most significant parts of movie history that I care about. Um, Probably cuz you know, having grown up, being shaped by it, it's like, all right, let me go find out how I was invented . Like, let, lemme go see like, like how my mi, how my, how my mind got built by this thing.

[00:24:02] Uh, some of the things like, there is definitely like an, uh, industrial arts and magic, like how it was formed. A lot of the, the framework in the early episodes really is like the George Lucas story, um, because they're talking about, um, American graffiti and they're talking about these hot rods and they transition into talking about, you know, designing, you know, the tide and the X-Wing and how uh, the rebels, uh, were basically hot rods, like getting old, old beat up.

[00:24:29] Uh, Patch, you know, using patchwork to rebuild these starships and then, and hot rotting the engines. And uh, you know, the imperials have like off the assembly line stuff and there's this kind of hot rotting nature. And a lot of, a lot of that kind of detail is really what I always liked about Star Wars.

[00:24:46] There there was this element of like, intricate detail, like there, there's so many design elements and so much like, I, I think a young brain, or particularly my young brain was like very drawn to really like finesse details and like the technology, like how the technology looked, how it played. And I, I kind of like that, like, you know, the rebel spirit, that kind of hot rotting, like, you know, we're up against everything and, and that kind of, They're kind of working the story of the Star Wars idea back into the episode.

[00:25:15] I, I really appreciate that. Cause I feel like that's a very chasin possibly, you know, influence to really shape. Let's give some backbone to, uh, this documentary by really. Connecting it back and forth between the movie, movie philosophy, uh, the industrial philosophy, uh, the influence philosophy and that kind of very, very interesting, uh, flow, uh, back and forth between, um, narrative story and construction of the, the show itself, uh, I thought was a really kind of brilliant and seamless and excited me cause they kept on reminding me of, these are the things that I really like about it.

[00:25:51] Um, that kind of will always make Star Wars special. And I, and I feel like maybe that's something that gets, got a little bit lost along the way, that kind of, that roughness that, that, that tactility, like where do these come from? The philosophies of designing these ships. I think, you know, the used universe always got carried through, but a lot of the other kind of philosophies maybe, I'm sure they were still there. Very noticeable here in the early Star Wars at the very, the start of it. And I just love the idea of like, you know, we're, we're gonna soup up these engines. Like it's, it's exciting. Like the idea of their ships are exciting, uh, it's exciting on many levels, a lot of layers of excitement that that's kind of what, what shows through here.

[00:26:33] And they are using that, that early on, the George Lucas life narrative to kind of shape a lot of the philosophy of why they constructed the way that they did these things. So, uh, that was kind of a, a fun little, um, way to look at it. Little framework device.

[00:26:49] JOSH: Yeah. Well, I mean, it is interesting, right? George Lucas created this company because he wanted to create Star Wars. And you know, one of the interesting things I think people separate when talk about George Lucas and Star Wars, like there's a, line of thinking saying, for him, it's, it became like too much about the effects and not enough about the movie or or the story.

[00:27:13] And I think for him it seems like, it's an all one thing, you know, it's like I can't make the movie without these tools and I want these tools so I can make this movie. Like he, he starts with the pre-production and the design sort of feed the script and the, script only sort of exists, out of necessity so that everyone, , knows what it is that we're talking about. Because even from then, he gets all of the pieces and then through the editing process, he sort of like changes it again.

[00:27:47] He's like, Okay, so, so now I see this, and now he's sort of like, you know, sculpting it out of clay. And I think that that act of creation, I think is not separate for him from the end product. It's not that he's so enamored of technology and effects. It's like that's, that's what it all is for him.

[00:28:06] It's one thing

[00:28:08] RUSS: like that Marsha McCluen, you know, the, the, the medium is the message. Like, kind of like, like it really, they're one and the same like movie making the narrative in the movie. It, it doesn't make a difference to him. It, it's really the same thing in, in his mind. He's, he's making the same thing no matter what the focus is.

[00:28:25] JOSH: Yeah. It's like, I wanna play, with these toys, but I can't do it without making a movie. And the whole reason I wanna play with these is because I wanna make a movie. Right. It's sort of, it's sort of like, it's not one or the other. It's like,

[00:28:40] BRACEY: yeah, yeah. I, I felt a, a, a kinship kind of. Uh, uh, George Lucas increasingly watching this, but also I didn't, I realized more and more I didn't want that. Like I, I realized is like, I, I actually, the more I'm hearing about you, dude, I don't wanna be anything like you, but I also, I'm realizing I'm way too much li like, you know, like, like I'm, I'm, there's a lot of similarities in the way that I felt like I thought and how I approached things and I was like, Oh man, this isn't good.

[00:29:11] Like, like this mirror is too, uh, a little too reflective, uh uh, a little too clean.

[00:29:20] JOSH: so let's talk about that. Did this change. or at least inform your thoughts and feelings about George Lucas himself, either positive or negative.

[00:29:31] BRACEY: Yes. Yes. It definitely changed the way I saw him and informed me as to how he, he operated. I don't think that that's necess, I, I, you know, I don't, I don't think less of him, I've always thought he was a human. Uh, uh, but it was, uh, seeing what he was trying to do, he understood the fundamentals.

[00:29:54] Like, this is possible. Like, I know that we can do these things because the elements are there. Um, I, I just need somebody who is gonna put in the effort to, uh, to bring these elements together. And so, uh, he's always working from, uh, that perspective. This is possible. I know, uh, uh, this element has been done before and I know, uh, this other element has been done before.

[00:30:22] I'm just asking to do them and together. That's all I'm asking you to do. Uh, uh, but, uh, uh, the thing is, everybody else around him, uh, uh, uh, they don't understand, uh, uh, that those two things can go together, even though they have been done, uh, before, like they don't see how those elements go together. And, uh, uh, he wasn't necessarily a great communicator.

[00:30:46] He would just be like, Yeah, you know, just give it a thought. Like, you know, like, you know, try it, try it out. Um, I thought, I thought that was kind of fascinating. I, I thought it was fascinating. He's not, he wasn't a great communicator. He was just like, he had the money and he had, uh, uh, uh, the time and uh, uh, the opportunity to give others to just like make a go of.

[00:31:07] RUSS: I feel, and I feel like his hands were tied in a way where he couldn't, if he could execute his story by himself alone, he would have,

[00:31:17] JOSH: Absolutely.

[00:31:18] RUSS: he, he, if he needing other people, was a, was detrimental to, to his, his process. Um, but he, and I wouldn't even call him a manager of people because he wasn't even good at that.

[00:31:30] He needed people to be the managers. Um, he, he was the man who had ideas and could build, and basically he, you know, he set up ilm, he built the company and populated it with other people to figure out the rest of the company. Like, like, he's like, I can just, I can, I can get this one guy. He will find the others.

[00:31:50] Really. Uh, he had hope, a lot of, a lot of faith in other, He did have a lot of faith in other people. This is the most skilled person I could find to do this. I, I, and putting trust in people because he really had no other option, I don't think. I don't know if a lot of it was was foresight or just, Well, I have no other option.

[00:32:08] I hope this works and getting really lucky and. There's a certain level of skill to still choosing these people. And you know, you are, you're producing a picture, You're do, you're putting all these almost together. I, I just, I think ILM happens to be a magnificent happenstance of, of people like, like a once in a lifetime situation.

[00:32:30] Um, did it change how I feel about George Lucas? No, because you still need that person, uh, the driving force with the vision. You still need someone to get angry when something doesn't go their way. You need, you need that, you need that, you need that pressure out there. Like, oh, uh, uh, George is coming back from back, from, uh, the UK and he's, uh, he's not happy.

[00:32:52] Like, you still need that, that person has to be there, There has to be, um, like a driving, a driving vision, even if that's not the person, uh, physically, um, executing the tasks. Yeah.

[00:33:05] JOSH: No, for sure. Yeah.

[00:33:06] RUSS: an an author of the of the piece, but not necessarily the person holding the pen.

[00:33:12] JOSH: Yeah, to borrow a line from Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs movie. He's like, he conducts the orchestra,

[00:33:18] RUSS: Yes,

[00:33:19] JOSH: like he's the conductor of the orchestra, but even though he's not playing any of the individual instruments. I thought it was pretty funny, when he said he doesn't even know how to really use a computer

[00:33:29] just, he just knows. He just knows what they can do. Um, which I gotta say kind of surprised me a little bit because you would think that a guy who since the seventies was investing this much into r and d for developing digital, technology. That like he just over time and through proximity, he would've picked up a few things.

[00:33:50] But, but, but if you take what he says at face value, he's just like, uh, yeah. Like, I don't even know how to work my phone.

[00:33:57] BRACEY: But I

[00:33:57] can totally feel that. Like to me, I was like, I, I, I really, uh, sunk with that because like when you work with people who are like really into their shit, like, uh, are working with somebody who, who really knows their machine learning programs and, and the algorithms and like, and like networking and how to set up all this shit and like, it does these amazing things and all I care about is like, Oh, so I can do this, this, and this.

[00:34:22] Now I don't want, like, I don't feel the desire to go learn the ins and outs of how those particulars. Things work, and, but I do love the idea that I could have a facility and facilitate that capability with others and work with others and bring those minds so I could just be like, Yeah, yeah, totally do that thing.

[00:34:44] Now while you're doing that thing, just pump, pump, pump out this thing too. Like, I want this thing out of that, and I don't wanna learn. I just want that thing

[00:34:53] RUSS: He, He,

[00:34:53] he, knew. He knew what he didn't know. You know?

[00:34:57] BRACEY: Yeah,

[00:34:58] JOSH: So something, , my partner, I'm saying my partner, expressed, I actually sat her down and made her, , re-watch the show with me, because like, I thought, like after I watched it, I realized how this stuff that they were talking about was so in my DNA. I was like, I really want you to see this. I'm not sure why, uh, but I feel like you will have a greater understanding of where I came from.

[00:35:28] It's like what you said, Russ, I forget exactly how you put it, but you said something like, I wanna know how I was invented or something. Like, I wanted to know. Like, I was like, so let me see, what she gets outta this and like, she enjoyed it. She thought it was interesting. Um, she loved Phil Tippett, which I,

[00:35:44] RUSS: Oh, Tippett

[00:35:45] JOSH: I, which we'll get into. But, um, one of the things that I thought was really striking was she said, George Lucas seems kind of lame.

[00:35:55] BRACEY: Yeah.

[00:35:56] RUSS: Yeah.

[00:35:57] JOSH: because from her perspective, like, There's this great human story that's there.

[00:36:05] And to the documentaries credit, they don't shy away from this. but that transition from physical effects to technology had a very cost. And, you know, like I'm not gonna sit here and say that they shouldn't have made the advances or the choices that they made. But there was that, sense of comraderie, that sense of magic that's still there, but it's a different kind of magic. It's sort of like now magic in terms of they can create and do things that, you can't explain.

[00:36:39] So it's like, you know, it seems like magic, right? but like the loss of that, Russ, like you were saying, that, tactile, sort of like human side of it, I think was what she was responding to and I agree with you, I do think it's there from the beginning.

[00:36:54] I think that George Lucas would've made these movies all by himself if he could have, I think that he created this whole company as a means to an end. And I think that, you know, that camaraderie, that magic was incidental to what he was trying to do, what he was in it for.

[00:37:13] RUSS: Uh, I just wanna touch on the Phil Tippett thing. Um, so I think in the, in the series here, uh, you know, Spielberg's, like, you know, I wanted the best guy to do my dinosaurs, and he's like, hired Phil Tippett, uh, and who had started to do these claymation of velo raptors, I think as an early test. And, you know, the footage, I think they have some of that footage they show and, and ultimately that transition, um, to, to mostly digital for, uh, their raptors.

[00:37:39] Like basically, uh, for those that haven't seen it, uh, you know, they went a different direction. And so here's Phil Tippett who had a job lined up and now no longer, uh, is doing, uh, the main, you know, Philosoph effect work. They hired him. To be the, the, um, FX supervisor for, for the show, uh, for Jurassic Park.

[00:38:00] So, uh, you know, using what he knows able to craft and hone the CG to have weight and to into move in ways. Um, and he's basically kinda like the, um, the, like the dinosaur puppeteer in a way, even though it was digital. Um, so still kind of using what he knows to impart and basically I think why some of that Jura Park digital looks better than almost any other digital st uh, uh, or CGI coming out because he's, he's basically using it as a puppet and still using those learned skills.

[00:38:34] Um, and it, it holds up, it has weight in ways that other CGI doing the exact same thing these days does not. Um, because I think there's maybe some sort of disconnect with, with the person who knows the tactility, you know, foot on the ground, what it actually looks like.

[00:38:49] BRACEY: Yeah. Yeah. He had a se he had kind of internalized the sense of physics and, and anatomy and how things should move. And I think, uh, uh, a why, a why? I feel like, uh, uh, George was amazing in ways that I didn't know, like pr uh, creating paths for people to grow as, as, uh, uh, Industrial Light & Magic grew and changed, uh, but then also, For not seeing that these moments were about to happen, like for not being there or setting up something for the people that have brought him to where he is.

[00:39:26] And like that transition, that like, that it would just, like, you would let something like that land on Phil, like, like this, like, like land. Like I, I know that's not necessarily, uh, a fully, uh, a George's responsibility at that juncture of, uh, Industrial Light & Magic's, you know, uh, journey, right? Like he, he probably wasn't even necessarily around for, for that.

[00:39:50] It was kind of completely up to Spielberg at that point and stuff like that. But I just feel like that was a great. Way of kind of forecasting what was about to happen with the entire, like hearing the stories of people being like, Hey, uh, the character shops really started to dwindle down here, You know, but, but, and, and like, and we don't wanna talk to those people who are going over to CG and like, and then, uh, uh, I can't remember the name of the artist, but, uh, uh, she was like, you know, I think I'm gonna, I think I'm gonna go learn the CG thing.

[00:40:21] And, and other people kind of like poo pooing that decision, like that felt like the team needed, uh, uh, a little bit more care than I think at that time. George maybe had the, the faculty to give.

[00:40:36] RUSS: That was, uh, Jean Bolte, uh, who went over to, uh, cg.

[00:40:39] BRACEY: ,

[00:40:39] She was cool.

[00:40:40] JOSH: the other thing, it's not just the care, it's also that ILM transformed into something like it became a big company, right? Like, there's the possibility, the likelihood, even, that he knew the names of everyone who worked at Industrial Light & Magic on Star Wars.

[00:40:56] I, I doubt he knew the names of everyone who worked at Industrial Light & Magic in 1993. yeah, I mean that's one of the things, and to the, doc's credit, they get into how tumultuous and not straightforwardly good a thing that moment was. Phil Tippett, who I think we all remember seeing, you know, moving the, AT-ATs, from behind the scenes stuff as a kid.

[00:41:22] and moving the rancor in Return of the Jedi in behind the scenes stuff like, you know, like this guy who. I don't think it's inaccurate to say it's like a childhood hero in some way, I think, to all three of us, I was taken aback by some of his frankness in, this interview.

[00:41:38] Like he has a line, where like he was talking about how people ask him like, you know, as a stop motion animator, Like, don't you ever get sick of it?

[00:41:45] Like, it's so tedious and blah, blah, blah. And like, he's talking about it and he's, he's now realized that, he has, certain mental health challenges that like the stop motion was sort of his zen place. He said something, I think the gist of it was if it weren't for finding that he probably would've killed himself.

[00:42:06] BRACEY: Yeah.

[00:42:07] JOSH: Which I was like, that really hit me. And, it sounds really silly to say, like, I don't know him. I've never met him, but like it really hit me in an emotional place because I feel like I know who this guy is, if that makes any sense.

[00:42:22] BRACEY: No, I, I totally, I, I felt for him and I especially, I felt, this amazing spark of joy, when I was, uh, telling my wife about, , something about Phil Tippett and, and I, it might have even been exactly what you just pointed out, like this moment, uh, of realization that like, if I didn't have this, uh, I would've, you know, I would've killed myself.

[00:42:42] I, he like him coming to terms like that. He had certain mental conditions that like now could be identified that, you know, back then he was just dealing with, with shit. Um, and me saying his name and, uh, Uh, my oldest daughter being like, Oh yeah, I remember him. And I was like, You don't remember Phil Tippett?

[00:43:02] And she was like, No. He's like, Dude did the rancor. And I was like, That's amazing, I was like, You only watched that first episode, and you remember that I was, I was beaming with pride. Um, so I was fantastic.

[00:43:15] JOSH: Speaking of, Bracey, so for me, Phil Tippett. So there was him, and then there was also, uh, the couple who met, in the model shop, and then, got married and, the two of them, transitioned and went over to the dark side and did all the CG stuff and stayed at ILM.

[00:43:30] That couple and Phil Tippett, I think represent like the human cost of what that, , transition actually was. And I think the, I think Lawrence Kasdan's sympathies are kind of with them a little bit, because the very final story in the final episode is, and, Bracey, I'm, sure this affected you as much as it affected me, but the final. moment of the whole show is Phil Tippett recalling an anecdote about coming home and his daughter was crying and he was like, What's the matter? And she's like, I'm too old for my toys. And how Phil Tippett was. Like, he looked at her and he went, If you make movies, you never have to grow up and you never have to stop playing with toys.

[00:44:18] And it was right there. They, they grabbed a camera and they, grabbed some of her toys and they went outside. And that's how the whole documentary ends. so I mean, not only is that just like an amazingly beautiful, lovely anecdote, but that's also what they leave you with, which I think speaks volumes.

[00:44:36] BRACEY: Yeah. And, and, and now, uh, uh, what remains like, it's, it's interesting because like while that heart is gone, uh, there is still something very special about Industrial Light & Magic and what they're capable of producing

[00:44:53] in a world where like the tools have become, you know, more evenly distributed, you know, and, and the, and the mindsets and the, and the, uh, the processes.

[00:45:05] Um, but I, you know, uh, I have over the last, uh, a decade I, as I've been switching over out of, out of the film industry into, into the VR industry, um, something that I've noticed even watching, uh, behind the scenes, uh, uh, information on, uh, virtual reality experiences that were built by, uh, uh, the. Industrial Light & Magic team.

[00:45:32] Uh, when you dive into what they did, uh, you see that they, uh, the level of detail, um, and craftiness that they are able to put into their experiences, uh, uh, still is leading them to results that are beating out everybody else in the industry regardless of the amount of money, uh, uh, that somebody's dumping into a project.

[00:45:56] So there is still that magic there that has kind of lived on, even despite the loss of a lot of the, the, the humanity that we're kind of, uh, we're speaking to

[00:46:08] JOSH: No, completely. Like they are still the gold standard. And there has, there is something that, retained, there is still kind of a spark there that I don't think , you see everywhere else, or at least certainly not in the same quantity.

[00:46:25] RUSS: There's a, there's a pedigree there. You know,

[00:46:27] JOSH: yeah, Like, let's talk about, John Knoll for a second. Like, I mean, this guy, he's like a savant. He invented Photoshop. Like , like, like, I mean, like that's, I mean, I mean like, that's crazy. He's the one when they were recruiting for ILM, he for his senior project had constructed his own motion control rig, like in his dorm room.

[00:46:48] So like he, he basically, he built a Dykstraflex, the equivalent of the Dykstraflex in his dorm room in college. And, and then what's even crazier is they bring this all full circle at the end when on The Mandalorian, which is utilizing the volume technology and the Unreal engine to create all of these incredible shots and environments in real time.

[00:47:10] they really wanted to do something old school and they went and they got that, couple from the model shop and they built the physical model. And John Knoll, who apparently can build a motion control r in his sleep. He just, like, he started to build a motion control rig and they recreated this way of doing things for these few shots in The Mandalorian.

[00:47:33] Like just out of the, like, the fact that John Knoll has the knowhow to be able to do that, to straddle the line between the old way of doing things and the new way of doing things in a way that allows it to live on. And they were talking about how like, yeah, like he was you know, they were building a model and he, built this motion control rig from scratch and how people at ILM were coming out of their cubicles or whatever and were like standing around like, what is going on?

[00:47:57] Like, this is the coolest shit ever. Like, it's, um, there is something still there. It's like, I feel like that could only happen at Industrial Light & Magic,

[00:48:06] BRACEY: Yeah, yeah. It's, it's, the magic's still there. They still got the magic. That's, that's what we've learned.

[00:48:11] JOSH: Russ, you said something interesting about like how the CG in Jurassic Park holds up, um, and is, uh, better than some CG effects in movies that come out today. I think one of the, um, um, I mean, I mean in addition to, uh, just the, the raw talent, Of the people who were working on it.

[00:48:35] I think that, some of the other, factors in play, because of the digital revolution, that was augured in by ILM and Jurassic Park, um, there's this overreliance and a misunderstanding of what CG is good for, And I think that, because it's sort of a mystery to most people, there's this perception that like, you know, you can just do anything.

[00:48:58] Like, there's no planning and there's no understanding of what's required and what the technology is capable of and what its limitations are.

[00:49:07] So you just have these undisciplined CG fests that end up not, being so, meticulously, designed and constructed and sort of like, one of the things about Jurassic Park is also the way that it's not, it's not just cg, it's like a blend of all of these, techniques , and all of them are A team. so it's like, knowing when to use CG versus when to use something practical. And I don't think that a lot of shows now have the luxury or even the knowledge to know like, Oh, like we shouldn't do this CG, because it's actually not the most effective way to do it, sort of thing. it seems to me, I

[00:49:46] don't know if, if that makes sense.

[00:49:47] BRACEY: Yeah, Yeah.

[00:49:48] RUSS: they kind of take it for granted. Yeah.

[00:49:50] BRACEY: Yeah.

[00:49:50] they take it for granted. They don't see that there's like an artistry to the way to use these tools and that, uh, uh, you don't use, I mean, like cg, even though, uh, uh, uh, you don't necessarily. Need to know how to use lenses. If you don't, you don't know how this stuff meshes together and like, why would you change focal length even in a CG context?

[00:50:16] It's like if you don't understand the how, how light works, how physics works, like you just, you, you're just kind of like pointing a camera at something and, and assuming that it's gonna capture it, capture the magic in, in. How you use the tools goes a long way to, uh, uh, to showing how much magic you do.

[00:50:39] JOSH: No, and there's actually a great video on YouTube. , the channel, the Royal Ocean Film Society, like last week or the week before they re he released a video called The Visual Effects Crisis. It gets into a lot of , these issues and I think is sort of an eye opening.

[00:50:52] Like, I think one of the things about ILM that, You know, people don't realize is that they are the crem de lare and like, most VFX houses don't have the resources or are given the respect to be listened to. You know, there's an expectation of magic, but, not understanding how to provide the resources in order for that magic to be created, if that makes any sense.

[00:51:16] BRACEY: Due.

[00:51:18] RUSS: Mm-hmm. Yep.

[00:51:20] JOSH: Um, final question. Who do you think is the MVP of Industrial Light & Magic? Not necessarily to the exclusion of anybody else, because everyone in this was, unique and amazing. But is there someone who stands out who's like, Yeah, , they're my guy, or they like, like Star Wars or the film industry, wouldn't be what it is without this person?

[00:51:42] BRACEY: I forgot their name. But she mentioned that she had answered some kind of ad and a classified, and she had shown up, and she's basically responsible for how they organized their shots and how they started to pull their things together. I

[00:51:58] JOSH: Oh, yeah. Rose. I think Rose.

[00:52:00] BRACEY: Yes, uh, she's an unsung hero in a way that like, it is like we, it's easy for, especially I, I think from my side to like really get fixated on the, on the, on the VFX and like, uh, on the creative side.

[00:52:15] Uh, uh, but somebody who, uh, was able to walk into that. and, uh, be like, All right, you all, you all are amazing. Uh, but you need, you need this. Like you, you need to organize how you're doing all this stuff. I don't think ILM would be ILM or Star Wars would be Star Wars if that that energy didn't enter when it did.

[00:52:37] Um, and, and start to, uh, uh, like yeah, Align. Align these special powers, uh, uh, uh, together.

[00:52:45] JOSH: That's a good answer.

[00:52:47] RUSS: I can't top that.

[00:52:49] JOSH: Yeah. No, I don't think, I don't think either of us could top that.

[00:52:53] RUSS: Uh, good night

[00:52:55] BRACEY: sorry.

[00:52:56] RUSS: Um, I, I guess what I'd say is like, you know, I, I went in knowing a lot about Phil Tippett, um, and, and I think, uh, I didn't know as much about Dennis Muren and I feel like, uh, Dennis Muren really played a role and we'd already, you know, kind of talked about, you know, shaping that transition. And, and I really, I really feel like that he was the right person at the right time.

[00:53:17] And to me in my eyes, uh, he really stood out for me, a as, as really an MVP in, in kind of the history narrative of ilm, uh, for sure, uh, personally, Joe Johnston, uh, learning more about him and, and kind of, and kind of what he did. Like I just, I, he's, he's kind of like the, his creative story to directing. Uh, and this is just fantastic.

[00:53:41] I, I like everything, uh, that he puts out and, uh, like his way of thinking.

[00:53:45] JOSH: . No, that's another good answer. I really, I, I don't know who, who I was gonna say, I think maybe I would also go with Dennis Muren, but, since you mentioned him, I, I gotta go with Phil Tippett.

[00:53:58] RUSS: Yeah.

[00:53:58] JOSH: I just, I mean, that's not to say that, his contribution wasn't invaluable, but I think more for me, like he just, he represents the, that like heart and humanity.

[00:54:10] Again, not to the exclusion of anyone else, but just because of his particular story. I think I left watching this series. Emotionally most impacted, , by his story in kind of a visceral way. ,

[00:54:27] BRACEY: Yeah. The great thing about that question is, uh, in this crowd it's really hard to, to make a bad choice,

[00:54:32] JOSH: No. Yeah, no. I mean, like, no, I mean, you could make a case for anybody. Like, we didn't even, mention, you know, Richard Edk and, and Ken Roston, like, Richard Edlin, like was in the Navy and then like, was like, a cable car conductor. And like, that was like another thing that, you know, not only did they create jobs that never really existed, but you don't hear about, people with career trajectories like that anymore. Like, I don't think it was ever really possible at any other time in American history, except for like the mid 20th century, to not really know what you wanted to do and be able to survive just by changing.

[00:55:07] careers every couple of years and just like, Yeah, I'll, I'll drive a cable car for a while and I'll, you know, sh oysters and I'll, Oh, hey, I'm, I'm the founder of the most influential visual effects house in the entire history of the cinema. Wow. That's crazy. It's just like, I feel like that stuff doesn't really happen that same way anymore.

[00:55:24] BRACEY: Yeah,

[00:55:25] JOSH: I don't know. Anyway, I think we pretty much covered it. Right.

[00:55:28] RUSS: Yep.

[00:55:29] JOSH: really glad you guys in particular I knew would, be affected similarly to the impact that this series had on me. So I'm really glad, , both of you were able to join in this discussion. This, , docu-series, Light & Magic is available to stream now on Disney Plus. We are Trash Compactor. Please visit trash com pod for transcripts of this episode and all our other episodes, and we are trash com pod across all social media and we will see you on the next one.

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