Today is George Lucas’ birthday. It’s pretty safe to say that if any one person has shaped the zeitgeist of movies in the last 40 years, it might well be George Lucas. His vision and business model have become the things that have inspired kids for decades, and have led to some new filmmakers getting to flex their muscles (like, for example, one J.J. Abrams).
Of course, it’s easy to focus on the obvious. George Lucas created Star Wars out of, as you can see in the above clip, a desire to tell a story and a need to not be broke. It was in these writing sessions that the basis for one of the best-loved cinematic universes as created. (NERDIST NOTE: If you get a chance to read J.W. Rinzler’s Making of Star Wars books, you absolutely should. They’re a must for fans of the series and of filmmaking.) He was able to negotiate the sequel rights, which proved a brilliant move once Star Wars (later given the subtitle A New Hope) proved to be a massive international hit. Along with his love of space opera serials, he also loved Saturday matinee adventure serials, and from that came the spark for Indiana Jones, a series for which he served as story writer and producer.
It’s also through his innovation, and those of the many people working for him, that in 1975 Lucasfilm created Industrial Light & Magic, a groundbreaking visual effects department that has pioneered some of the effects we take for granted today. They did the first morphing sequence for Willow in 1988; That same year, they oversaw mixing 2D animation and live-action in Who Framed Roger Rabbit; In 1993, they created the first digitally-created complete and living creature for Jurassic Park; and they created their first fully-animated film with 2011’s Rango.
George Lucas has never stopped attempting to better the technology of filmmaking and the experience one has while watching a film. He still means a lot to a lot of people. Heck, there was even a made-up holiday on May 4th just because people love Star Wars so much. That’s something special, and rare.
So, happy birthday, Mr. Lucas. And thank you.