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George Lucas Starts Animation Unit

George Lucas has divided his empire in Point Richmond, California into a new animation division to focus on the creation of digitally animated feature films reportedly due to his frustration over studio-controlled animated projects that have fallen through over the past six years. Lucas-film Animation will be given its own identity and autonomy to develop and generate full-length CG cartoons.

Scheduling demands often pulled the digital animation group that had been part of Lucas' special Industrial Light & Magic. Projects for a CG FRANKENSTEIN and later CURIOUS GEORGE at Universal Pictures were scrapped for ILM after the staff had done extensive work.

While Lucas-film Animation doesn't have a first project yet, it is actively seeking directors according to a report in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES. SVP Patty Blau is heading up a nine-person animation development team and will be seeking talent. A Lucasfilm spokesperson told AWN that Lucasfilm Animation is just getting underway so there are no details to report yet and would only confirm the TIMES story.

Creating an independent computer animation unit, such as Sony Pictures did recently, is not a guarantee the visionary Lucas will at last achieve his first entirely animated theatrical. Projects will still need to be financed and distributors wooed to take it to market.

The field is loaded with high-powered competition of studios that are already aligned with marketing-driven distributors such as Pixar Animation Studios partnered with Walt Disney; Pacific Data Images is part of DreamWorks; Blue Sky Studios is with 20th Century Fox; and Sony Pictures Imageworks plus the new Sony Picture Animation division are with Columbia/Sony Pictures.

Then again, with his recent fervor for digital film and digital film projection, the pioneering Lucas may have something up his sleeve outside the traditional Hollywood business models for delivering his own animated film to an audience.