Whether it be through his epic Star Wars saga, or through the exalted
special effects crew he pioneered, Industrial Light and Magic, he continues to
amaze audiences world wide. His name in synonymous with famous
directors/producers in the world. His impacts reach out in more fields than
just film. He has created companies that produce award winning video games, toy
companies produce action figures designed after characters from his movies, many
books by many authors based on his original film stories, and countless other
wings of Lucas’ reign exist in today’s world. Since his youth, George Lucas has
experienced many influences, which in turn push him to make the greatest
contributions to the film industry which leave an ever increasing impact on film
today and the world.
Throughout history, it is apparent that those who are recognized as
“great ones” were influenced in some way or another to become the leader who
they are. In George Lucas’ case, he was greatly influenced in his late teens
and early twenties. Lucas claims to have chased girls and raced cars throughout
high school, and barely made it through (Moritz 258). Soon after high school,
Lucas attended Modesto Junior College in California and continued to work on
cars as his main interest (Moritz 258). In Smith, Lucas is quoted saying, “I
was a hell-raiser; lived, ate, breathed cars!That was everything for me”(84).
Lucas even worked on pit crews for race cars when he met Haskell Wexler, who
introduced him to film (Moritz 258). Eventually Lucas realized his new passion
was film. Mr. Wexler helped Lucas gain admission into the University of
Southern California’s film department (Moritz 260). In college Lucas was
the head of his film classes winning many awards and accolades. His first
feature movie in college was titled THX-1138 and won his university’s award for
best film (Moritz 259).
Lucas is also inspired by his circle of friends and fellow directors,
producers, and collaborations with them. With the success of THX-1138 at the
university, Lucas was awarded the chance to be an observer on the set of
Finian’s Rainbow directed by University of Southern California alumnus Francis
Ford Coppola (Champlin 7). Soon the two began to chat, and then became friends,
so Coppola let Lucas work for him on the movie. With his hard work, Lucas
earned the respect of Coppola who in turn did Lucas the favor of convincing
producers to let Lucas direct a major motion picture (Moritz 7). Lucas’ first
major motion picture was American Graffiti, with this film Coppola had given
Lucas the chance to make a foothold in the film industry, and he certainly did.
Also, Lucas is supported by friends Steven Spielberg, John Milius, Martin
Scorcese, and Ivan Reitman (Moritz 260). The group often collaborate on
projects and get advice from each other on filmmaking (Moritz 258). Steven
Spielberg is quoted in Champlin’s book saying:
Lucasfilm touches our lives from many different directions, descending
upon our eyes, our ears, and our children. George has never stopped
asking, “Any Ideas?” and the whole world has been a better place for it.(7)
On the other hand, George Lucas is best identified with the fantastic
list of movies he has had a part in, whether it be a big part, or an even bigger
one, Lucas has a great deal of influence on movies listing his name in the
credits. It is for sure that at one time or another, everyone has heard of
Star Wars, the first part of a three movie trilogy, for which he is best known
for the conception and production of. Since it’s release in 1977, Star Wars has
grossed over four billion dollars in sales, making it the most money making
movie ever (Lane and Samuelson 126). Lucas also produced all three of the
Indiana Jones movies; Temple of Doom, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Last
Crusade, which were directed by Steven Spielberg (Smith 83). Currently,
Lucas has re-released his epic Star Wars saga, and titled it Star Wars: special
edition, which has blown away viewers.
Perhaps his most important contribution to film is his beginning of, and
ownership of the special effects crew ILM, standing for Industrial Light and
Magic. Over the years, ILM has won ten Academy Awards, two emmys, and six
British Academy Awards (Wolkomir 112). Without the techniques still used today,
pioneered by ILM, movie making today might still be stuck in a “Godzilla” like
special defects world. Randall praises ILM in his article saying, “Indeed
almost every digital effects company has had executives that learned the trade
at Lucas’ Industrial Light and Magic” (127). ILM has produced special effects
for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Independence Day(Wolkomir 112). ILM is
marked for being ahead of its time and all other special effects companies,
especially in Star Wars which amazed audiences across the world (Randall 127).
Furthermore, Lucas has impacted the film industry in countless ways.
His main impacts are those on the film industry. Lucas set a benchmark for
sound with his development of the sound system called THX (Champlin 7). The
highest of quality home receivers and highest quality movie theater sound
systems are designed with THX (Champlin 7). THX’s motto is “the audience is
listening” and they have been at Cineplex Odeon theaters across the USA, and
other theaters hosting the dynamic sound system (Randall 127). Although the
release of Star Wars in 1977 discouraged other directors by blowing away all
special effects and sound barriers, this in turn set a new mark for directors
to reach for in their movie productions. It’s impacts like these that improve
the film industry every day, and a lot of it traces back to George Lucas.
The ability to make parents flock to toy stores day in and day out
searching for much requested toys isn’t hard to create in one’s self. Twenty
years after it’s release, Star Wars is one of the top selling toy lines today
(Leonhardt 79). Parents were described as “fleas” swarming the toy shops this
past Christmas (Leonhardt 78). The fact that Lucas expected to make
$500,000,000 in overall Star Wars saga related sales after the release of Jedi,
but really topped $4,000,000,000 is quite the audience impact also (Moritz 259).
Everyone remembers Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: the extra terrestrial, parents and
children couldn’t get enough of the lovable foreigner, but Star Wars’ profits
exceeded that of E.T.’s for all time sales (Snead 6).
Through his influences, Lucas has managed to impact our lives with his
many contributions to the entertainment industry. With praise from others like
Francis Ford Coppola and Steven Spielberg, it is definite Lucas is a film legend
of our time. He has had many contributions and films we all know and love. He
has reached out to all generations; the elder with memories in American Graffiti,
and the young and young at heart with Star Wars, and the real science fiction
fans with his perfected version of THX-1138. He has impacted other filmmakers
and audiences alike. Traces of his greatness reach out through our world.
Champlin, Charles. George Lucas: The Creative Impulse. New York: Harry N.
Lane, Randall. “George’s Industry” Forbes 11 Mar. 1996: 127.
Leonhardt, David. “The Empire Strikes Again” Business Week. 1 Jan. 1996: 48.
Moritz, Charles. “Lucas, George” Current Biography Yearbook Ed. Evelyn Lohr
and Henry Swan. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1978.
Samuelson, James, and Lane Randall. “Money Machine” Forbes Mar. 1996: 126.
Smith, Diane G. American Filmmakers Today. New York: Julian Messner, 1983.
Sterritt, David. “Are Movie Marketers Too Mighty?” Christian Science Monitor.
31 July 1995: 1+
Wolkomir, Richard. “High-Tech Hokum is Changing the Way Movies are Made.”
Smithsonian. Oct. 1990:112-125.
Category: Music and Movies