Time Story Story Time: The What If Scenario

Mama Fisi
Mama Fisi's picture

While I am waiting to see what happens in the next issue of "The Star Wars," I got to thinking about how the world would be different if Lucasfilm had gone with the story as it appears in the original draft.  Personally, this story is so boring that I can't imagine that it would have made so much as a ripple in the pop culture, never mind the tsunami that "Star Wars" created.  The film would not have lasted the summer, and George Lucas would be known as "the director of 'American Graffiti.'"

The lacklustre performance of "The Star Wars" would have doomed Lucasfilm to obscurity, for 20th Century Fox had taken a big gamble on the project, and when they did not make back their investment, they would have declined to fund anything else that came from the fledgeling company.

This of course means that Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects department of Lucasfilm created specially to do the effects for "Star Wars," would have died in its cradle.

Think about that.  Think of a world...without Industrial Light & Magic.

 Just let that sink in a moment.  Forget about a world without R2D2, Yoda, and "May The Force Be With You."  Forget about all the cosplayers who would not be dressing up as Darth Vader or Stormtroopers.  Forget the gold bikini and lightsabers and who shot first.  And for the time being, put aside the thoughts of how movies would sound without the THX high-fidelity audio/visual reproduction standard for movie theaters, screening rooms, home theaters, computer speakers, gaming consoles, and car audio systems, which was also created by Lucasfilm.

 Instead, think about the over three hundred films that would not have been made, because they rode on the coattails of Star Wars, and utilized the techniques developed by ILM.  Films like the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, the Harry Potter series, the Star Trek series, Jumanji, Dragonheart, Young Sherlock Holmes, Jurassic Park, Willow, The Abyss, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Back to the Future series, The Terminator series, The Mummy, Casper, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Dragonslayer, E.T., The Dark Crystal, Poltergeist, The Neverending Story, The Goonies, Enemy Mine, Labyrinth, The Witches of Eastwick, Field of Dreams, Hunt For Red October, Ghost, Hook, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Men in Black, Flubber, Titanic, Wild Wild West, Sleepy Hollow, Galaxy Quest, Master and Commander, The Chronicles of Narnia, Avatar, Rango, and Transformers, just to name a few.

There are also many non-fantasy films which used ILM's tricks and techs, creating backgrounds, adding crowd scenes, and subtly manipulating reality, like Schindler's List, The Great Gatsby, Rent, Hidalgo, Along Came Polly, Punch Drunk Love, Forrest Gump, Pearl Harbor, Pay It Forward, October Sky, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and Twister.

Now, it's possible some of these films might have been made, but they certainly would not have looked the same, because ILM created many of the visual effects techniques which are now industry standards, like motion-control cameras, motion capture CGI, OpenEXR, as well as pioneered a lot of CGI effects.  Photoshop was created by  by ILM Visual Effects Supervisor John Knoll and his brother Thomas as a summer project, and was used on The Abyss. The Knoll brothers sold the program to Adobe shortly before the film's release. I use Photoshop to create my comic strip.

Pixar, Lucasfilm's computer-animation department, which was originally called The Graphics Group, was spun off from ILM and sold to Steve Jobs, and went on to make the first all-CGI animated film, Toy Story.  John Lasseter worked on Young Sherlock Holmes for ILM, helping to create digital animation after Disney fired him for promoting CGI over hand-drawn animation.  Guess he had the last laugh on that, now that he's the head of Pixar and Disney's animation projects.  And also now that Disney owns Lucasfilm and ILM, the circle is now complete.  When he left there, he was but a learner, now he is the master...dang it!  See how pervasive "Star Wars" references can be!?

Even the Mythbusters team once worked for ILM.  ILM has produced commercials for companies like Nike, Coca-Cola, and Energizer.

There are, of course, other effects studios out there, but they came into being because ILM made it possible, blazing a trail that has made inroads into most facets of the entertainment industry, pop culture, and our imaginations.  It's really difficult to think of what the world of entertainment would be like, had "The Star Wars" bombed.

One thing's for certain.  There would be no "Howard The Duck."