Industrial Light & Magic

Industrial Light & Magic is an American visual effects company and subsidiary of Lucasfilm Ltd. and The Walt Disney Company. ILM was founded in May 1975 by American filmmaker George Lucas when he began production on Star Wars. Since then, ILM has earned a sterling reputation as a visual effects house, winning numerous Academy Awards for their work.  ILM originated in Van Nuys, California, then later moved to San Rafael in 1978, and since 2005 it has been based at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco. ILM was acquired–along with the rest of the Lucasfilm Ltd. film conglomerate–by The Walt Disney Company in 2012.


ILM was created after a need arose for George Lucas to have a full-fledged effects house to handle his special effects on the film Star Wars. As 20th Century Fox lacked an effects branch, Lucas started his own as a division of Lucasfilm Ltd., his production company that included Skywalker Sound.

ILM was formed under Lucas and John Dykstra. Their team included Ken Ralston, Richard Edlund, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson and Paul Huston along with future Jurassic Park alums Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, and Phil Tippett.

In late 1978, when in pre-production for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. From here on, the company expanded and has since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films.

ILM is also a frequent collaborator of Steven Spielberg, including on the Jurassic Park series.

Milestones and Achievements

  • First extensive use of a motion control camera (1975 Star Wars)
  • First fully computer-generated sequence (1982 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)
  • First completely computer-generated character (1985 Young Sherlock Holmes)
  • First use of the morphing technique ( 1988 Willow)
  • First 3-D character rendered in a movie (1989 Abyss)
  • First computer-generated main character (1991 Terminator II: Judgment Day)
  • First reproduction of the texture of human skin (1992 Death becomes Her)
  • First time a complete and detailed rendering of a living creature was rendered in film via computer generation (1993 Jurassic Park)
  • First computer-generated photo-realistic hair and fur (1995 Jumanji)
  • First completely computer-generated main character, Draco in (1996 Dragonheart)
  • First computer generated character to have a full human anatomy (1999 The Mummy)
  • Creates OpenEXR imaging format (2000)
  • Develops iMocap system, which uses computer vision techniques to track live-action performers on set. Used in the creation of Davy Jones and ship’s crew in the film (2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest)

Selected Filmography

  • Star Wars
  • Empire Strikes Back
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Back to the Future
  • Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Willow
  • The Abyss
  • Terminator II: Judgment Day
  • Jurassic Park
  • Schindler’s List
  • Forrest Gump
  • Jumanji
  • Twister
  • Dragonheart
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park
  • Titanic
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • The Mummy
  • Jurassic Park ///
  • Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • The Bourne Identity
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • War  of the Worlds
  • Transformers
  • Iron Man
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
  • Star Trek
  • Avatar
  • The Avengers
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Star Trek Into Darkness
  • Pacific Rim
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction
  • Jurassic World
  • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom


Academy Awards

  • Star Wars
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
  • Return of the Jedi
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Cocoon
  • Innerspace
  • Who Framed Roger Rait
  • The Ayss
  • Terminator II: Judgment Day
  • Death Becomes Her
  • Jurassic Park
  • Forrest Gump
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

Jurassic Park

During the production of Jurassic Park, the plan was to use Phil Tippett’s “go-motion” technique, similar to stop-motion, for the wide shots showing the full bodies of the dinosaurs, as well as for scenes where the animals would be doing movements that weren’t possible with the animatronics. Dennis Muren of ILM believed he could create a more realistic and believable animation of the dinosaurs using computer graphics. When bringing the idea up to Steven Spielberg, the director told him to “prove it”, and he went and he proved it, creating animations more lifelike than anything seen before at the time. When they viewed the footage, Spielberg knew that was the future. The decision to go fully digital with the wide shots of dinosaurs instead of using the go-motion was made. Phil Tippet uttered the words “I think I’m extinct” when he first say the animation, to which Spielberg actually used his words in the film, for Dr. Malcolm when they are walking up the staircase in the Visitor Center.

Jurassic Park’s CGI was groundbreaking and applauded by people around the world. The breakthroughs that ILM made while working on the film paved the way for the future of computer generated imagery in film. Industrial Light and Magic won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects, alongside Stan Winston Studios and Phil Tippet, at the 66th Academy Awards in 1994.