August 14, 2022
Light & Magic Disney Plus Review

Light & Magic provides a greater appreciation for the visionaries that helped to shape our childhoods and made us dream. And that alone is Magic in itself.

The team at Industrial Light & Magic are living legends. From the early days as a ragtag crew of rebellious dreamers to the modern masters of CGI, ILM’s team has pioneered many of the wondrous images that define our culture. But what was it REALLY like to be on the front line and crafting the look of STAR WARS in 1977? How did VFX masters like John Dykstra, Joe Johnston, and Dennis Muren help to bring George Lucas’ masterwork to life? All is revealed in Light & Magic.

The upcoming Disney Plus series has gained unparalleled access to the Lucasfilm vault. And the results are spectacular. Thanks to Hollywood legend Lawrence Kasdan, we are granted a front-row seat at a look behind the camera. And an insight into how this group of renegades came together to produce MAGIC. A kind that has never been seen before. And artistry that has continually redefined how we view movies. And let me tell you, this series doesn’t pull any punches.

Light And Magic Disney+ Key Art
(L-R): Joe Johnston, John Dykstra, and Dave Jones in a scene from Lucasfilm’s LIGHT & MAGIC, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

GEORGE LUCAS

Before the name ILM became synonymous with filmmaking, George Lucas had an idea that would redefine the way we looked at cinema. Not only was his space opera bold and ambitious, but due to technical restrictions of the time, his vision was virtually impossible. In a conventional sense, the technology he needed to tell his story simply did not exist. But, in what will ultimately become his mantra, the young filmmaker refused to be beaten and challenged the limitations of the time and dragged them into the future kicking and screaming. And it is at this pivotal point in history that we find our story.

Kasdan has plundered the Lucasfilm vault and unearthed a genuine treasure trove of footage for this series. But it has paid dividends. Early episodes follow Lucas as he casts his net to capture the dreamers who would help him bring STAR WARS home. These were the visionaries who would defy convention and reconstruct visual effects from the bottom up. And their methods may surprise you. These stories have been told many times over. But thanks to Kasdan’s incredible access and a wealth of new interviews with the ILM power players, this series presents them freshly and compellingly and will have fans and cinephiles alike riveted for hours.

Light And Magic
George Lucas in a scene from Lucasfilm’s LIGHT & MAGIC, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

DEFYING CONVENTION

From the outset, we follow John Dykstra and his amazing team of dreamers as they practically redesigned and custom-built every single camera used on A New Hope. We explore how the iconic shot of the Star Destroyer chasing the Blockade Runner came to be. And how strained Lucas’ turbulent relationship with Dykstra became after the latter spent half of the VFX budget on just two finished shots. It’s harrowing to watch. And although the series focuses on ILM’s many triumphs, it doesn’t shy away from the dark times. And Kasdan presents them to us warts and all. Even revealing the extent of Phil Tippet’s struggles with mental health. And how his work with ILM helped him through it.

It is a poignant interview, one that will pull on the heartstrings of every fan. But these are the real stories behind the magic. And team Kasdan has left no stone unturned in producing this exquisite series.

Light & Magic
Richard Edlund in a scene from Lucasfilm’s LIGHT & MAGIC, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

ORIGINAL TRILOGY

Much of what we see between episodes one to four highlights the highs and lows of Lucas’ Original Trilogy. Even touching on some of the more outlandish and frankly hilarious special effects used on Return of the Jedi. We dive into the creature shop and take a spin through ILM’s work on Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica before meeting up with Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg. The legendary filmmaker speaks frankly about his love of ILM and how Dennis Muren and his team created the mindblowing visual effects for Raiders of the Lost Ark and more. And Speilberg isn’t alone.

The series benefits from some in-depth interviews with many of Hollywood’s biggest names. All of whom are more than happy to wax lyrical about their appreciation for the guile and craftsmanship of ILM. Joining George Lucas and Steven Spielberg are Ron Howard, James Cameron, Barry Jenkins, and Jon Favreau to name but a few. These amazing interviews not only demonstrate the impact ILM has had on the industry as a whole but reveal how their ingenuity has helped to realize the dreams of generations of filmmakers.

Light And Magic
(Clockwise from far left): John Knoll, Erik Tiemens, Christian Alzmann, Rene Garcia, Ryan Church, Madeleine Sandrolini, and Doug Chiang in a scene from Lucasfilm’s LIGHT & MAGIC, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

A SIX-PART WONDER

Although the series catalogs the entire history of ILM, it isn’t in any rush to skip over the Original Trilogy. In fact, the majority of the first four episodes are dedicated to its creation. But as we ease into the second part of the season, we begin to explore how the company transitioned from practical effects into computer-generated mastery. And how the industry fought back again George Lucas after he commissioned Sony and Panavision to create the very first all-digital cameras and projectors.

The narrative slows somewhat in these episodes. But the quality is far from diminished by it. Fans of ILM’s work will find a newfound appreciation for their hard work and ingenuity throughout the transition process. And much of that can be credited to George Lucas. Throughout the series, Lucas is revealed to be a true pioneer. A one-man think tank and the driving force behind the modern cinema.  Through his love of cinema, Lucas pushed for bigger and better at every turn. Not just for our benefit, but the benefit of his peers who all now utilize the fruit of his labors.

This series does Lucas justice. And it is nothing less than he deserves.

Light & Magic on Disney+
Scene from Lucasfilm’s LIGHT & MAGIC, exclusively on Disney+. © 2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & ™. All Rights Reserved.

VERDICT

Far from just serving as a Star Wars origin story, Light & Magic is nothing short of spectacular. The series is rich in history. Low on disappointment, and high on praise for the pioneers that revolutionized our cinematic experiences. And rightly so. It presents a rich and compelling story and catalogs how a team of ragtag rebels came together and became a family.  One whose lineage can be traced back to the original STAR WARS and witnessed fully realized in The MandoVerse. A place where the technology pioneered by George Lucas and his quest for pure excellence takes us to the galaxy far, far away every week.

What Lawrence Kasdan and his team have done here is nothing short of wonderous. For six short hours, we are invited to become one of the family and join the adventure as ILM whisks us away to new frontiers; searches for the Lost Ark, and brings us face to face with dinosaurs. What we are left with is a greater appreciation for the visionaries that helped to shape our childhoods and made us dream. And that alone is Magic in itself.

Light & Magic premieres on Disney Plus on July 27th.

 

 

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