Christine's take on what was cool in the 80s.


ILM is the company that George Lucas founded in 1975 to provide the visual effects for his new film, Star Wars. It was born somewhat out of necessity, as 20th Century Fox had shut down their effects department after they’d given him the green light for Star Wars. Obviously, with a sci-fi/fantasy film, special effects was something he very much needed. Additionally, he wanted the effects that had never been seen on film before. He first approached Douglas Trumbull (famous for 2001: A Space Odyssey), who declined but suggested his assistant John Dykstra, who agreed. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists and engineers who became the Special Visual Effects department on Star Wars. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thanks to TV specials about the behind the scenes of films such as Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Poltergeist it became increasingly apparent to both my brother and I that George Lucas’ effects house ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) was one of not only the essential elements of film, but just way friggin cool! (btw, that’s another thing – the behind scenes specials on movies in the 80′s were great. Sure, you have things on DVD these days but unless you get a really passionate filmmaker – say for example – Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy – the DVD stuff is pretty crappy and doesn’t touch the TV specials).

Anyway, ILM gave me a huge appreciation of visual effects. The creativity was inspiring and diverse. From gorgeous conceptual art from Ralph McQuarrie to amazing model makers who made the Death Star and ships from model airplanes and battleship kits, to simply using water in a tray to reflect water off the seaplane Indy travels in Temple of Doom…it was just exciting to have your knowledge expanded with such amazingly cool things. Names like John Dkystra, Phil Tipett, Dennis Muren became household names for us and our little circle and ILM inspired many kids and teens into special effects so, that said, I think ILM deserves it’s own special mention here.

This is obviously from Poltergeist – a film that scared the sh!t out of me! If I recall correctly, they put the finished version of the above model in water to give it the ghostly floaty appearance you see below.

The above is from The Temple of Doom. The Mine Cart scene is a big and memorable one and, obviously, the actors couldn’t take that ride in reality so miniatures were required.

The above matte painting is for a fairly obvious scene if you’re a Star Wars fan.

I could go on and on and on and I probably will add to this at a later date. For now though, this is it for the cool examples.