SINGAPORE Jan 16 "Star Wars" creator Lucasfilm
formally expanded its creative universe on Thursday by launching
its visual effects and animation hub in Singapore that works on
Hollywood blockbusters and bolsters marketing efforts in
"May the Force be with you," Lee Hsien Loong, the prime
minister of the Southeast Asian city-state, said in a speech at
the glass-enclosed and horseshoe-shaped "Sandcrawler" building.
Lucasfilm Ltd, bought by Walt Disney Co in 2012 for
more than $4 billion, opened a small studio in 2005 in another
part of Singapore but has built up the size and skills of the
team into a staff of 400 at the new headquarters.
"This is a very robust operation that is comparable to
exactly what we're doing in San Francisco or Vancouver,"
Kathleen Kennedy, the president of Lucasfilm and a producer of
more than 60 films, told reporters before the launch.
"Many of the top-end movies that are being made in the next
18 months to two years, a vast variety of that work will head in
In Singapore, about 350 artists from some 40 countries are
now working on a full-length animated feature and films that
include "Hitman" and "Transformers 4".
More projects will be assigned as Lucasfilm's visual effects
unit Industrial Light & Magic goes into its "busiest year ever",
Kennedy said, including the next instalments of the hugely
successful "Star Wars" franchise.
George Lucas, the company's famous founder who has retired
from making big-budget films to focus on smaller features, said
quality-obsessed colleagues were very sceptical when he first
suggested an expansion into Asia a decade ago.
"Everybody thought I was a little crazy," Lucas said in a
speech, recalling how the early days of training local artists
and giving the Singapore team small, basic tasks had evolved
into a sophisticated operation and the Sandcrawler itself.
"This is a symbol of the people of Singapore and computer
animation combining with Lucasfilm to create something that is
'INTERESTING AND CHALLENGING'
Named after a large vehicle in the original "Star Wars"
film, the Sandcrawler teems with youthful staff in T-shirts,
jeans, shorts and flip-flops. The corridors are adorned with
movie posters and memorabilia.
Beyond digital studios, the building houses the Jedi Masters
Program that runs six-month courses in the techniques and
technology used by Industrial Light & Magic. Of the 182
apprentices trained to date, 125 have been hired as artists.
The Sandcrawler is also the new headquarters for Disney in
Southeast Asia and its sports cable network ESPN in Asia.
David Anderman, Lucasfilm's general manager, would not
disclose how much had been invested in Singapore but said its
location, talent pool, protection of intellectual property and
pro-business policies were major attractions.
"We have made a significant investment in the growth of the
talent, in the growth of training programmes," he said. "George
Lucas himself has invested in building this facility as well."
With the seventh "Star Wars" film now in the works, Kennedy
said Southeast Asia was an "interesting and challenging market"
because the initial movies were not that widely seen, driving
Lucasfilm to "educate an audience as to what has come before".
"We're beginning that process of communication and marketing
right now, even though the movie doesn't come out until
Christmas of 2015," she said.
Despite the roles played by visual effects and technology,
film making always comes down to the basics, Kennedy said.
"Storytelling is the most important fundamental idea behind
successful movies," she said. "The technology will follow."