A far away but familiar galaxy

By Evelyn C. McDonald
Arts & Culture Reporter
July 27, 2021


Inside the Star Wars author Bill Kimberlin behind George Lucas during “Revenge of the Jedi” dailies. 

Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark – film franchises that changed the way we viewed and thought of movies. Imagine what it would have been like to be part of the creation of those films. Fortunately, we have Bill Kimberlin to help our imaginations along with his book, Inside the Star Wars Empire, a look behind the curtain at the 20th century Oz.

In Bill Kimberlin’s 20-year career with Lucas Films Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), he was part of bringing the magic of special effects to us as a visual editor. He was responsible for combining the various layers of shots to create scenes we could accept as real in those movies. He helped allow us to believe that the dinosaur nibbling on a tree in Jurassic Park or the Millennium Falcon moving through space were their own reality.


There are two good reasons to read this book. One is that it’s like sitting around trading stories with someone who was there. These stories are about the movies ILM helped create and about the people involved. Famous names appear, such as Harrison Ford, Steven Spielberg and oh, yes, George Lucas. Kimberlin isn’t a name dropper or a gossiper. Each of these names is connected to a story about ILM and its work. Some names were unknowns Iwho would go on to do significant things in the industry. John Lasseter believed in computer animation. He made an animated short film about Luxo Lamp and then went on to a career at Pixar and Disney. Luxo Lamp became the little lamp that hops out in the opening credits of Pixar films.

Bill Kimberlin with E.T. It was originally a puppet.

The other reason to read this book is for the insight it provides into the relationship of the creative process to the technology that supports it. The complicated procedures the ILM people used, the art and talent they provided, were tied to the technology they had available. It was work that challenged their imaginations and talents. The advent of digital technology with the capability to build digital models as lifelike or even more so than their earlier counterparts irrevocably changed the industry. As with many technological developments, some people went on with new techniques and some people were lost to the industry.

The book is an eye opener about the complexities and the art of creating movie worlds for the audience. It’s written in an easy, storytelling style. Bill Kimberlin will be at a book signing at the Book Loft on August 6 from 2 pm to 5 pm. I encourage you to stop by so you can see someone who helped establish the term “blockbuster movie.”