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Getting to Know the Lucasfilm Timeline

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Decade-By-Decade Highlights from 50 Years of Storytelling & Innovation

After 50 years, there’s a lot to cover! As Lucasfilm celebrates its golden anniversary in 2021, we’re exploring a rich array of stories, innovations, and people to celebrate the company’s past and to get excited for its future.


• After making THX 1138 for American Zoetrope, George Lucas incorporates Lucasfilm, Ltd. in 1971. A means to support his future projects, the company is little more than a formal entity.
American Graffiti is Lucasfilm’s first production. Filmed in northern California during a marathon schedule of night shoots, it opens in August 1973 to great acclaim.
• In order to make Star Wars: A New Hope, two new divisions are formed in 1975: Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) for visual effects and Sprocket Systems for sound and post-production.
A New Hope reaches unprecedented success in 1977 and showcases the innovative work of ILM and Sprockets. It also fuels the growth of Lucasfilm’s corporate divisions, including licensing and publishing.
More American Graffiti is Lucasfilm’s first sequel, released in August 1979.
• Also in 1979, George Lucas forms a new computer research group to develop digital filmmaking tools.


• Self-funded by George Lucas, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) is a make-or-break production. Its positive reception followed by Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983) solidifies the company’s place as an independent force in entertainment.
• ILM and Sprockets continue finding new ways to push technology in the service of story, and begin leasing their services to outside productions.
• ILM designs and builds the first-ever production viable digital film scanner in collaboration with Kodak.
• A new kind of workplace in a bucolic setting, Skywalker Ranch welcomes its first employees in the mid-1980s.
• The small computer research group becomes its own division, and creates revolutionary tools for non-linear film editing (later sold to Avid Technology), digital sound, and computer graphics. After many ground-breaking projects, they spin off in 1986 as a new company: Pixar.
• Originally founded within the Computer Division, Lucasfilm Games releases its first titles in 1984, and begins telling original stories full of action, adventure, and humor.
• By the end of the decade, Lucasfilm has busily expanded in many directions. New films include Indiana Jones adventures, Willow (1988), and Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988). New groups and divisions support activities including THX sound and theater alignment, theme parks, education, and television.


• Inspired by an earlier Lucasfilm computer game, the company releases Maniac Mansion (1990-93), its first live-action television series. The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones (1992-96) is a globe-trotting adventure aimed at inspiring kids to learn about history.
• With new computer graphics techniques, ILM makes revolutionary contributions to the art of visual effects in films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) and Jurassic Park (1993).
• Lucasfilm Games, later known as LucasArts, releases iconic adventures including The Secret of Monkey Island (1990), Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis (1992), and Day of the Tentacle (1993). For the first time, they produce games in the Star Wars galaxy.
• Lucasfilm’s publishing team launches a massive program of Star Wars storytelling, beginning with the bestselling novel, Heir to the Empire (1991). Cross-platform licensing initiatives like Shadows of the Empire (1996) feature stories told in books, comics, and games.
• At home in the Technical Building at Skywalker Ranch, Sprocket Systems reorganizes as Skywalker Sound, and develops digital toolsets to integrate into its production system.
• George Lucas returns to a galaxy far, far away, first with the Star Wars Special Edition releases and then with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999). One of the most ambitious visual effects movies ever made, it includes Jar Jar Binks as one of the first all-digital main characters in a film.


Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (2002) is one of the first blockbusters completely shot with a digital camera system. Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (2005) closes out the prequel trilogy.
• In 2005, Lucasfilm relocates ILM, LucasArts, and its corporate departments to Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco.
• Lucasfilm Animation is formed and in 2005 begins development on Star Wars: The Clone Wars with newly-hired supervising director, Dave Filoni. The television series launches in 2008.
• Among many digital innovations, ILM develops iMocap motion-capture performance technology for use in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
• LucasArts becomes a major player in console gaming, releasing classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (2008), and the LEGO: Star Wars series.
• Lucasfilm opens its first permanent international office in Singapore for use by Lucasfilm Animation and later ILM.


• An adventure inspired by the real-life history of the Tuskegee Airmen, Red Tails is released in 2012. The film took over twenty years to develop and produce.
• In October, 2012, George Lucas announces his retirement and the sale of Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Company. Kathleen Kennedy becomes the company’s president, and produces a new slate of Star Wars feature films. Beginning with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), a new Star Wars movie is released every year through 2019.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars wins multiple Emmys and is beloved by fans, helping to launch new animated series Star Wars Rebels (2014-18) and Star Wars Resistance (2018-20).
ILMxLAB is established in 2015 to tell immersive entertainment stories.
• ILM keeps growing, opening new campuses in three additional countries – Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
The Mandalorian (2019) – Lucasfilm’s first live-action Star Wars series – debuts on Disney+, made with ILM’s pioneering StageCraft technology.
• Cross-platform storytelling reaches new heights in publishing, games, and other media. LucasArts is reorganized as Lucasfilm Games with releases including Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order (2019).
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is the company’s biggest theme park project to date, and opens in 2019 at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort.

The Next 50 Years

With seemingly countless stories in the works across movies, series, games, publishing, and immersive entertainment, Lucasfilm has never been busier than it is today. The company is once again exploring projects outside the Star Wars galaxy with Willow, Indiana Jones, and beyond.

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