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History in Objects: ILM Halloween Party Invitations

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The Industrial Light & Magic Halloween parties were an unforgettable showcase of mischief and imagination.

“History in Objects” is a continuing series exploring Lucasfilm’s legacy stretching from our founding in 1971 to today. Through objects both rare and commonplace, the company’s past, present, and future are brought to life.

Tucked into the back of an employee desk drawer or stuck between the pages of an early company yearbook, a forgotten old invitation to one of Industrial Light & Magic’s legendary Halloween parties might be hiding, an event which, according to memory, officially started in 1981 and ran until 2016.


Receiving one of the ILM Halloween Party invitations must have been a highly anticipated affair – not only would one learn where and when the next can’t-miss Halloween event of the year would occur, but the recipient would often be smacked with a bold and whimsical invite illustration, ranging from EC Comics-inspired cover art to satirical riffs on famous horror movie posters.

These invitations would have directed employees and their guests to any number of venues around the San Francisco Bay Area over the years, but for the parties taking place between 1992-2006, one venue lives large in the memories of employees who experienced them – Kerner. ILM’s Kerner facility in San Rafael, California, so named because of the street – Kerner Blvd. – where it was located, hosted all of the parties for 15 years in one of its three large soundstages – “Cookie Bay,” Main Stage, or Windward Stage.

These soundstages, which by day were used by ILM’s artists and engineers to create movie magic, were transformed for one night a year into the Bay Area’s most sought-after Halloween celebration venue, populated by the most creative, innovative, and bizarre costumes one can imagine.

In an effort to illustrate just what those Halloween parties were like at Kerner, and to memorialize the facility’s role as ILM’s creative center for nearly three decades, we asked several employees to share their memories of the events, and specifically, the costumes they’ll never forget:

“The all-time best costume may have been The Pumpkin King — a 12-foot tall costume complete with huge bat wings, a massive pumpkin head, long teeth, a sack of skulls, and a giant sword.  Another year, (it might have been the same guy!) dressed as this massive demon with fire occasionally shooting out of the top of his head.  After that, they had to make a ‘no fire’ rule for the party. There were so many amazing costumes.” – associate animation supervisor Shawn Kelly (ILM)

“One year while the contest was happening I turned to my left and, magically, George Lucas was standing right there! At first I thought it was someone in costume but it was really him dressed as himself. It was like a celebrity sighting for me.” – senior pipeline technical director Ken Ibrahim (Lucasfilm Animation)

“My favorite costume was from my first ILM Halloween party (2000?). A group came ‘dressed’ as the Titanic — about an 8-foot-long costume — and during the costume presentation someone dressed as an iceberg came up the other side of the stage. They met in the middle, the Titanic costume split in two, and a couple of folks in sailor costumes started circling the group. Another cool costume was the Wright Flyer which had working propellers with a puppet pilot that was controlled by the wearer.” – Unix systems engineer Trent Bateman (ILM)

“Several artists from the ILM model shop dressed as the Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade, complete with individual light-up floats.” – compositing supervisor Mike Conte (ILM)

“One of the best Halloween costumes I remember was from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon — two people dressed up as the forest fight scene from the movie. They were up on stilts covered in tall bamboo stalks and they swayed back and forth with swords. It was amazing!” – senior financial analyst Diana Gazdik (ILM)

“I’ll never forget the big red rocket (it had to be 20 feet tall) that was rolled into Windward Stage by a group of people. Inside was a person in a Toy Story alien costume being held up by ‘The Claw.’” – head of CG Michael DiComo (ILM)

“I remember Fred the night security guard at Kerner wandered in just as the [costume contest] judging was starting. He wasn’t dressed in a costume, just there as Fred the night security guard. I don’t recall how but someone included him in the initial judging for one of the categories, and he won for best overall costume. The best thing was that the next year five or six people came to the Halloween party dressed as Fred.” – compositing supervisor Jon Alexander (ILM)

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