"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 installments 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 skeptical 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
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"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 programs," 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
"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."
(Editing by Nick Macfie)
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