The Force is With Singapore’s Sandcrawler

You know you’ve done something right when George Lucas, the legendary film producer behind the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" franchises, praises the quality of your work, putting it on par “if not superior” to what is being done in Los Angeles.

The fast growing team of Lucasfilm Singapore were therefore proud of their achievements on Thursday as Lucas, the founder of the company now sold to The Walt Disney Company, opened the new regional headquarters for Lucasfilm Singapore and its Industrial Light & Magic Singapore division for visual effects, as well as accommodating The Walt Disney Company (Southeast Asia), and ESPN.

When Luscasfilm set up shop in the city state in 2005, Lucas faced many naysayers who doubted the quality of the work that would come out of Asia, he recalled today at the opening of the Sandcrawler building.

Indeed, in the early days, the local team was only given small, basic tasks, as ILM feelt top level production could only be done in Los Angeles. But fast forward to 2014 and Lucasfilm Singapore is working on it first, and yet unnamed, feature animation film and has participated in the productions of a wide variety of major blockbusters, creating about 25 percent of the 2011 Academy Award-winning animated feature film Rango as well as having made significant contributions to the Emmy-winning television series "Star Wars: The Clone Wars," working on "The Transformers" trilogy, and Marvel’s franchises "Iron Man" and "The Avengers."

The fact that ILM has “anointed Singapore as equal to what’s going on in California — and you can’t tell the difference — that’s more important than an Academy Award as far as I’m concerned,” mused Lucas, adding that the opening of the building was “a validation of an achievement that 10 years ago seemed vaguely foolhardy.”

Kathleen Kennedy, Luscasfilm’s president and a producer of over 60 films, said she’s expecting Lucasfilm Singapore to face its busiest year ever as the Singapore outpost works on its full-length animated feature and other films that include "Hitman" and “Transformers 4."

Much of the progress has been achieved thanks to the Lucasfilm's Jedi Masters Program, 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 by the company. Once hired, the training continues with employees sent to Los Angeles on an immersion trip and staff are able to continue developing their artistic skills having access in Singapore to the latest technologies for their work.

"As artists grow, they then feed that talent back through the university system to teach new artists who are interested in coming into this line of work. This circular process of training has become enormously effective and that's why we've been able to move artists forward so quickly," Kennedy explained.

The team is now working on the seventh "Star Wars" film, which should come out around Christmas of 2015, she said.

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