Friday, May 14, 2010

May 14: A Lucas Birthday

On this day in 1944 - film producer, screenwriter, director and founder of Lucasfilm Limited, George Walton Lucas was born in Modesto, California. Best known to Disney fans for his Star Wars and Indian Jones movies which have in turn inspired Disney theme park attractions, Lucas is one of the film industry's most successful independent directors/producers.

What most movie goers may not realize is that his 1977 Star Wars was only his third feature film (the second being a little low-budget film called American Graffiti). Over the two decades after the first Star Wars, Lucas worked extensively as a writer and producer. Although he acted as executive producer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi ... he did not direct them! The simulator ride Star Tours - which first debuted in Disneyland in 1986 - was based on Lucas' Star Wars franchise. The popularity of the attraction led to versions in Tokyo, Florida, and Paris. So popular is the franchise, that starting in 1997 Disney World began hosting a special event called Star Wars Weekends.

The animation studio Pixar was first founded as the Graphics Group - one third of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm. Lucas sold it to Steve Jobs (of Apple fame) in 1986 - who in turn sold it to Disney in 2006. (In 1979 Graphics Group hired a Dr. Ed Catmull a computer scientist from the New York Institute of Technology to aid in their projects. Today Catmull is president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios.)

A co-producer & co-writer of all the Indian Jones films starting with the 1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lucas' friend Steven Spielberg actually directed it (and all its sequels - Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). In 1989 Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular began wowing audiences in Disney-MGM Studios (today known as Disney's Hollywood Studios). Disneyland's Indiana Jones - The Temple of Forbidden Eye (a dark ride motion simulator) opened in March 1995. Indian Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull opened 6 years later at Tokyo DisneySea.

The Michael Jackson attraction/film Captain EO was directed by Francis Ford Coppola ... but executive produced by George Lucas.

Devoted to timeless storytelling and innovated filmmaking, Lucas has received some of the industry's highest honors including the special Oscar, the Irving G. Thalberg Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Happy B-day Mr. Lucas!

See who else shares his May 14 birthday HERE.

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