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Entertainment - Reuters Industry
Director Lucas Forms Digital Animation Unit
Mon May 12, 6:21 PM ET
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Following the path of Pixar Animation Studios, Dreamworks and other filmmakers, "Stars Wars" creator George Lucas (news) is forming a new group to make computer-animated films, a spokeswoman said on Monday.


The unit, called Lucasfilm Animation, is an offshoot of his special effects company, Industrial Light & Magic, that has been a pioneer in the field of digital effects and works on Lucas' own "Star Wars" films.

Lynne Hale, spokeswoman for his San Rafael, California-based Lucasfilm Ltd., said the new unit was "still in its beginning stages" and did not even have a project to talk about.

As a result, details were limited. Hale confirmed that Lucasfilm Animation will be formed from a nine-person team housed with Industrial Light & Magic. The new division will be headed by senior vice president Patty Blau.

Lucas is a vocal proponent of using digitally produced and computerized special effects in the movies. His companies have been active in designing new cameras for shooting digital films, and his most recent "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones" was shot in the digital format.

Until now, however, he has lacked a production company dedicated to making computerized animation movies such as "Shrek," "Monsters, Inc." or last year's "Ice Age."

Those three films have been smash hits with combined global ticket sales of $1.36 billion. On its own, "Monsters, Inc.," which was produced by Pixar and The Walt Disney Co., raked in $529 million in global ticket sales.

Lucas is no stranger to digital animation. Indeed, Pixar had been Lucasfilm's computer graphics division 17 years ago before Lucas sold it to Apple Computer's Steve Jobs (news - web sites) for $10 million.

Pixar now has a market capitalization of roughly $3.2 billion

Lucas, too, has tried to mount efforts to make digitally animated movies, such as a version of "Frankenstein" that was scrapped by Universal Pictures in 1999.

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