Disneyfilm: Decades of movie spectacle, together at last (pictures)

The House that Mickey Mouse built is buying the media empire behind the "Star Wars" franchise. Now Disney owns Pixar, Skywalker Sound and ILM -- and will make more "Star Wars" films.

Daniel Terdiman
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
1 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

George Lucas

If you don't recognize the man in this picture, you're probably not a real "Star Wars" fan. If you do recognize that this is George Lucas, the creator of what is almost certainly the most popular movie franchise of all time -- not to mention its spin-offs in books, video games, comics, toys, TV shows, and more -- then you're part of a group of many, many millions of people who have individually probably spent more time on his creations than on anyone else's on the planet.

Today, Disney announced that Lucas' media empire, Lucasfilm, will be joining the House that Mickey Mouse built in a $4.05 billion acquisition. Disney also said it plans to make at least three more live-action 'Star Wars' movies, starting with Episode 7 in 2015.

2 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

Star Wars motion control

Although the Disney/Lucasfilm deal is largely about the acquisition of the 'Star Wars' franchise, Disney is also getting its hands on Industrial Light & Magic, probably the pre-eminent visual effects studio in the world.

ILM got its start in 1975 when Lucas needed a visual effects department to work on "Star Wars." According to ILM, "The young team at ILM pioneered the use of computers to control and move motion picture cameras. The invention, named the Dysktraflex, in honor of its primary inventor, John Dykstra, allowed camera moves to be programmed and repeated time and time again giving effects artists the ability to shoot multiple registered passes of miniatures such as the Millennium Falcon, which would later be optically composited together into a single shot."

3 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

1977 Star Wars

"Star Wars" earned ILM its first Oscar for special effects. Disney will now likely be able to lay claim to Oscars for visual effects year in and year out.
4 of 26 ILM

Muren and Lucas

George Lucas and longtime ILM visual effects supervisor Dennis Muren -- seen here on camera crane -- between takes for a scene from the speeder bike chase during the filming of "Return of the Jedi."
5 of 26 Pixar

Steve Jobs with John Lasseter and Ed Catmull

In this archival photograph, Pixar CEO Steve Jobs is seen with the studio's other lead executives, Ed Catmull (left) and John Lasseter (right).
6 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

Pirates of the Caribbean

ILM has consistently been an Oscar contender for its visual effects work. For 2006's "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," ILM created Imocap, a new image-based motion-capture system. The all CGI characters, such as Davy Jones, stunned the visual effects industry.
7 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

Iron Man

For "Iron Man," ILM developed the title character's famous photorealistic armor.
8 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

ILM original logo

The original ILM logo, as displayed at a special screening of a documentary about the award-winning visual effects studio
9 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Sorcerer's Apprentice

This is concept art for "The Sorcerer's Apprentice." According to the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco:

Earmarked from the beginning as something out of the ordinary, "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" was originally planned as a special Mickey Mouse short; a kind of culmination of Mickey's career to date, featuring the studio's best animators and an orchestral score conducted by Stokowski.... Eventually, this ambitious plan led to the still more ambitious "Fantasia." "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" was also intended as a showcase to introduce the newly redesigned Mickey Mouse to theater audiences -- but by the time "Fantasia" was completed and released, the "new" Mickey had already been in several short subjects.

10 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic


Though Weta Digital was the lead visual effects house on James Cameron's "Avatar," for which it won an Oscar, ILM also created several shots, including the film's opening sequence, the attack on the Home Tree, and the movie's final battle sequence.
11 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic


Ninety percent of Lucas' 1999 "Star Wars" prequel, "Episode I: The Phantom Menace" contained digital effects shots, and for the film, ILM developed a brand-new way of making movies. "Scenes that are fully computer-generated, featuring synthetic environments and digital terrain generation, computer graphic lead characters and thousands of digital extras are but some of the accomplishments, which are rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for best achievement in visual effects," according to ILM.
12 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

First CGI main character

For "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," ILM developed another feature film first: the first CGI main character, the T-1000.
13 of 26 Industrial Light & Magic

Terminator sketch

A sketch of the same scene from "Terminator 2." For its work on the film, ILM won the best visual effects Oscar.
14 of 26 Pixar Animation Studios


Pixar's "Up" won a best animated feature Academy Award for Pixar, and therefore for Disney, in 2009, three years after the entertainment giant bought Steve Jobs' animation studio.
15 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Steve Jobs mailboxx

This is late Apple co-founder and former Pixar CEO Steve Jobs' mailbox in the Pixar mailroom, as seen in May 2010.
16 of 26 Disney/Pixar

Cars 2

This image, from Pixar's "Cars 2," showcases the reflectivity effects that the studio created for the new film. Here, we see Lightning McQueen reflecting the lights of Tokyo.
17 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET


For 2007's "Ratatouille," Robert Kondo created this digital painting of "Remy in the Kitchen," featuring that film's main character and chef, Remy the rat.
18 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Finding Nemo

There has probably never been a studio as reliably successful as Pixar Animation Studios, which Disney bought in 2006. Over 25 years, Pixar has turned out 13 feature films, and nearly every one has been a commercial and critical hit.

Now, Lucasfilm is joining Pixar in the Disney empire, thanks to the today's $4.05 billion acquisition.

This is a pastel painting by Ralph Eggleston from 2003's "Finding Nemo" entitled "Sequence Pastel: First day."

19 of 26 Disney/Pixar Animation Studios

Toy Story 3

With Toy Story 3, Pixar attempted, as it does with each of its films, to break new ground in computer animation techniques.
20 of 26 Pixar Animation Studios

Up in the air

Carl's house in "Up" is carried through the air by thousands of individually computer-animated balloons. Each balloon is interdependent on the others, meaning that if one bumps into another, the second moves, and so on. The physical simulator Pixar used for the modeling of the balloons was designed to build in random but realistic behavior by the balloons, and in one sequence, some of the balloons break free of the cluster. That was not intended by the filmmakers, but they kept the sequence in the movie because they liked it.
21 of 26 Pixar Animation Studios


Pixar's ninth film, "Wall-E," is a science-fiction story of a robot left behind in a garbage-strewn Earth devoid of organic life. It ends up as a love story between the title character and another robot, EVE, who comes to Earth searching for signs of life.

"Wall-E" was Pixar's first film set (partly) in space, as well as its first attempt at mixing CGI animation with live-action segments. The film has two main sets: one on the trash-covered Earth, and the other on a people-packed space colony. While the movie seems to promote a pro-environmental message, the filmmakers denied any such agenda.

The film won the Oscar for best animated feature, and earned $532 million in the box office worldwide.
22 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Skywalker Sound

George Lucas lost a battle to build a new technology production complex in Marin County, Calif., just down the road from his existing Skywalker Ranch property, home to Skywalker Sound, seen here.
23 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Lucas, Hamill, Fisher, and Stewart

Star Wars creator George Lucas sits with two of the stars of the original films, Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, and Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia. The three were on stage at Celebration V in Orlando in 2010, and were interviewed by Daily Show host Jon Stewart.
24 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET


A group of Stormtroopers guards the stage as Lucas and Stewart prepare to arrive for their Celebration V interview in 2010.
25 of 26 Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Snow White Academy Award

You might not think of San Francisco as the most likely place for a museum dedicated to the life of Walt Disney, but thanks to the influence of the late, great animator's daughter and wife -- both of whom have strong ties to the Bay Area -- the city is host to the Walt Disney Family Museum, which opened its doors to the public for the first time on October 1, 2009.

The museum is a fantastic tour through Disney's life and the works that made him and his company so famous. Stretching from his earliest days as an animator all the way to his death, it is ten galleries full of original concept art, posters, figurines, and much, much more, all guaranteed to delight any Disney fan.

But it's not just a celebration of Mickey Mouse and friends. The museum also highlights some of the more controversial parts of the animator's life, including his testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee, a major strike at Disney Studios, and the company's work making war propaganda for the U.S. military.

Yet, in the end, it's Disney's work in the movies that carries the day. And perhaps there is no better celebration of his success than this very special Oscar, which Disney was awarded in 1939 for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" by Shirley Temple and which included seven small Oscar figurines.

26 of 26 Walt Disney Company


On Dec. 17, 2010, Disney released "Tron: Legacy," the long, long-awaited sequel to the cult hit 1982 film, Tron, starring Jeff Bridges.

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