WBBM Channel 2 - Universe with Walter Cronkite - "The Science Behind Star Wars" (1980)
Here's a segment from Universe with Walter Cronkite as aired on WBBM Channel 2, in which "The Most Trusted Man in America" spotlights the goings-on at George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM), as a tie-in to the second-released, and fifth in story order, installment in the Star Wars saga, "The Empire Strikes Back" which had premiered in theatres in May to capacity audiences. Includes:
Opening segment, with Cronkite previewing the following items:
- The search for a cure for motion sickness
- Seals in the ice and a scientist who listens to them
- The science behind a fictional universe
We next see Walter in front of a bank of monitors showing an outer-space "intergalatic dreadnaught" [Star Destroyer] scene from the new "Empire Strikes Back" movie, which leads to an entire profile of how such effects were made. We see shots of old Buck Rogers movie serials and the Star Trek TV series (and recent motion-picture revival) which lend themselves to Uncle Walter proclaiming, "That's the way it was" (a variant of his famous evening news sign-off), and juxtaposing with shots from the first two released "Star Wars" films to show how visions of "the future" changed over the years with advances in motion-picture technology, and how "Empire" elevated a new character named Yoda to cult-hero status.
Mr. Cronkite first speaks with "Star Wars" creator George Lucas who took him on a tour of the ILM complex, showing the stop-motion animation department where Tauntauns were being fitted and molded to walk in the snow, and the technique used to gradate their movements (and the resulting effects shown briefly).
Next, Mr. Lucas and his guest go to the model storage room where models of the Millennium Falcon and R2D2 are kept; the more complex models took five men to build and their value estimated in the tens of thousands.
We next see the cameras used to shoot such effects, storyboards being assembled on walls, props being readied, sets being painted, explosions and other effects being placed by hand for each frame, and all elements combined in multi-exposure. George then shows an editor at work at a moviola to show how the various effects (shot individually) are combined.
Next we see a robot camera that films shots that in olden days were well nigh impossible, and which Mr. Cronkite calls the "real star" of the films, moreso than, say, C3PO. Such cameras pan and tilt up, down, etc., to simulate the movement of various spaceships which in fact just stand there. The developer of this system, John Dykstra, who went off on his own and as such worked on "Star Trek - The Motion Picture," speaks of how it was developed and how it works.
We then go to Dopey Drive on the Walt Disney lot (ironic, given how Disney would ultimately acquire Lucasfilm Ltd.), where their own ACES (Automatic Camera Effects Systems) robot cameras were in use in Disney's own "The Black Hole." Electronics expert David English who developed that system explains the workings of this camera setup, and how a scene that would have taken entire crews five weeks can now be done by computer in upwards of two days.
Next, Lucas contrasts this cost-accountant version with his own setup, which was about using their imaginations and for their own entertainment; plus giving kids a chance to think about space.
America's most trusted space enthusiast then closes with these words, to the accompaniment of "Star Wars' " theme music:
"The complicated mixture of sophisticated technology, space-age machinery and starry-eyed fantasy in today's science-fiction films, just may serve as inspiration for a coming generation of scientists. After all, some of today's astronauts, astronomers and anchormen once found Buck Rogers pretty wonderful."
Opening voiceover by Bill Gilliand.
"The Empire Strikes Back" - (C) Lucasfilm Ltd., (LFL) 1979, 1980
This aired on local Chicago TV on Saturday, July 26th 1980 during the 7:00pm to 8:00pm timeframe.
Date Uploaded: 09/20/2014
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