Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic Opens London Studio

Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy was at the official opening ceremony

Kathleen Kennedy says that 'Star Wars: Episode VII' is three weeks from completion

With a large chunk of recent Marvel titles having been shot in London and Star Wars: Episode VII still in production at Pinewood Studios, Walt Disney expanded its growing presence in the U.K. capital further on Wednesday with the opening of Industrial Light & Magic’s local studio.

The new London base for the visual effects arm of the conglomerate's Lucasfilm, located in the British capital’s Soho neighborhood, was officially opened on Wednesday night with a ceremony attended by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, Industrial Light & Magic president and general manager Lynwen Brennan, U.K. chancellor George Osborne and U.K. culture secretary Ed Vaizey.

According to ILM London's director of operations Sue Lyster, the facility is already working on the effects for Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man and Star Wars: Episode VII.

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Speaking at the event, Kennedy recalled meeting U.K. government representatives in February last year to discuss filming the latest Star Wars in London, revealing that Disney was now just "three weeks off" finishing the film and hinting that further titles in the franchise would be shot in the city.

"This continues a long tradition of Star Wars movies being made in London. It goes back to 1976, and to know that we are now coming back and we will be making the movies once again based out of Pinewood, and now we're looking to put together this studio, it's rather remarkable that this has all come together in less than two years," she said.

"London’s fantastic visual effects industry and rich talent pool made it an ideal location to expand our global footprint," said Brennan in a statement. "Our clients have come to rely on us being able to provide not only top-tier talent, but flexibility in determining how and where their effects work will be done."

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Among new local hires are Academy Award- and BAFTA-winner Ben Morris, who joins ILM London as creative director from U.K.-based Framestore, where he worked on projects including War Horse, Lincoln, The Golden Compass and Gravity. Michael Eames, whose resume boasts four Harry Potter titles, is the studio's animation director, while Kevin Jenkins is the art director and concept artist.

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