Industrial Light & Magic's 40-Year History Celebrated by Filmmakers

A 'Wired' oral history of ILM reveals secrets, uncovers affection for the VFX giant.

Today, it's the standard-bearer of the visual-effects community, but as a new oral history reveals, when Industrial Light & Magic started, it was what Steven Spielberg called "just a great place to hang out," not to mention "the most fun playground I had ever been to."

Wired's celebration of ILM's 40th anniversary comes in the shape of what it's calling "the definitive oral history" of the company behind the effects for Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean and literally hundreds of other film. With contributions from Spielberg, George Lucas, James Cameron, Michael Bay and countless other moviemakers, both inside and outside of ILM, it's certainly a fun read, traveling from the creation of the company for the purposes of making Star Wars work in the mid-1970s through to its dominance in the industry today.

Among the many revelations in the piece is Spielberg describing Michael Bay as "the most demanding special effects director ever," the surprising importance of 1995's Casper the Friendly Ghost ("I didn't think must of Casper at the time," admits ILM art director Aaron McBride, "but it had the first digital star character of a feature-length film.") and the accidental viewing of test footage that led to the CGI dinosaurs of Jurassic Park.

What is unsurprising, however, is the obvious affection all those interviewed have for ILM as an institution. J.J. Abrams talks about those working there as "a group of people who are as much investigators and scientists as they are artists," while Spielberg goes further: "I always thought that if ILM had run the space agency we'd have colonized Mars by now."

The full piece can be found here, complete with the amazing image of the many filmmakers interviewed for the piece next to some of ILM's most high-profile creations used for the print magazine's gatefold cover.