Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC is an American film and television production company that is a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, which is a business segment of The Walt Disney Company. The studio is best known for creating and producing the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, as well as its leadership in developing special effects, sound, and computer animation for films. Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971 in San Rafael, California; most of the company's operations were moved to San Francisco in 2005. Disney acquired Lucasfilm in October 2012 for $2.2 billion in cash and $1.855 billion in stock.
Independent era (1971–2012)
Lucasfilm was founded by filmmaker George Lucas in 1971, and incorporated as Lucasfilm Ltd. on September 12, 1977. In the mid-1970s, the company's offices were located on the Universal Studios Lot. Lucas founded The Star Wars Corporation, Inc. as a subsidiary to control various legal and financial aspects of Star Wars (1977), including copyright, and sequel and merchandising rights. It also produced the 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special for 20th Century Fox Television. That year, Lucas hired Los Angeles-based real-estate specialist Charles Weber to manage the company, telling him that he could keep the job as long as he made money. Lucas wanted the focus of the company to be making independent films, but the company gradually became enlarged from five employees to almost 100, increasing in middle management and running up costs. In 1980, after Weber asked Lucas for $50 million to invest in other companies and suggested that they sell Skywalker Ranch to do so, Lucas fired Weber and had to let half of the Los Angeles staff go. By the same year, the corporate subsidiary had been discontinued and its business was absorbed into the various divisions of Lucasfilm.
Between 1981 and 1989, three Indiana Jones films, written by Lucas and directed by Steven Spielberg, were released. While Return of the Jedi (1983) was in production, Lucas decided not to pursue further Star Wars films. Lucasfilm produced the John Korty-directed animated film Twice Upon a Time (1983). 1985 saw the release of Paul Schrader's Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. The next year, Jim Henson's Labyrinth and an adaptation of Marvel Comics' Howard the Duck were released. Ron Howard directed the fantasy film Willow in 1988; the same year the children's animated film The Land Before Time was released. In 1992, after viewing an early computer-generated imagery test created by Industrial Light & Magic for Jurassic Park, Lucas announced his intentions to produce a Star Wars prequel trilogy. In 1994, the long-delayed Radioland murders (co-written and produced by Lucas) was released.
In 2005, Lucasfilm opened a new studio in Singapore. That same year, Lucasfilm Animation commenced production of a 3D animated Star Wars television series called Star Wars: The Clone Wars, with key production team members including executive producer Catherine Winder, supervising director Dave Filoni, Head of Lucasfilm Animating Singapore Chris Kubsch, and Henry Gilroy. Primary production took place at Lucasfilm Animation's Singapore studio. Airing on Cartoon Network between 2008 and 2013, The Clone Wars was well received by fans and was nominated for several film awards including the Daytime Emmy Awards and the Annie Awards.
In January 2012, Lucas announced his retirement from producing large-scale blockbuster films and instead re-focusing his career on smaller, independently budgeted features. In June 2012, it was announced that Kathleen Kennedy, a long-term collaborator with Steven Spielberg and a producer of the Indiana Jones films, had been appointed as co-chair of Lucasfilm Ltd. It was reported that Kennedy would work alongside Lucas, who would remain chief executive and serve as co-chairman for at least one year, after which she would succeed him as the company's chairperson, which she did in June 2013.
On July 8, 2012, Lucasfilm's marketing, online, and licensing units moved into the new Letterman Digital Arts Center located in the Presidio in San Francisco. It shares the complex with Industrial Light & Magic. Lucasfilm had planned an expansion at Skywalker Ranch in Marin County, California, but shelved the plan in 2012 due to opposition from neighbors. However, it still plans to expand elsewhere. Skywalker Sound remains the only Lucasfilm division based at Skywalker Ranch.
On September 5, 2012, Micheline Chau, who served as president and COO of Lucasfilm for two decades, announced that she was retiring. With her departure, senior executives for each of the Lucasfilm divisions would report directly to Kathleen Kennedy. Chau was credited with keeping the Lucasfilm and Star Wars brands strong, especially through animation spin-offs and licensing initiatives.