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Innovation

Light & Magic is a love letter to innovation and a plea to frustrated fans

Star Wars began over 45 years ago. When the first movie debuted in theaters, it was unlike anything anyone in the business — and among moviegoers — had ever seen before.

And not everyone liked that.

Disney+’s new documentary series Light & Magic explores not just the many ways Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) changed the visual effects industry for the better, but also the resistance its creators were met with along the way. But its core messaging proves something extremely important, and speaks to people in fandom and elsewhere who claim they don’t like to see things change: Just because it’s always been done a certain way doesn’t mean that way is the best way, or that it will always be “the” way.

In fandom — it’s this way now, and perhaps has always been — it often seems like anything that’s new, anything that’s different than what people are “used to,” is perceived as somehow lesser than. “They’re relying too much on The Volume” is essentially the new “They’re relying too much on CGI.”

And there’s nothing wrong with preferring the “old” way in terms of personal opinion. But many people don’t seem to know they can keep their opinions to themselves, and anything that they don’t like immediately transforms into something everyone — “true fans” — should hate. And that’s what turns discourse toxic. It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, film and television would be much better off if its fans embraced innovation and learned to adapt to positive industry changes as its lead creators try to do.

Light & Magic uses its final episode to make the case that the more technology in visual effects evolves, the more opportunities there will be to create hybrid environments where different skill sets and art forms combine to create the most unique on-screen experience yet.

Take The Mandalorian, for example. They used The Volume to film it, which completely changed the game. But they used practical effects for certain elements as well. Sometimes it’s the combination of old methods and new that makes a story truly come to life — and it doesn’t mean either way is “better” than the other.

The whole point is that methods evolve so that different elements can be combined to make new things.

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