The official Lucasfilm website takes us back three decades to 1988 and Willow, Ron Howard’s fantasy epic starring Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer. The San Francisco campus was the location for a retrospective looking at the production of this much-loved film with Dennis Muren, Jean Bolte and Doug Smythe.
ILM veterans Dennis Muren, Jean Bolte, and Doug Smythe – all still active employees at the company – shared memories and insights into the visual effects wizardry of the classic film. At its time, Willow was on the cutting edge of new innovations, combining the best of practical techniques with the latest digital tools.
Among Willow’s groundbreaking moments was the morphing sequence – where the would-be sorcerer Willow Ufgood magically transfigured a goat through a series of animal forms and finally into the human sorceress Fin Raziel.
Muren, whose 43-year-career stretches back to the original Star Wars film, was Visual Effects Supervisor on Willow. “I was trying to think of what we could do differently,” he remembered about the morphing sequence. “I was bored by seeing the same stuff over and over again. But we saw this computer technique using 2D pictures with changing outlines. It looked like a doable way of showing a transformation. In order to keep it from being impossible in three dimensions, we could use puppets to duplicate the motions. It just seemed like something you’d never seen before.”