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How to Celebrate “Star Wars Day” & Father’s Day…with Darth Vader

“Star Wars Day” is May 4th. In honor of that occasion and Father’s Day (which is also right around the corner), we’ve found a piece a piece of pop culture that “Star Wars” fans are gonna love…and if you’re looking for the perfect gift for dad, look no further.


Darth Vader takes little Luke Skywalker shopping. Ah, the joys of parenting. A panel from “Darth Vader and Son.”

Ever wonder what Darth Vader would have been like if he raised Luke Skywalker as a child? Thanks to cartoonist Jeffrey Brown, we’re about to find out. In Brown’s new book, “Darth Vader and Son” (from Chronicle Books) which releases on May 4th, the artist explores the legendary relationship in a fresh and funny new way.

“Luke…I am Your Father!”
Officially licensed by LucasArts, the book imagines what might have happened if Darth Vader—despite his ominous role as the Dark Lord of the Sith—had actually been present and actively involved in raising his son, Luke Skywalker.

The concept started out when Brown was approached by Google to create a Father’s Day-themed Google Doodle. While the idea was ultimately abandoned, Brown liked the concept so much that he asked Google if he could pursue it on his own. Google agreed and Brown took the concept to Chronicle Books, which helped broker a deal with Lucasfilm and George Lucas, the rights holder.


Brown’s whimsical illustrations show warmhearted father/son activities such as Trick or Treating.

For Brown, it was a dream project. “‘Star Wars’ was the first film I saw in the theater,” he said an interview, “And half my toys growing up were ‘Star Wars’ toys.” He also got complete creative control over the project from Lucasfilm – something that Lucas is not known for. Aside from suggesting a few minor corrections here and there, Brown said he received no interference whatsoever.

Another bonus for Brown was being able to reflect the very real relationship he has with his young son, who was four during the creation of the book. “I think part of what was so fun about this idea is like, as a parent, there’s things you just kind of have to put up with,” he explains.

“They can be really frustrating. So the idea of this dark master, lord of the Sith, having all that power, and in the end, here’s this 4-year-old who can be, ‘No Dad. I don’t want to do it.’ And he’s powerless against it. He’s gotta maintain that presence of power in the universe, but when it’s his own son, he has to rein it in a little bit. That tension is what was fun to play with.”

If the book is successful, Brown hopes to do a follow-up featuring Princess Leia. (That seems very likely since pre-orders for “Darth Vader and Son” have far exceeded the publishers expectations.) “Darth Vader and Son” can be pre-ordered through Amazon and Chronicle Books – just in time for Father’s Day (June 17th).


Even the Empire supports “Take Your Kid to Work Day.”

Creating Character
“Star Wars” has provided a treasure trove of entertainment for generations of moviegoers. Not only did the franchise create characters that have stood the test of time, but George Lucas created an entire universe with special effects that sparked the imaginations of writers, directors and others for years to come.

Creating comic book characters or learning the art of Hollywood visual effects can get you into the film or publishing industry. And before you know it, you could be the creating the next “Star Wars”-inspired blockbuster or fan comic that becomes a bestseller…like “Darth Vader and Son.”

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments

Harrison Ford Plays Uncharted 3

He’s the world’s greatest adventurer, and he’ll go to the ends of the earth to find a hidden treasure or long-forgotten religious artifact. We’re talking about Drake, of course, from the Sony PlayStation 3 game Uncharted 3.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yolfkkMcAtg

But another globe-trotting adventurer is making waves by putting Drake through his paces. His name is Harrison Ford and the actor is seen in this video playing a pre-release version of Uncharted 3.

Big in Japan
As you might imagine, Harrison Ford is a pretty big deal in Japan. The co-star of three Star Wars movies and the actor who immortalized a whip-wielding archaeologist named Indiana Jones, Ford is an even bigger star in Japan than he is in the U.S. And like most American film and television stars, Harrison Ford sells products in Japan – away from the eyes of watchful American fans who might look down upon him because he’s shilling video games.

Ford is playing and talking about the adventures of Drake – a modern day Indiana Jones – in the new Japanese commercial for Uncharted 3. It’s awesome to see Indiana Jones, er, Han Solo, with a PlayStation controller in his hand – and it makes us feel even better that he loves video games as much as we do. And like Ford, we are definitely looking forward to Uncharted 3, which releases on November 1st.

But this isn’t Ford’s first brush with video game fandom; he’s also made rounds on the Internet as video-game pop art, and part of the I am 8-bit exhibition:


Artist Brandon Bird created this piece called, “No One Wants to Play Sega with Harrison Ford.” The piece has been turned into t-shirts and limited edition poster prints. (Click the image for a larger view.)

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posted by Vince Matthews in News Blog,Video Game Design and have No Comments

Original Ghostbusters Returns to Theaters: Ghostbusters 3D on the Way Too!

While Hollywood is still abuzz with rumors about the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 (and who’s likely to star in it), Sony announced last week that the original Ghostbusters will be re-released in theaters. Ghostbusters will be shown in approximately 500 theaters across the U.S. starting October 13th, 20th and 27th. In locations where the 1984 comedy classic will be shown, it will be presented in 2K digital with 5.1 surround sound, and will only be shown one time each day.


Dan Aykroyd once revealed in an interview that Slimer the ghost was modeled after his late friend John Belushi.

“We’re delighted to be bringing Ghostbusters back to the big screen. This is a special celebration of the movie, giving the fans a chance to see it on the big screen in perfect digital presentation,” said Rory Bruer,  the President of Worldwide Distribution for Sony Pictures.

Who Ya Gonna Call?
The original release of Ghostbusters did extremely well for filmmakers, so a re-release definitely makes sense. For a period, Ghostbusters was the highest grossing comedy of all time. Starrring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, the film follows the adventures of three paranormal scientists in search of proof of ghosts, while simultaneously trying to rid the New York City of specters and spooks. The film and franchise still have an incredible connection and ongoing love affair with fans. This includes a best-selling video game, a Ghostbusters Twitter feed and action-figure line (not to mention a reproduction of the EctoMobile by Hot Wheels).


Licensing Ghostbusters is still a multi-million dollar business. Example A: The Ghostbusters EctoMobile Hot Wheels

Spurred in part by the recent success of The Lion King: Diamond Edition in 3D, which grossed almost $30 million its opening week, the Ghostbusters re-release embraces an ongoing trend in which young parents (who made the film a box-office champion when it was originally released) are now eager to share classic original 80s and 90s films with their own children. Giving blockbuster classics like The Lion KingStar Wars and Top Gun the theatrical re-release treatment, in particular through a 3D re-release, is all the rage these days.

3D has reinvigorated the businesses of movie studios and theater owners. George Lucas is converting Star Wars to 3D. It’s not cheap to convert a film though; the planned 3D re-release of the Star Wars films (all six) will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000 per minute. 2012 will see the theatrical release of James Cameron’s romantic disaster epic, Titanic, which held the all-time box office record as the biggest moneymaker in film history, until Cameron himself shattered the previous mark with his sci-fi epic, AvatarTitanic 3D will capitalize on that film’s sweeping vistas and thrilling visuals.


James Cameron’s Titanic will re-release on the 100th anniversary of the ships sinking. 

Ghostbusters 3 in 3D
Rumors about the upcoming Ghostbusters 3 are true; the film is in production. And when the film releases next Christmas 2012, it looks like it will also be in 3D. That means when ghosts fly out of the screen toward the audience, they’ll really fly out of the screen.

3D technology gives filmmakers another weapon in their fantasy-making arsenal. For both new feature films and established Hollywood favorites, technology is always changing the ways that films are made and marketed. It’s now changing how people learn filmmaking at a digital media academy. Interested in creating cutting-edge 3D animation or designing special effects for live-action movies? Just remember that the filmmakers of tomorrow are getting started today.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have Comments (2)

The Best End-of-Summer Movie EVER

If you’re looking for a movie to celebrate summer, you can’t go wrong with George Lucas’ 1973 classic, “American Graffiti,” which is quite possibly the greatest end-of-summer movie ever made. People unfamiliar with the movie are surprised to learn that the “Star Wars” wizard made this film classic earlier in his career. And not only did “American Graffiti” put director/co-writer Lucas on the map, but it also relaunched the acting career of Harrison Ford and made other actors in the film major stars of television and movies.


Before ”American Graffiti,” Harrison Ford had given up acting and was supporting himself as a carpenter. The role of cruiser Bob Falfa lured Ford back into show business. Within four years, he would be world-famous for his role as Han Solo in “Star Wars.”

Once Upon a Time
In a Hollywood long ago, there was an enterprising young film student named George Lucas. Lucas met and partnered with Francis Ford Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola’s “Twixt” starring Val Kilmer releases this year). Together they made “American Graffiti” — Lucas directed, Coppola produced — and the results were cinematic magic, as Lucas sketched a lasting portrait of the last night of Summer 1962.

The film tracks its four primary characters as their paths intersect repeatedly during the night. But “American Graffiti” was practically the autobiography of George Lucas. Lucas grew up in Modesto, California during the 1950s; “American Graffiti” is set in 1962 Modesto. There’s a restless spirit in the air as the last long summer night unwinds and the streets are packed with teenagers cruising their hot rods (Lucas was also a gear head as a teenager). Made on a modest budget with many unknowns, the film became a surprise hit and its huge financial success (ultimately grossing more than $200 million) gave Lucas the industry cred he needed to make “Star Wars.”


George Lucas had only worked on a few films before ”American Graffiti,” which gave him instant industry clout.

The story is told through the eyes of four high school friends (and a massive cast of other unforgettable characters)See which stars you recognize in this trailer for “American Graffiti“.

In case you didn’t recognize the cast, that was Ron Howard (from TV’s “Happy Days” and now a respected filmmaker), Cindy Williams (TV’s “Laverne & Shirley”), Richard Dreyfuss (“Jaws,” “Close Encounters”), Suzanne Somers (TV’s “Three’s Company,” ”Step by Step”) and the man in the hat, “Indiana Jones” himself, Harrison Ford (wearing a white Stetson in this film).


George Lucas directs Ron Howard’s starring performance from under the counter at Mel’s Diner.

Ever wonder what inspired the long-running TV series Happy Days“ and kicked off a major 50s revival? This is it. Now recognized as a national treasure, “American Graffiti” took the simple premise of four friends hanging out together on the last real night of summer and turned it into a masterpiece that still speaks to each new generation. As long as there are teenagers with cars who are trying to find some action, there will always be a place for “American Graffiti.”

Music Makes the Mood; Details Make the Movie
Perhaps most interesting about “American Graffiti” is the extraordinary way that Lucas uses sound to set the mood in the film. The AM radio broadcast of DJ Wolfman Jack’s show seems to be blasting from every car and at every location. The hits (41 of them) just keep coming, and everyone and everything is tuned to the same station. No wonder the two-disc soundtrack album became a huge hit.


Paul LeMat became a 70s star on the basis of his portrayal of John Milner, the fastest hot rodder in the Valley. Model car kits are still available of his classic yellow Deuce Coupe.

“American Graffiti” is like an anthropology study of an ancient culture, explained in a wickedly funny and ultra cool way. The movie also has great precision in how it presents the time period, the last night of summer in 1962. Every detail of the era is correct and the energy of the film captures the time period, too. Ultimately, it’s about a slightly more innocent America, right before John F. Kennedy is assassinated and the country is sucked deeply into the Vietnam War and its own internal struggles over civil rights and the rise of the counter culture.

Telling Your Story
If you have a passion for filmmaking, follow your dream like George Lucas did. There are plenty of ways to do that: Take a course about movie making from professional filmmakers. Online courses can be good sources of information, too, although you’ll get your best training one-on-one from an industry filmmaking veteran who is passing their experience along firsthand.

At Digital Media Academy’s Stanford Filmmaking Summer Camp, students learn how to make digital movies from the pros. The program is taught by professional filmmakers, and daytime activities include real production meetings (just like Hollywood studios have) — you’ll also make a movie. Evening activities can include taking in a movie premiere like real Hollywood filmmakers (such as the special pre-release screening of the latest Harry Potter“ that DMA’s Stanford campers attended last summer). So now, are you ready to make a classic like ”American Graffiti”?

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments