Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) is an American Academy Award-winning motion picture visual effects company that was founded in May 1975 by George Lucas. It is a subsidiary of the film production company, Lucasfilm, which Lucas founded, and was created when Lucas began production of the film Star Wars. ILM originated in Van Nuys, California, then later moved to San Rafael in 1978, and since 2005 it has been based at the Letterman Digital Arts Center in the Presidio of San Francisco. Lynwen Brennan, who joined the company in 1999, currently serves as ILM's President and General Manager. In 2012, The Walt Disney Company acquired ILM as part of its purchase of Lucasfilm
Lucas wanted his 1977 film Star Wars to include visual effects that had never been seen on film before. After discovering that the in-house effects department at 20th Century Fox was no longer operational, Lucas approached Douglas Trumbull, famous for the effects on 2001: A Space Odyssey. Trumbull declined as he was already committed to working on Steven Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but suggested his assistant John Dykstra to Lucas. Dykstra brought together a small team of college students, artists and engineers who became the Special Visual Effects department on Star Wars. Alongside Dykstra, other leading members of the original ILM team were Ken Ralston, Richard Edlund, Dennis Muren, Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, Steve Gawley, Lorne Peterson and Paul Huston.
In late 1978, when in pre-production for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas reformed most of the team into Industrial Light & Magic in Marin County, California. From here on, the company expanded and has since gone on to produce special effects for nearly three hundred films, including the entire Star Wars saga, the Indiana Jones series, the Harry Potter series, the Jurassic Park series, the Back to the Future trilogy, many of the Star Trek films, Ghostbusters II, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, the Terminator sequels, the Transformers films, the Men in Black series, most of the Mission: Impossible films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, *batteries not included, The Abyss, Flubber, and also provided work for Avatar, alongside Weta Digital.
In addition to their work for George Lucas, ILM also collaborates with Steven Spielberg on most films that he directs, and for many that he produces as well. Dennis Muren has acted as Visual Effects Supervisor on many of these films.
Apart from flashy special effects, the company also works on more subtle effects - such as widening streets, digitally adding more extras to a shot, and inserting the film's actors into preexisting footage - in films including Schindler's List, Forrest Gump, Snow Falling on Cedars, Magnolia, and several Woody Allen films.