Play Inc. claims 'Star Wars' producer a real menace
By Clint Swett and Dale Kasler
Bee Staff Writers
(Published May 18, 1999)
The folks at Play Inc. say the producer of the latest "Star Wars" movie has
gone over to the Dark Side.
The Rancho Cordova technology company on Monday bought a full-page ad in
The Hollywood Reporter, claiming that Rick McCallum, the producer of
"Episode I: The Phantom Menace," reneged on his promise to give the company
adequate credit for much of the razzle-dazzle special effects that went
into the movie.
More than 100 scenes in the film, which opens in Sacramento on Wednesday,
were shot using technology developed by Play's subsidiary, Electric Image,
the company contends. Among those scenes was a pod race through the desert,
a panoramic view of the royal palace and most of the battle scenes, Play
"Rick and his team of artists asked us to develop ambitious new 3-D effects
technologies specifically to make the most spectacular shots in the movie
possible," the letter reads.
"In exchange for custom-programming these special effects, Mr. McCallum
offered us something of great value -- public acknowledgment letting the
world know how essential Play's Electric Image was in the creation of this
Paul Montgomery, Play's co-founder and co-chief executive officer, said in
addition, Lucasfilm promised promotional support for the company, including
mention of Play in speeches and interviews and even film clips from the
When prominent mentions of Play and Electric Image did not show up in early
press coverage, Play began to call Lucasfilm but couldn't get calls
returned, Montgomery said.
But a spokeswoman for Lucasfilm, director George Lucas' studio, said Play
"has misrepresented its work," on the new movie. "While we appreciate their
contributions, not a single shot was created using only their software,"
said Lynne Hale, a publicist for the movie company.
She said dozens of software packages were used in making the movie, and the
company is happy to acknowledge any of their contributions.
She said Electric Image had already been mentioned in a Wired magazine
article on the making of the movie.
"We're confused by the claim that Lucasfilm has made no acknowledgment of
their contributions," she said.
But Play said the Wired article referred only to the company's role in
making crude "previsuals," sort of a rough draft of how the final scene
will appear. There was no mention of Play's help in making the final
product, which by all accounts is a technological tour de force.
In the press kit sent out by the movie's distributors, there is no mention
of Play or Electric Image.
Montgomery said that though no contract was signed, there was a clear
agreement that McCallum would give full credit for Play's contributions.
"We would make changes and add features to the program, and they would . .
. publicly announce that Electric Image was integral to the production of
the film," Montgomery said.
Electric Image founder Mark Granger could give no dollar amount on how much
the company spent on the Star Wars project, but said he detached one of his
top programmers full time to Lucasfilm to help customize the software,
putting some other projects up to two years behind.
"To a great extent, Electric Image became Lucasfilm's R&D group,"
Montgomery said. "Their first priority of the company was to do whatever
Lucasfilm asked. But to be associated with one of the biggest movies in
history was worth it."
The dispute may be especially painful for Play. Full-size replicas of Darth
Vader, Imperial storm troopers, Yoda and light sabres dot its conference
rooms, and the company was partly founded on inspiration of the original
"I saw it when I was 16, and it changed my life," Montgomery said. "It got
me excited about technology . . . it caught my imagination."
Still, Montgomery said he and his staff remain rabid Star Wars fans, and
Play will give the day off to any employees who want to see the movie when
it opens Wednesday.
Montgomery said Play is not contemplating legal action, but only wants
McCallum to live up to is end of the agreement. "We delivered everything
they asked for," he said. "We want the other end of the deal. We want the
world to know this software was importa
I got two turntables and a G3 PowerBook.
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