Friday, July 6, 2007

Corporate Culture: In a galaxy far, far away

LucasFilms leaves the ranch…

George Lucas has a gleaming new $350 million headquarters in the middle of the Presidio, a former Army post on the edge of San Francisco, where the public can mingle beside the fancy new Yoda fountain with company employees.

For decades LucasFilms, the director’s privately held company, and its two main divisions – LucasArts, the video game producer, and Industrial Light and Magic, a leading designer of special effects – were tucked away in barely marked structures in northern San Rafael and behind the impenetrable walls of Skywalker Ranch.

“We spent a lot of years hidden away,” says Micheline Chau, president of Lucasfilm, “and I’m not sure if it was good for the company as a whole. To be the epicenter of the digital revolution, we have to be out here, evangelizing the cause".

Now, for the first time the two divisions will be at the same location, sharing the same computer system - said to be the largest in the industry - with simultaneous access to a single digital library. "We're not just talking about convergence," said Cliff Plumer, Lucasfilm's chief technology officer, "We're doing it."

The often fog-shrouded Presidio of San Francisco has a long and extensive cultural history spanning back thousands of years, to when it was the home to native people known as the Ohlone. The Spanish arrived in 1776 to establish the northernmost outpost of their empire in western North America. Over 148 years, the army transformed the Presidio grounds from mostly empty windswept dunes and scrub to a verdant, preeminent military post. Not quite a Death Star, but close.

The new 865,000-square-foot Letterman Center campus puts the public in touch with the company, who's goal is to be a Top 5 publisher, and allows employees to enjoy being part of San Francisco’s developing entertainment industry.

As for George… He’s staying at the ranch… with his figurines.

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