George Lucas unleashes 'Sandcrawler' in Singapore
A building modeled after the Sandcrawler - the huge mobile fortresses featured in Star Wars films - has been constructed in Singapore to house the regional headquarters of American digital animation studio Lucasfilm.
The 22,500 square meter campus, which features a Yoda fountain, a 100-seat theater and state-of-the-art digital production capabilities, was officially opened on Thursday by George Lucas, the legendary director of Star Wars and founder of California-based Lucasfilm.
Lucasfilm's decision to cement its presence in the city-state through the construction of the "Sandcrawler", as the building is officially called, is a reflection of Singapore's rapid development as a digital animation hub.
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"When we first opened our Singapore studio in 2005, the local production landscape looked very different. It was relatively small, with a limited talent pool and virtually no visual effects work being done," said Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.
Now, the caliber of animation and visual effects created in Singapore is comparable to the work produced out of the company's headquarters in San Francisco, Kennedy said. The company's headcount has multiplied to over 360 employees from just around two dozen since first establishing its base in the city-state.
In the recent years, animators based in Lucasfilm Singapore have made sizable contributions to blockbusters including animated feature film Rango and television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Meanwhile, some projects currently in production include Transformers 4 and Avengers 2.
Lucasfilm declined to provide details on the size of its investment in its Singapore campus, however, it said, "We have made a tremendous investment in both time and resources. We've brought a lot of talent from the United States to train people and build up the talent base. And George Lucas himself is invested in building this facility as well."
Lucasfilm Singapore runs an apprenticeship program for computer graphics artists and is involved in the development of budding artists through collaborating local schools.
"As artists grow, they then feed that talent back through the university system to teach new artists who are interested in coming into this line of work. This circular process of training has become enormously effective and that's why we've been able to move artists forward so quickly," Kennedy said.
Lucasfilm is one of many international digital media companies that have established a base in Singapore. The country's supportive intellectual property regime and business friendly environment has attracted the likes of America's Electronic Arts and Britain's Double Negative and France's Ubisoft.
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According to Deloitte, Singapore's games and animation industries, together with online and mobile media, have demonstrated robust growth, recording a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent from 2006-2010.
—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani. Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H