As for those funny-looking "computer pajamas?"
"They trusted us that we wouldn't make them look silly," says Knoll with a smile.
Motion-capture is the key technology, with virtually every character wearing the suit and its trademark round markers that look like ping pong balls wrapped in a very reflective material.
To give me a better idea of the process, engineers wrapped me in one of the skin-tight suits on an ILM motion-capture soundstage.
High tech, but not high fashion.
"Of course," says Michael Sanders, ILM Digital Supervisor, whose claim to fame is creating all the little fake people on the fake deck of the movie Titanic, one of the first successful uses of motion capture.
Infrared cameras capture my every move, and the data is fed into computers that model and calibrate all my movements in the suit. I'm almost instantly transformed into some bizarre looking alien that electronically, and disturbingly mimics my every mannerism. (You have to see this to believe it!)
It's almost as if you can't make a film, or even video game without this nifty technology. It's all about realism and this is the kind of technology that gets the job done.
"We're getting into a realm now where we can actually extract the 3-d performance from an actor's face and body and translate that into any character we want, human or not human, and have it subconciously believable," ILM's Sanders tells me.
Gone are the days of traditional model-building and miniatures, and even the innovative "Motion Control Camera" invented by ILM's John Dykstra. That was the device that gave those tiny toys used to produce the first Star Wars, the size and scope that thrilled movie-goers saw in that first film.
It's all being replaced today by massive computing power and the "render farms" buried beneath the Lucas buildings on the Presidio.
"There's just about no limit," says Sanders.
These same computers that create those spectacular characters also create entire worlds, backdrops, that look real, but aren't. So many of the scary island shots with deep crevices and endless cliffs in the latest Pirates, simply do not exist in nature. But they DO exist in the tiny screens at ILM, and now on the big screens of thousands of theaters.
"This is what we started from," says John Knoll, showing me a plate of the rope-bridge scene with rolling hills in the background. "But then, that's what we replaced the background with. You see we don't have much of the original plate," he says, showing me the finished product featuring those forbidding, menacing cliffs. You'd never know the difference, and that's the magic of ILM.
Whatever the director can imagine, ILM can create here, it seems to me.
"That's what we do, that's what we're paid to do," says Steve Sullivan, ILM R&D Director, himself a two-time Oscar winner for technical achievement.
So what's next for ILM?