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George Lucas And The Next Installment Of "Star Wars"

Wednesday, 13 Feb 2008 | 2:42 PM ET
AP

Forget about Apple Inc. for a second; even the ongoing drama between Microsoft and Yahoo: the real news on the technology front comes from George Lucas and his plans for the next installment of "Star Wars."

Lucasfilm announced plans to release "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" on August 15 with Warner Bros. At the same time, the highly anticipated weekly animated television series will debut on the Cartoon Network and TNT.

In other words, Time Warner becomes the big winner of the George Lucas sweepstakes as its properties will become the key distribution partner for this next wave of Star Wars pandemonium. I'm told Hollywood has never seen negotiations like this for an entertainment property and it would seem Time Warner has won, and won big!

The new feature film comes despite claims all along the way from Lucas himself that "Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith" would be his last. He said in a statement, "I felt there were a lot more 'Star Wars' stories to tell. I was eager to start telling some of them through animation and, at the same time, push the art of animation forward."

To say the least. Check out the brief trailer and documentary, behind-the-scenes documentaries clips they're offering at starwars.com. And that's what this is all about. Not merely an animated feature, but a computer generated animated feature drawing on some of the brand new innovations developed at Lucas. During our extensive coverage last summer of Star Wars and its 30th anniversary celebrations, we caught wind that these projects were in the works, and that they would feature some groundbreaking new technologies.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to see some of the other projects another division at Lucas has been working, LucasArts. "Star Wars: The Force Unleashed" is a video game bridging the two trilogies; and "Fracture," a new, eco-warfare futuristic game that could become a feature film of its own down the road. Both games use very cool technologies from "terrain deformation" to "digital molecular matter." Both innovations create a realism, an interactivity with the game itself that developers really haven't seen before. And you have to figure that it is these kinds of innovations that will work their way into the new "Clone Wars" feature and TV series.

The thing about Lucas is that games and film development are one and the same. Lucas pioneered the idea of simultaneously developing both media so producers on each product could share computer files, transferring scenes and production from one unit to the next using the wonderland of technology and high speed networks that characterize Lucas' breathtaking San Francisco studio campus.

I can only imagine the video game this new feature spawns. Take a look at the Clone War sneak-peak online and you'll see what I'm talking about. The advances are significant. The imagery is beautiful.

And in the midst of all this Star Wars frenzy that will kick off in a big way shortly, don't forget that Lucas is also ramping up for the release for the next installment of the Indiana Jones franchise: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" hits theaters May 22 and distributed by Paramount. Man, it's good to be George Lucas. This could be a blockbuster summer once again for him. Talk about "force!"

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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