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Cloning Star Wars' Success

Monday, 4 Aug 2008 | 3:24 AM ET

It's late Sunday night and I've got a very tired 7-year-old boy in the back seat of my car. Driving home from the media screening of the upcoming "Star Wars: Clone Wars" animated feature due in theaters Aug. 15.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Associated Press
Star Wars: The Clone Wars

And while this is a technological triumph, director Dave Filoni and the cast should not overshadow the LucasFilm animators in Singapore who breathed life into every pixel. And the voices and sounds of every character can be traced back to the likes of Intel, AMD, Hewlett-Packard, nVidia and Autodesk, among so many other major names in tech that all play a role in this.

I'll be spending Monday at Lucas' Big Rock Ranch in Nicasio, California for a deeper look into how this film was made, and why the initiatives Lucas is undertaking are so important to Hollywood right now. He's got this concept of vertical integration down, simultaneously producing films and the video games based upon them. Animators are able to share and swap massive computer files through the unbelievably impressive high speed network at the Lucas enclave on San Francisco's bucolic Presidio in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

And the files are gorgeous. The animation is highly stylized, and eye-popping. You can't call this merely a cartoon. This is a whole new way of filmmaking. From Lucas once again. He's steeped in animation. Not just in recent Star Wars epics so reliant on computer modeling. But hey, he's the guy who sold Pixar to Apple's Steve Jobs. Heck, his first real movie was an animated feature as a student project!

And now all that history comes together with this.

Clone Wars is as much about a good story that fills in a lot of blanks as it is about the phenominal technology behind the scenes that gets the story told. Star Wars fans will not be disappointed. Nor will film buffs trying to get a glimpse into how movies will be made in this new digital era.

And this truly is just the beginning: Lucas is also producing 22 television episodes that will begin airing on The Cartoon Network. A win-win for Time-Warner which will distribute both the feature film and the TV series based on it.

More on all this in the coming days. Truly fun stuff.

Questions? Comments? TechCheck@cnbc.com

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