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page created: 6/19/01
Lucasfilm's Jim Ward
questions about Episode I on DVD
Well... it's been a pretty hectic day for the PR staff at 20th
Century Fox Home Entertainment and Lucasfilm. As you no doubt have
heard by now, Star Wars: Episode I - The
Phantom Menace was officially announced for release as a
2-disc DVD set on October 19th. We were fortunate enough to speak
this afternoon with Jim Ward, Lucasfilm's Vice President of
Marketing. Jim spent most of the day on a plane on his way to the
Fox Home Entertainment retailer conference in New Orleans, and we
certainly appreciate his time and energy. So here goes... enjoy!
Bill Hunt (The Digital Bits):
Jim, I know you're pretty busy today, so let's get right to it. I
understand that there are some seven deleted scenes that will appear
on the DVD. Are those going to be incorporated into the film via
seamless branching, or will they be available separately?
Jim Ward (Lucasfilm): No, they
won't be incorporated into the film via seamless branching. There's
about 20 minutes of deleted scenes in all, and they're available in
two ways. One is that they're incorporated into the body of a
40-minute documentary, in which people talk about the creation of
them, why they were cut, how they were finished and so forth. But
they'll also be available individually, so that once you've seen the
documentary, you can just cut to the chase and view each one by
Bill Hunt: And I understand
that you've gone in and fully post-produced them too, with completed
special effects and fully-mixed audio...
Jim Ward: Absolutely. And if
I'm beating a drum here, just let me just do it for a moment. What's
different about these scenes is... deleted scenes may be really a
bit of a misnomer. You know, normally, it's just picking them off
the cutting room floor and putting them on the disc. But in the Star
Wars world, deleted scenes are ninety percent blue
screen. So you just can't put those on, because they're totally
incomplete. So George decided, which is pretty bold, to take seven
of these scenes and go back to Industrial Light and Magic, design
them, have them create digital creatures and backgrounds and all the
stuff that goes into doing this. And so they've really been created
from the ground up, specifically for this DVD.
Bill Hunt: And obviously, many
hundreds of hours went into that.
Jim Ward: Well, exactly right.
I'm sure one of your questions is, "Why has it taken so long?"
We think it's worth the wait, but that's the reason it's taken so
long. ILM started this process a year ago, and they've been working
on this, and all of the other things we're putting on the DVD, ever
Bill Hunt: All the while,
they're also working on Episode II...
Jim Ward: You got it. And any
number of other major movies that go through Industrial Light &
Bill Hunt: Are the deleted
scenes presented on DVD in anamorphic widescreen video, and in Dolby
Digital 5.1 audio, the same as the film itself?
Jim Ward: Yes. That's correct.
Bill Hunt: Can you talk about
what those scenes are in particular?
Jim Ward: You know, at this
point in time, we're not releasing those details quite yet. You'll
find out soon. But I will give you a hint. Certainly, a couple of
them pertain to one of the most famous and loved parts of Episode
Bill Hunt: (laughing) Fair
enough. Now we had heard that the film itself may be expanded by a
couple of minutes - is that true?
Jim Ward: No, this is not a
director's cut by any means.
Bill Hunt: So this is just the
theatrical version of Episode I,
which is Lucas' final version?
Jim Ward: Well... who knows
whether it's the final version. As you know, that's George's
ultimate decision. But this not a director's cut. The deleted scenes
are handled entirely separately.
Bill Hunt: A lot of people
want to know if there's going to be any kind of a preview on the
disc for Episode II. For
example, maybe a teaser trailer, or a featurette on the
Jim Ward: (thinks for a
moment) Well... you know what? You never know...
Bill Hunt: (laughing) Hhhmm...
okay... so a potential Easter egg then...
Jim Ward: You never know.
Bill Hunt: Was the film itself
mastered from an actual film element, or was this a case where you
went into ILM's digital files and rendered it out for DVD?
Jim Ward: No, this is not a
direct-digital transfer. The film existed in its film format, and
that was converted to digital video and that was used for the DVD.
Bill Hunt: And I assume that
it was a high-definition transfer, with full THX involvement...?
Jim Ward: Oh, absolutely. The
supervision by THX on this has been unprecedented, compared to other
films. We have had them in there every step of the way. We're real
proud of that.
Bill Hunt: Now, this is kind
of a first for Lucas... doing an audio commentary track. Is this a
case where Lucas and Rick McCallum and others got in the same room
and watched the film while recording the track? I guess I'm asking,
is it scene-specific?
Jim Ward: It's absolutely
scene-specific, absolutely recorded just for the DVD. However, all
the people who are on the track, including Ben Burtt and all the ILM
people, were not necessarily in the same room at the same time. That
just wouldn't have worked well. But what we did was to record each
one of those guys, very scene-specific, and then edited together the
Bill Hunt: Was there ever a
time when DTS was considered as an audio option for the disc?
Jim Ward: Sure. But one of the
things that was a real challenge on this set, was that there's over
six hours of value-added material - a lot of content. And to be
honest with you, we had to make some tough choices as to what our
priorities were, as far as what was going to make the final release.
And that was one of the tough choices we had to make.
Bill Hunt: A lot of people
also want to know if a 5.1 music-only track was ever considered...
with the complete Williams' score. But then there's the fact that
the complete score is already available as a 2-disc CD set...
Jim Ward: That's correct. It
was considered, but again, it was one of the tough choices we had to
make. There just wasn't enough room with everything else we wanted
to include. And again, there is the CD already available.
Bill Hunt: I know it's always
a juggling act to get things on the disc, and still maintain a high
video and audio bit rate. That's particularly true, I imagine, with
a film like Phantom Menace.
There's so much fast-paced action and motion in the frame...
Jim Ward: Absolutely. And THX
has done a wonderful job making it all look and sound great.
Bill Hunt: Now... I know you
probably can't answer this, but we have to ask anyway. Next year is
the 25th anniversary of the release of the original Star
Wars. Are there any plans in the works to start releasing
additional films in the saga on DVD in 2002 and beyond?
Jim Ward: I'll be very honest
with you... there just aren't any decisions or plans that have been
Bill Hunt: So things are still
Jim Ward: Yeah.
Bill Hunt: I know that one of
the things that people have wondered about future Star
Wars DVDs is, what are the possibilities that the
original, non-special edition versions of the films would be
released on DVD? And again, I know you can't speak to the DVDs, but
what is Lucas' position about those original, unaltered versions of
the films? Do they, sort of... no longer exist in his mind? Does he
consider the special editions the final versions of the films?
Jim Ward: Yeah, I think the
special editions are the vision that George has for the films. I'm
not going to guarantee that he wouldn't include the original
versions at some point, but as of this moment, I think the special
editions are his vision for the films.
Bill Hunt: Fair enough. I
think that's what people suspected anyway. In terms of DVD releases,
both of Episode I and of other
Lucasfilm titles, does this release set a standard in terms of the
kind of quality and extras we can expect on DVD from you in the
Jim Ward: Well... you know, I
don't know. This is our first foray, at least with the Star
Wars franchise, into the DVD world. As we've been
discussing, we took extra pains to make sure that there was good
added value to it. But I think before I can answer that, I'd like to
see ultimately what fans think of this release. If it's well
received. I mean, sure... that's the bar. But I'd kind of like to
see what people think first.
Bill Hunt: Makes perfect
sense. Before I forget, the SRP on this set is...?
Jim Ward: $29.98
Bill Hunt: That's actually a
pretty good price, given the title we're talking about, and the
content. Now, this is going to be a worldwide DVD release?
Jim Ward: Yes. The U.S. date
is October 16th, and the other, worldwide street dates are right
around that date, give or take a few days.
Bill Hunt: How many different
countries are you releasing the disc in? Or, perhaps the better
question is, how many different versions of the disc are you
Jim Ward: You know... I know
that, but I don't want to give you the wrong number. Let me get back
to you on that... the number of DLTs we're doing for the release...
Bill Hunt: Fair enough.
Listen, Jim... I really appreciate your time. Thanks very much for
speaking with us.
Jim Ward: My pleasure, Bill.
The staff of The Digital Bits
would like to thank Jim once again for taking the time out of his
amazingly busy travel day to speak with us. Thanks also to everyone
at Lucasfilm (including the ever helpful Lynne Hale), 20th Century
Fox Home Entertainment and Bender/Helper Impact.
As always, I welcome your comments.