The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas has acquired the archive of visual effects producer Thomas Smith, the first head of George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic. Smith, who produced special effects for seminal 80s films "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial," donated the collection, which includes screenplay drafts, scripts, pre-production research and storyboards from "Return of the Jedi" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
"Tom Smith's collection will be of tremendous interest to students and scholars studying special effects in film and its impact on our culture," said Steve Wilson, curator of film at the Ransom Center. "His work and the films he helped create will be studied for generations to come, and we're grateful for this generous and important gift."
Smith began his film career as a writer and producer-director for Encyclopedia Britannica Educational Corporation, where he directed more than 50 educational films. He oversaw the visual effects facility at ILM from 1980 to 1986 before working on projects for LucasFilm, Disney and Jim Henson. In addition to his collaborations with Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Smith worked on the special effects for such films as "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids."
"There are few artistic endeavors that call upon so many disciplines as the production of feature films," Smith said. "While the average filmgoer is aware of the actors and some of the crew behind the camera, hundreds of craftsmen and artists put their work into the planning and producing of every large film. Most of the work is either never seen by the audience or remains in the background. Fortunately, I saved some of my documents, and that is what makes up the collection I have donated to the Harry Ransom Center."
Smith's archive joins the David O. Selznick and Robert DeNiro collections among the Ransom Center's film archives. The Ransom Center will open Smith's collection to the public once the archive has been processed and cataloged.
Smith will speak about his life and career and participate in a Q&A session at Studio 6A in the Jesse H. Jones Communications Building at UT on Thursday.
Contact Matthew Odam at 912-5986