Team Maya talks Star Wars

Last modification: 22 Feb, 2018
13 mins

"The minute I saw that first clip, I was like, "...I have to work in movies... From that point on, everything I did was geared toward getting to do that."

- Michael Todd, Product Designer, Maya XGen


Not so long ago in a galaxy not so far away, members of Team Maya – rigging and animation pros, technical account managers, product managers, XGen designers and former members of Industrial Light & Magic and Pixar – share how Star Wars has impacted their lives and inspired their careers.

Video transcript available below


Video Transcript

WARREN TREZEVAN: My name is Warren Trezevant, and I'm the product manager for Maya Rigging and Animation. Going to Pixar, I became friends with the people who were at ILM, and helped with Wally and André B., and helped get all of that going, so that was pretty cool.

LANCE THORNTON: My name is Lance Thornton. I work at Autodesk as a technical account manager. I did an internship at Industrial Light and Magic on Star Wars: Episode I. From ILM, I went to Pixar and Weta and spent the rest of my career in the industry.

KAMAL MISTRY: I'm Kamal Mistry. I'm the senior product manager for Maya at Autodesk.

MICHAEL TODD: I'm Michael Todd. I'm the product designer on XGen at Autodesk. I got an opportunity to apply for a job at Pixar and I interviewed there. I worked at Weta for a couple of years on Avatar and spent six months building the big gunship.


WARREN TREZEVAN: I remember being on the playground and hearing all these kids talk about this movie with these robots and stuff and it sounded amazing, so it turns out that they were talking about Star Wars and I went to see that and, yeah, it was, holy cow. Just the fact that there could be aliens and spaceships and laser battles and light sabers was just the most amazing thing.

LANCE THORNTON: I made this costume recently for a wedding that I went to. I have a cousin who got married. We all dressed up as Star Wars characters for that. This is a Luke from The Empire Strikes Back movie.

MICHAEL TODD: I have two children, Alex, who's 9 and Luke, who's 11. My wife really liked the name Luke and it's great because he plays baseball as well and in baseball they have the force plays and sometimes I shout out, "Luke, use the force."


MICHAEL TODD: Darth Vader.

KAMAL MISTRY: Darth Vader just looked undefeatable. You don't want to, like, cross him.

LANCE THORNTON: Favorite character's the emperor from Episode VI. He's just bad ass. He's quiet for so long. There's all this mystery. What's he going to do? It's going to be amazing but I don't know what it is.

WARREN TREZEVAN: Han Solo and Chewbacca. I just like that Chewbacca was just always there. He always did what he had to do. Did you ever see Chewbacca's weapon, the crossbow gun? Freaking awesome.


KAMAL MISTRY: My favorite film would have to be Return of the Jedi. I think it was a great resolution to the series.

LANCE THORNTON: My favorite film was The Empire Strikes Back.

WARREN TREZEVAN: Empire Strikes Back. If you watch that again, that thing's freaking amazing. Hoth battle? Hoth battle was a great sequence.


KAMAL MISTRY: So I think about Star Wars as one of the main reasons I got into this industry.

LANCE THORNTON: From an early age, seeing the movies, I was inspired by that, as many of us were in that era. So it was on my radar and I was thinking about that. I was always inspired by the art, but I had a computer science degree and so I was looking to marry the art with the technology. Then, when I was at ILM, I saw it's all about computer graphics. It dawned on me this is where it is. They're combining science, they're combining programming with art and so this is what I want to do. I found my calling there.

MICHAEL TODD: The minute I saw that first clip I was like, "Oh, I have to do this. I have to work in movies. I have to do that." From that point on, it was everything I did was pretty much geared towards getting to do that. So I went to University of Newcastle and then I got a job in the games industry, actually, and started doing concept art and modeling and animation, actually, and lighting and effects for cinematic sequences for video games.

WARREN TREZEVAN: Seeing those movies made me want to do that. I wanted to be making the movie magic as well. I want to make spaceships and those crazy characters and things that are not possible through the real world. It was the special effects, and so then I learned that ILM were the people who did the special effects. I'm like, "Oh, okay. I think I want to do something like what ILM does." I actually moved to San Francisco because I was like, "Oh, wouldn't it be cool if I kind of met somebody who worked at ILM?" And then I started taking computer classes here and one of the classes I signed up for was an animation course taught by Pixar animators, but one of the teachers used to work at ILM, so he actually brought ILM friends in and they talked about working at ILM and it was like, "Man, this is amazing."


WARREN TREZEVAN: So Ben Burtt was at Pixar because Andrew Stanton brought him in to do the sound design for WALL-E. Since he was at Pixar, he gave a talk of creating the original Star Wars sounds, so he brought the actual machine that created the R2-D2 sounds and he brought the original respirator that he used for the Darth Vader sound. So on stage, in front of everyone, he totally did the R2-D2 voice and then he brought up the mic that he used to record the respirator, and the respirator, and he did a live breathing of Darth Vader and, yeah, I think everyone in the audience was like, "Oh."

MICHAEL TODD: It was great. A friend of mine, he worked at ILM for 14 years and he worked on the prequels and he worked on a bunch of the Star Trek movies as well and he's now left ILM to go work in games. I'd go over to the Skywalker Ranch a few times to have lunch with him there and go to the ILM campus and I've been there for work as well. They showed me around and showed me this is where the optical printers were for Empire Strikes Back and the studios where they shot the models and things. So that was pretty cool.


LANCE THORNTON: Yes, I am. I think J.J.'s going to do a good job on it.

WARREN TREZEVAN: I'm very excited. It's funny, because my daughter asked me the same question, "Where do you sit on this Episode VII thing?" I was like, "No, I'm really excited."

MICHAEL TODD: It comes out at my son's birthday, so it's good timing for him. We'll make a trip. I have an excuse to go see it.

KAMAL MISTRY: My son loves it. He's mad about Star Wars. We've got tickets and we're going to go watch it. We're keen. We're ready.

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