F/x house ILM lines up slate of big pics

Flush with positive reviews of the visual effects on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” — and basking in the reflected glory of its grosses — Industrial Light & Magic is gearing up for a year of high-profile pics.

George Lucas’ vfx giant is the lead shop on Paramount’s adaptation of fantasy book series “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” Pic, based on the bestselling series of children’s books, is skedded for release Christmas Day 2007.

Pablo Helman, Oscar-nommed last year for “War of the Worlds,” is vfx supervisor on the pic, with Tim Harrington overseeing animation.

ILM also is retooling Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” into stereo 3-D for an October re-release from Disney.

Company continues as lead effects shop on the “Pirates” and “Harry Potter” franchises, both of which have releases skedded next year.

Supervisor John Knoll and animation director Hal Hickel, who oversaw “Dead Man’s Chest,” return for the third “Pirates” pic.

“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” also will see an encore for the effects toppers, as vfx supervisor Tim Alexander and animation director Steve Rawlins, who oversaw “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” return at Warner’s request.

In addition, the company will be working on Fox’s holiday ’06 fantasy “Eragon,” Universal’s “Evan Almighty,” the “Bruce Almighty” sequel starring Steve Carell; and Par’s “Transformers” for helmer Michael Bay.

ILM VP of production and marketing Mark Miller said the stereo 3-D business is an emerging market for the company.

ILM did the stereo version of Disney’s “Chicken Little,” which did boffo B.O. in 3-D theaters, and will be using the same process for “Nightmare Before Christmas.”

Miller said, “It seems like most of the 3-D animated movies are considering 3-D stereo versions of their films, and studios like Disney are coming back with niche films like ‘Nightmare’ to bring them out in 3-D.”

“Spiderwick Chronicles,” from producer Kathleen Kennedy, is about three children who are drawn into a world of fairies and sprites. Pic in its early stages and ILM is helping design the digital characters.

Miller said ILM is reaping the benefits from its move to its custom-designed facility in San Francisco’s Presidio.

“Something like the massive amount of work we put through on ‘Pirates’ at the end, we wouldn’t have had the firepower to do that in our old facilities.”

He said the facility and ILM’s new production pipeline will make it possible to push through a similar crunch in order to get next summer’s releases completed.

ILM contracted its staff after the completion of the “Star Wars” trilogy, and some in the vfx industry wondered about its future. But the company has invested heavily in infrastructure.

On “Dead Man’s Chest,” it unveiled new motion-capture technology that works on the set under first-unit conditions.

“As usual, there’s an ebb and flow,” Miller said. “We’re looking for summer ’08 stuff and for what else is out there for Christmas ’07. But for next summer, we’ve got our hands full. It’s a good situation to be in.”

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