Lucasfilm/Industrial Light & Magic, owned by Disney, is set to shut down its VFX and animation facility in Singapore, resulting in the displacement of over 300 employees. The company attributes this decision to shifts in the global entertainment industry.
Disney stated, “ILM will be streamlining its global operations and gradually winding down its Singapore studio due to economic factors impacting the industry.”
Founded in 2004 as Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and operational since 2006, the studio initially contributed to the animated TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” It later relocated within Singapore in 2013, taking up residence in the futuristic Eclipse Building at Fusionopolis, famously referred to as the “Sandcrawler Building” due to its resemblance to a classic “Star Wars” vehicle. The Eclipse Building was sold to the Blackstone Group in January 2021 after being owned by George Lucas.
The joint statement from Singapore government agencies, the Economic Development Board, and the InfoComm Media Development Authority, noted, “Lucasfilm’s decision to wind down its Singapore operations is in response to changes in the industry and business conditions. The global media industry is facing disruption from rapid technological advancements, while studios are coping with challenges relating to talent and profitability.”
The ongoing transformation of the entertainment industry, driven by the rise of streaming and marked by corporate mergers and downsizing, plays a role in ILM Singapore’s closure. Hollywood’s screenwriters’ and actors’ strikes also impact the situation.
This development presents a setback for Singapore’s aspirations to become a hub for the entertainment industry. Despite housing regional headquarters for major U.S. media companies, including Disney, the country’s efforts to foster film financing and significant productions have not flourished compared to Asia’s other regions, particularly India, China, and South Korea.
Nonetheless, Singapore’s government remains optimistic about the lasting effects of ILM’s nearly two-decade presence. The government emphasizes that the knowledge and skills transfer from Lucasfilm have contributed to nurturing local talent.
“Throughout Lucasfilm’s tenure in Singapore, the company has developed world-class digital animation talent for the industry through knowledge and skills transfer. Our Singaporean talent have worked alongside and learned from experienced producers, enabling them to develop their skills and play on the world stage,” the statement reads.
Luke Hetherington, executive in charge of ILM’s Singapore and Sydney studios, expressed appreciation, stating, “We would like to thank the Singapore Government, industry, and community for their partnership over the past 17 years. We have been able to train and employ a generation of production talent, visual effects artists, and animators.”
ILM plans to offer opportunities for relocation to its other studios in Vancouver, London, Sydney, and Mumbai. The company also intends to collaborate with Singapore’s business community to host a job fair for companies seeking similar skill sets.
Since its launch in Singapore, ILM has expanded its operations with studios in various locations, including Vancouver (opened in 2012), London (2014), Sydney (2019), and Mumbai (2022), in addition to its San Francisco headquarters.