Disney-owned Lucasfilm/ Industrial Light & Magic is to close its VFX and animation facility in Singapore, where more than 300 people are employed. The company points to changes in the global entertainment industry as a factor behind the decision.
“Over the next several months, ILM will be consolidating its global footprint and winding down its Singapore studio due to economic factors affecting the industry,” Disney said in a statement emailed to Variety.
The Singapore studio was founded in 2004 as Lucasfilm Animation Singapore and began operations in 2006 with work on the animated TV series “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.”
It relocated within the city-state in 2013, setting up shop in the futuristic George Lucas-owned Eclipse Building at Fusionopolis. It was nicknamed the “Sandcrawler Building,” due to its similarity to an iconic “Star Wars” vehicle. The Eclipse Building was sold by Lucas in January 2021 to the Blackstone Group.
“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,” said Singapore government agencies the Economic Development Board and the InfoComm Media Development Authority in a joint statement.
The ongoing restructuring of the entertainment industry, which is slashing linear TV and physical media operations under pressure from streaming and which has caused major corporate mergers and down-sizing, is clearly a factor in the ILM Singapore retreat. So too, is the effect of the twin strikes in Hollywood by screenwriters and actors.
The closure will be a blow to Singapore’s ambitions to become an Asian or global hub for the entertainment industry. While Singapore has attracted a significant cluster of regional head office functions for major U.S. media groups including Disney, initiatives to create a pole for film financing and major productions have withered. In many ways it has been eclipsed by the growth of industries elsewhere in Asia, especially in India, China and South Korea.
Nevertheless, the Singapore government appears hopeful that a trickle-down effect from ILM’s nearly two-decade presence will endure.
“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 two agencies’ statement continued.
“We are proud that Singaporeans have worked on Hollywood blockbusters such as ‘Jurassic World: Dominion’ and Marvel’s ‘The Eternals.’ Many have moved on to roles in media companies like Netflix or have gone on to start their own companies. In addition, Lucasfilm’s leaders actively contributed to training generations of students in digital and tech skills at polytechnics and Institutes of Higher Learning.”
“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. We are very proud of the incredible work the team in Singapore has accomplished and look forward to providing new opportunities for Singapore talent to continue the innovative work they are doing,” said Luke Hetherington, executive in charge of ILM’s Singapore and Sydney studios.
ILM said that it is giving employees as much notice as possible and offering opportunities to relocate to one of the company’s other studios. Since opening in Singapore, ILM has expanded with other studios in Vancouver (opened in 2012), London (2014), Sydney (2019) and Mumbai (2022). These are in addition to the company’s San Francisco headquarters.
ILM also says that it will be working with the local business community in Singapore to offer a job fair with companies that have a need for talent with similar skillsets.